There’s good news out there for those of you who like to book your travel using online travel agents. Expedia and Travelocity have both followed in Priceline’s footsteps and dropped all booking fees for flights. There don’t appear to be any catches, but this is a temporary move. Flights must be booked by May 31.
After Priceline did this ages ago, Expedia was the first to follow and drop fees. I think it’s safe to assume that this is a competitive move to try to shift more share from its competitors. Travelocity soon followed, apparently afraid it would lose too much share.
But Orbitz has yet to match. Will they hold out? Orbitz has done a lot to try to differentiate itself from other sites with its TLC and Price Assurance programs, but now the latter is being copied as well. Travelocity said it will also refund your money if someone books the same trip as you for less, but they will only do it for vacation packages. Not to be outdone, Priceline said it will do the same for both individual flight itineraries and vacation packages. Confused yet?
I just have to wonder if this move makes sense at all. You would think that the fee-sensitive travelers had stopped booking with online travel agent sites long ago and now go to the airline sites. Are they going to come back now? I doubt it. Of course, as I mentioned, it’s probably just an effort to bring people over from other online travel agents, like Priceline. Since Priceline stopped charging fees, they have attracted a greater share of the audience. Expedia must now think it’s significant to do something about it. And maybe Orbitz disagrees. Time will tell, though I think it’s more likely that they’re just preparing their response as I write this.
Mark over at Upgrade: Travel Better thinks this “temporary” fee cut may become permanent, and he very well may be right. Once you get into these competitive spirals, it’s hard to get out, even if it ends up not working out well for the bottom line.