The answer to this question depends on what your booking preferences are and what levels of service you expect when booking flights. Here’s what you need to know about booking with the airline or 3rd party travel agency.
Booking with a 3rd party travel agency offers many more options
When booking an airline ticket or tickets, most people want certain amenities and have a particular budget in mind. If you book directly with an airline, you’ll get a limited number of flight options served up to you. This is to be expected. One airline can only show you their flights, as well as the flights they codeshare with other airlines.
An online travel agency like CheapAir.com, can show you all flights and itineraries going to one destination. This gives you, the consumer, more information and options so that you can choose the best itinerary for your needs.
So, as far as the level of choice a customer can expect, we give the advantage to the 3rd party sites.
Don’t underestimate the power of one-stop shopping
You won’t get overwhelmed booking with an online travel agency like CheapAir.com. This ties in with the previous point. Shopping around on various airlines’ websites can get overwhelming and complicated to keep everything straight. Every site looks a little different, and offers varying levels of transparency.
You may not really know which airline to fly. When we surveyed consumers, we found that they care most about cost, comfort and convenience. So – value in their ticket price and comfort on the airplane, is followed closely by a convenient booking experience. This is where we excel.
When you’re comparison shopping, CheapAir’s easy and transparent booking interface shows you all of your options in one place. You can even narrow things down and select and compare flights with our easy and straightforward comparison tool.
Booking 3rd party can give you better customer support in a crisis
A lot can sometimes be made of the fact that airlines can wash their hands of a customer who booked third party, when something goes wrong mid-travel. This can give customers the idea that in cases of a weather delay, missed connection or other snafu mid-travel, that the airlines won’t help you. Most of the time these days, this is not the case.
If you come up against a flight delay, a third-party booking might actually be a good thing for you. Let’s look at a hypothetical situation. Say you booked a flight on United on a day when 2 of their airplanes at your airport are having mechanical difficulties, and someone on your flight crew became ill right before your departure time. At one time, United was dealing with hundreds of people with the need to be rebooked.
The gate agents for United that day are now overworked and stressed trying to reroute 3 planes of stressed out people. Anyone who booked directly with United depends only on them for this assistance. Now, if you booked a ticket with CheapAir.com (for instance), out stateside agents are available to help you. They can run interference with United, as well as troubleshoot with other airlines. And they can do this in real-time without the delays you may be feeling at the airport.
CheapAir agents are the best in the business and aim to give you the best service possible. So again, we think there can be a customer service advantage to booking with some 3rd party agencies (like CheapAir!)
Can you use your loyalty points when you book 3rd party airline tickets?
It’s a common misconception that you can’t take advantage of your frequent flyer/loyalty program points if you book third party. I know that at CheapAir.com, you can include your loyalty program number, so you do not miss out on those important points.
We can even store your loyalty programs in your booking profile, so any bookings you do with any airline will accrue points, even if you mix and match airlines.
What if the airline has an unattractive schedule change?
If you booked a nonstop flight, and the airline issues a schedule change eliminating that non stop option, you’re not often given a lot of options with a direct booking. Basically, an airline will usually issue a new ticket with connecting flights or offer passengers a refund.
If you’ve booked a ticket with a 3rd party agency like CheapAir.com, we can look into other options for you. You’ll be offered the option of the new connecting flights, but we can also look into other options that might be more tailored to your needs.
Who looks out for your best interests?
Here at CheapAir.com, we pride ourselves on offering unbiased advice, and truly being an advocate for our customers. We prioritize your needs over our bottom line.
During the pandemic, for example, we were able to advise customers when it made sense for them to wait for refund eligibility. This helped customers not stress about taking a flight credit they may not be able to use. So, we were able to issue refunds at a later date when the airlines made certain flights eligible.
Who has the better customer ratings?
If you’re still wondering if booking 3rd party is for you, we ask you to look at customer ratings for some of the top airlines compared to CheapAir.com. While it’s not an exact science, you can tell a lot about an organization’s commitment to its customers by seeing how it’s reviewed. CheapAir.com consistently outperforms the top domestic airlines across the board.
Do the airlines or 3rd party offer any tools for protecting a ticket price?
If you buy a ticket with CheapAir.com, we offer a little bit of price protection in our Price Drop Payback feature. You can read all about how it works, but essentially we will protect the price you pay up to $100 per ticket. Should the price of your airline ticket go down after you buy, you’re covered.
Overall, there can be benefits to booking directly with the airlines and 3rd party agencies, depending on what you need. Make sure you have the information you need, so your travel experience is the best it can be.