CHOICE membership

Travel agent vs do it yourself bookings


#1

Do you choose to use a travel agent, or find your own way?

We explore some cost scenarios to uncover the pros and cons of each option when travelling:


#2

20 to 10 years ago we exclusively used travel agents to do all our bookings for us.

Up until about 10 years ago, we used a travel agent to do part of our bookings. The part we used them for was booking accommodation/other travel services in far away places where we believe there may be a risk to providing our credit card details directly (such as Russia) or in those countries where bookings were more difficult (such as China where credit card use has traditionally been limited to services specifically catering to westerners).

The past 10 years we haven’t used an Australian travel agent as it easy to book everything oneself should one have the time. If one doesn’t have the time or ones time is precious/expensive, I could see why agents would be still used.

We have however used local travel agents in the country we are travelling to to assist with our travel, such as using an agent in Hanoi to book some of the ground component in Vietnam or similar in Taiwan. We usually find the local agents can get rates cheaper than ‘western’ online sources and also are more flexible in booking for us (allow us to tell them what to book/tailor make it to exactly what we want rather than being booked into their preferred service provider).

Booking online is also becoming less risky (risk being dealing with unknown security risk by the service provider) when there are many online hotel, car, airfare etc booking sites. The only time we use an agency, is if their online advertised price is cheapest…and we use them as the intermediary for the booking (we usually don’t deal with them face to face or over the phone).

One of the advantages of booking wholly oneself is the travel can be fully customised to ones own needs.


#3

I have done my own bookings for decades except when I travelled on business.

This year we are doing an around-the-world and the booking sites are incapable of dealing with multi-class. Eg some locations do not have premium economy service, some flights only have economy not business, and so on. If you try to route premium economy and any leg only offers economy and business, they return ‘nothing available’ for the route.

I am not aware of any of the web sites that has a multi-city option where you can specify a class for each leg, so tried an agent. nb. Anyone who uses an agent should be aware some are marginally capable while others are experts, and an expert in one area of the world might be clueless about another. There seems to be no reliable indicator.

The agent had a great sales pitch, decades in the business, and a friend had a good experience as a reference. We had to pay a retainer, refundable on ticketing. Seemed reasonable. We expressed flexibility for travel days and other things with the only hard items that we wanted premium economy where available, arrival in the UK had to be by a given date, and departure not before a given date. Since we have some booked tours we mentioned the hotels where they started/ended.

After a week+ we got an all economy proposal with a note premium economy was not available on a RTW ticket for our stops. The hotels were the ones where the tours started/ended, at what looked like full rack rates.

We left her with the retainer and dealt with an Adelaide RTW specialist we found on the 'net, who got us everything we needed for flights in a day after only a few short email exchanges. All premium economy except where not offered on the leg.

We are doing hotels ourselves.

Trips to single destinations (eg the Bali test) can be misleading regarding an agent’s services. Such trips are fairly straight forward for DIY. Once you get multiple destinations with a more complex itinerary the value can shift quickly.


#4

The ACCC has accused Trivago of dodgy dealings. A few of the techniques described are interesting slights of hand. As always, accusations will be ‘vigorously defended’.

edit: And if you thought paying an agent was the answer, maybe or not.

https://thenewdaily.com.au/news/national/2018/08/22/flight-centre-ripping-off-customers/


#5

Having recently booked an upcoming trip across Europe, where we planned to travel we never found Trivago to source the cheapest price. We found for our locations, other hotel search engines such as Booking.com and Hotel.com were cheaper, along with some direct booking with hotels (in Munich ajd Bucharest) themselves.

Maybe the best price claim is for them (where they get the biggest booking commissions) rather than the customer.


#6

Everyone between us the customer and the provider has to make a living, cover costs and return a profit. In return our expectation is that there is fair value, low risk and reliable support.

It is disappointing but not unexpected that there can be a gap between the promises (marketing) and what may be delivered. Unfortunately this is not readily apparent until you are in a no option position.

Noted Flight Centre is also in the spotlight for more than just marketing related practices.

Having used agents to provide packages previously there are some who have delivered great service and outcomes. In particular for some first time experiences.

For most travel we now book substantially direct or through one of the major chains. Eg Expedia, Agoda, Accor with all transport direct. For some things eg - rail passes, they may still be more conveniently obtained through an agent for a fee. We all have different skill levels as travellers, domestic, OS, or in the jungles of New Guinea.


#7

Once upon a time if we needed to (eg) book a hotel, we rang the hotel and booked. The hotel made a profit. Then there were booking sites. The hotel made a profit and the booking site made a profit. Then there were comparison sites where the hotel makes a profit, the booking site makes a profit, and the comparison site makes a profit. Then…

You can see where this is going. It is increasingly pervasive as additional layers of profitable businesses are overlaid or products that have to be bundled to make sense are increasingly unbundled in the name of transparency (governmental bodies tell us it is OK when we see who is doing us over and for how much because we can make better choices).


#8

#9

If the claims in this new article are true, most customers using the BestJet’s website would have paid by credit card. They should be contacting their credit card issuer in relation to any monies paid and for services/tickets/bookings not rendered and requesting charge backs. The sooner they action charge backs, the sooner potential resolution will be forthcoming.


#10

Consumers should be aware a chargeback from a company in administration is not always going to be ‘satisfying’ although remains the best bet to get a refund.

Simplistically a chargeback results in your card issuer getting the money refunded from the vendor’s bank. If the vendor is in administration it is not always so simple depending on the funds available and the administrator, although those in the ‘charge back queue’ are better placed than those having paid cash or direct debit (Cheque/Saving), and the banks work the process rather than ‘you’ as an individual.

That is always the best advice, including with other payment systems such as paypal when any transaction goes bad.

Additional background


#11

#12

Another grubby booking site bites the dust leaving customers stranded.

And their Product Review reviews.

I cannot understand why consumers do not refer to Choice and Product Review so as to be forewarned about these type pf two-bit scammers.


#13

#14

#15

I know the post is a bit old, but:

https://ifly.sabreexplore.com.au/searchAir.do

Will do this I believe.


#16

Momondo multi-city does it. If one is using a tablet/phone, make sure that the browser is set to ‘desktop site’. Select multi-city and class in each leg can be individually selected.


#17

What is concerning if the reports are correct, is it appears that Bestjet cancelled flights which had been booked and paid for in order to receive refunds, immediately prior to its collapse. Such cancellations appear to be done without the knowledge or consent of the customer who booked the airfares.

It will be interesting to see where these refunds ended up and hopefully those investigating Bestjet will take necessary action to recover these funds.


#18

What remains to be seen on each site is whether it prices those multi-city multi-class legs as a continuous priced ticket or a collection of one-ways on the same ticket. The end price could be significantly different with the latter.


#19

Bestjet Insolvency - What next for It's Customers?
#20

My understanding is that it wasn’t Bestjet who cancelled the bookings, but the aggregation company they used to purchase the tickets.(https://www.cvfr.com.au/) What is most concerning is that this company has allegedly cancelled already paid for tickets with airlines to try and recover money owed to it by Bestjet FOR UNRELATED bookings.

For example, if you booked a flight in July 2018 to fly out in March this year, the tickets have been purchased by Bestjet via CVFR. Bestjet paid CVFR and CVFR paid the airlines. The flight is 100% paid for and confirmed. However, as your flight hasn’t been taken yet, anytime up until the flight date CVFR can just cancel the booking and receive a refund from the airline. Allegedly this is what they’re doing to cover some of what Bestjet owe them for subsequent unrelated bookings that they supplied to Bestjet on credit.

If this is true I hope they get severely punished.