There are those who believe that booking travel is something that anyone can and should do. There are those who believe that booking travel should be left in the hands of experts. I think that both groups have some valid points however I think that those who believe that they should do their online bookings directly with the vendor and/or via a portal, such as Travelocity or Expedia or Orbitz are setting themselves up for problems. There is a great article that addresses some of the potential problems that happen far too frequently to those who do it themselves. http://www.consumertraveler.com/today/5-online-airline-booking-disasters/#more-27094.
If one wants to book online, I would suggest that one does so through a full service travel agency, such as Christopherson Business Travel. The difference will be the level of service that the customer receives if there is a problem. Unlike the online booking portals, a full service agency can and will, offer personal service if a traveler makes a mistake when booking travel or has an issue arise while traveling. Additionally, if one is using a full service agency and discovers that the trip that they are planning is more complex than they first anticipated, they can reach a real agent who will be able to assist them. So by utilizing a full service agency, a traveler can have the best of booking online and having access to professional assistance when needed and/or desired.
For corporations, the equation to determine value vs. service fee costs, needs to include the hidden costs associated with booking online. Hidden costs include things like, lost productivity due to employees spending their time trying to book their travel, lost productivity when an employee books an impossible connection or the actual cost of paying a salesman or engineer or manager to sit and book a trip. If an employee is making $50,000 a year and spends 30 minutes booking a trip, that’s about $12.00 worth of that employees time spent booking travel and does not include any fee charged by the online booking tool. Then comes the issue of employees who either unknowingly or knowingly, book outside the travel policy and cost their company money. When booking with a full service agency, such as Christopherson Business Travel, we can customize our online booking tool to help enforce a company’s travel policy, which is something that Orbitz, et al, will do for smaller companies.
And if a company is doing lots of international travel, I would strongly suggest utilizing an agent given all the changes that have happened in the last year, the increasing numbers of countries requiring visas or passenger information prior to the day of travel or that the TSA is now requiring airlines to provide them with the full name, the date of birth, gender and citizenship of each traveler, along with requiring the name on the ticket to match the name on the ID being presented at check in, all add layers of complexity to international travel. Additionally, agents have access to specials, such as they BUY COACH, FLY BUSINESS offerings from a number of airlines. This means that a traveler can purchase a full fare coach ticket and end up seated in business class. You won’t find these deals offered through the online booking tools, you will only get them from an agent. Agents can also suggest alternatives to avoid paying certain taxes or to get a lower fare by using various “tricks of the trade”.
So, to recap, I would suggest that even if you are an ardent DIY person, that you still utilize an online booking tool associated with a full service agency so that you can get service when you need it. And if you aren’t really savvy, I would suggest that it is beneficial to work with a full service agency because there is someone there to assist you, if you need it. And for those who do a lot of international or even a lot of complex itineraries, working with a full service agent can save you money, time and stress.