MINNEAPOLIS — Airline booking fees charged by Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia are on vacation through May. That's giving travelers who had avoided those sites a reason to reconsider.
The fees generally run about $7 per transaction — just enough to send many travelers to airline Web sites. But in April, first Expedia and then Travelocity and Orbitz suspended airline booking fees on tickets bought through May 31. Priceline.com had already dropped airline booking fees almost two years earlier.
That eliminates the big advantage held by airline Web sites, said Forrester Research travel analyst Henry H. Harteveldt.
"The airline booking processes are not necessarily any better than what you will get on a travel agency's site," he said. "So I think that, frankly, the airlines have now been caught with their e-business pants down, because they have failed to really innovate in their planning and booking processes."
The travel Web sites aren't saying what they'll do about the fees after May 31. They've taken pains to call the waiver temporary.
Travelocity believes the absence of airline fees has helped it grab more market share, said Tracey Weber, president of Travelocity North America.
Airfare expert Terry Trippler said that there are still advantages to booking flights directly with an airline, including the chance for bonus frequent-flier miles for using its Web site. If something goes wrong on the trip, it can be easier to deal directly with the airline, as well, he said.