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Traveling? Click to Continue

Shira Yehudit Djalilmand

Between the plethora of online booking agencies and airline websites, travel consumers have never had so many choices at their fingertips. But is so much choice too much? When dozens of options pop up on your screen, how do you navigate them all, and who do you talk to when a complication arises? When you need a refund? For those still bewildered by all that information hitting you at once, here are some navigating tips — and the notion that maybe the traditional travel agent isn’t so bad after all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

plane flyingSince the introduction of the first online booking agencies in the late 1990s, do-it-yourself flight arrangements have become so popular that today, online travel bookings represent a full third of worldwide travel business.

And indeed, the big names, such as Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz, are billion-dollar business. Expedia inc. sites have over 54 million visits a month and quarterly revenue of $1 billion. Orbitz hosts 1.5 million flight searches and a million hotel searches a day. One of the most compelling features of online booking is the control the customer assumes he has, as well as the convenience.

“We’ve spun around the screen so you’re the one sitting in front of it. You’re the one in control,” says Jill Lloyd, senior PR manager for Expedia.

If you’re even just a little computer proficient, you can find a flight that suits you, book it on the spot, choose your seat, order special meals, and print out your own e-ticket, all in the comfort of your own home. For many hundreds of thousands of satisfied customers, the online booking process is smooth and simple.

But for many others, it’s not as easy as pushing a few buttons. Not everyone is so computer savvy — and even those who are have to deal with the fact that neither computers nor the people who use them are infallible.

“Do you know how many people who book over the Internet book themselves on the wrong date?” asks Esther Salomon, senior travel consultant at Zion Tours, Israel’s largest American-owned travel agency. “People make lots of mistakes in booking — dates, connections, etc. — because they’re not so familiar with the technicalities. And it winds up costing them a lot.”



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