Many travelers purchase airline tickets and hotel reservations from travel portals like Expedia, Travelocity, Flighthub or Booking.com. In the vast majority cases, these bookings go smoothly and are uneventful. The problem is - when you have a problem. In this chaotic day and age of flights being cancelled, changed, or delayed there are plenty of issues with airline bookings. Travelers are losing baggage more frequently and missing connections due to long lines at security or late connecting flights. Many hotels are suffering from staff shortages and inexperienced employees causing problems at hotels. So, when travelers have a problem with a booking they want it resolved as quickly as possible.
Travel portals like the ones mentioned in this blog post are certainly legitimate and honest companies - there is no question about that. It is just the nature of their business that may complicate things the next time you have an issue with a plane ticket or hotel reservation.
If there is a problem with an airline ticket, and there can be many problems that arise with an airline ticket, the airline will often say "go to the company where you purchased your ticket from". That alone adds another layer of bureaucracy (and time) into getting a problem resolved. For instance, The Professor hears from travelers who purchased tickets from a travel portal say things like:
- "My friend bought me the ticket and my name was not spelled correctly. I was denied boarding"
- "They changed my seat on the plane"
- "My plane was delayed and I missed my connection"
- "I didn't get my award points for my flight"
- "My flight was cancelled"
- "My flight was changed"
- "Because I didn't buy my ticket directly from the airline, I was not able to get the upgrade I am eligible for if I purchased directly from the airline"
- "I missed my flight, what can I do?"
- "I did not volunteer to be bumped from the plane, but they did it to me and not to my travel companion who purchased directly from the airline"
- "Where is the refund (or credit) that I am entitled to?"
The answer from the airline can be: go back to whoever sold you the ticket. In the case of flight delays, cancellations, changes the airline may automatically re-book a passenger. That's not always the case when purchasing from a third-party.
Again, travel portals are good and reputable companies. However, when purchasing an airline ticket from them just puts the traveler in a position of dealing with another customer service level that can add time and frustration to the whole process.
Hotel rooms purchased from a travel portal have different issues. Did you know that when purchasing a hotel from a travel portal, that travel portal charges the hotel a commission, sometimes up to 20% of the sales price? With that in mind, let's say someone who paid directly to the hotel asks for an upgrade, late/early check-out compared to the traveler who asks the same question, but purchased from a travel portal. Who do you think is first in line to get their request granted? Also, some hotels do not honor loyalty programs when a hotel room is purchased through a travel portal. That may mean the loss of amenities like breakfast, or extended check-in/out.
There are some occasions where travelers might want to purchase from a travel portal. Some off-brand airlines only use travel portals for bookings. When redeeming award points for elite travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire card, it might be to a traveler's advantage to book through their portal. But buyer beware!