As if finding cheap airfare wasn’t hard enough, some carriers are now making the job even more challenging.
Online travel aggregate sites, such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity are designed to allow travelers to compare airfare prices without having to spend hours visiting dozens of individual airline webpages. The popular online travel agencies provide the convenience of one-stop shopping for customers, but charge the carriers commissions of roughly $10 to $25 a ticket which they say eat into their profit margins.
Unfortunately, more and more airlines are looking to get out of the aggregate site line-up. For example, earlier this month, Frontier Airlines announced it will penalize passengers who don’t book directly on its site. Penalties include paying additional fees, not being able to get seat assignments until check-in, and only earning half as many frequent flier miles.
JetBlue, Spirit Airlines, Virgin America, and Toronto-based Porter Airlines are among other carriers which force passengers to book reservations directly from their sites. However, the discount airlines say they provide many incentives for travelers to do so, including offering drastically reduced sale prices, plus access to discount codes via email, Facebook and Twitter. In addition to lower fares, the airlines say their sites offer passengers up-to-date seat maps and details about in-flight entertainment.
In 2010, American Airlines made headlines when it decided to ban Orbitz from displaying its fares and selling tickets for its flights. The carrier says it made the move to protest the commissions and the failure to display extras flight information such as seat upgrades. Later that year Expedia joined the fight by making American’s fares harder to find.
For its part Frontier Airlines says it has decided to part ways with online travel aggregate sites specifically to cut the commissions. This means you will have to visit the airline’s site directly if you want to see how much it is charging for flights. However, as an incentive to get passengers to take the extra step, Frontier is lowering the amount of frequent flier miles needed for a free flight by 5,000. The airline also changed its website URL to flyfrontier.com.