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Computers and Technology

A guide to online travel agencies

We live in a changing world. Many flight searches today begin online, usually on a mobile device. Directly with the airline, hotel, or through online travel agencies, passengers book their travel. Phone calls are rare. American Airlines and United Airlines charge US$ 25 to book a domestic flight by phone. Payphones rarely exist anymore.

What is the best method for booking online? The following is a guide to online travel agents, search tools, and the many booking options available on mobile devices and desktop computers.

Online Travel Agency

OTA stands for online travel agency. It is a website or mobile app that lets users search for and book travel services such as flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and activities. An online travel agent makes the booking, but the service provider, like an airline or a hotel, confirms the booking. OTAs deal with customers directly.

As the use of the internet in tourism has increased. Mobile applications are more user-friendly, booking has become faster. As per Astute Analytica’s report, the global online travel agency market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 13.1% during the forecast period from 2022 to 2030.

Are online travel agencies ‘ fares lower than direct bookings?

Most of the time, no. An OTA’s fares will be similar, if not slightly more expensive, than those displayed on an airline’s website. The difference is usually only a few dollars. In most cases, OTAs charge a booking fee to the airlines and pass it on to the consumer. Online travel agencies can provide deals for last-minute hotel and flight packages. In recent years, OTAs have cut agreements with airlines to offer last-minute travelers lower rates than are typically available when they book flights separately. 

In case of a change in itinerary, how should people proceed?

Changing an itinerary can be a hassle. If plans change, it would not matter whether people booked with an airline directly or through an online travel agency-they will pay for the privilege if they can even change their tickets.

For example, CheapTickets.com, part of the Expedia Group, charges US$ 25 for changes or cancellations requested after 24 hours of booking; it’s free within 24 hours of making the booking. After that, the fees increase. JustFly, an independent online travel agency, charges a US$ 75 fee for changing domestic flights, plus any difference in fare, for tickets bookable. Those few dollars saved by booking through the OTA don’t seem like much in the grand scheme of things.

How does an online travel agency price match policy work?

Many online travel agencies have a price match policy that assures travelers will get the lowest fares. These policies vary, and so do the benefits.

For example, if a person books with Orbitz and finds a flight, car rental, or activity cheaper on any U.S.-based website in the next 24 hours, Orbitz will refund the difference. CheapOair offers a similar program, but there’s a catch: people have to find the price difference on a major online travel agency, such as Expedia or Travelocity.

What are the mobile booking options available?

All airlines and the major OTAs offer apps to help you book and manage your trip on your mobile device, but their functionality lags behind the desktop versions of these websites. Even though mobile apps are improving and increasing in popularity, people may still find it easier to find the best deals on flights and hotels by using their desktop. In addition, they can have multiple tabs open and have all the search tools at their disposal. As long as they know what flights they want to book, apps are fine for booking directly with airlines.

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