Independent travellers advised by consumer body to book direct 

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By Linsey McNeill
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Consumer champion Which? is advising independent travellers not to book with online travel agents to get the best deals.

It says they’ll usually pay less by booking direct with airlines and hotels.

Which? claims some booking websites offer poor customers service and ‘rarely if ever’ find the cheapest prices.

Which? surveyed its members about their experiences of using both comparison sites and booking sites while it also carried out its own research to discover the cheapest booking methods for both flights and hotels.

Which flight booking sites performed well?

Expedia was the highest scoring booking site in the consumer champion’s survey for service, with a customer score of 70%. Respondents awarded it three stars for value for money, ease of finding flexible fares, transparency of fees and site functionality. 

However, Which? also found Expedia was the site least likely to offer consumers the cheapest flights.

When Which? checked 10 different flight journeys across nine websites (including four booking sites and five comparison sites) for bookings one week, six weeks and six months before departure, Expedia failed to find the cheapest option on any occasion. 

Which? pointed out that Expedia doesn’t offer low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Wizz.

Opodo achieved a customer score of just 28% but found the cheapest flights 11 out of 30 times, which was more than any other site looked at by Which?

Which are the best flight comparison sites?

With a customer score of 64% Google Flights was the best performing comparison site, with respondents awarding it four stars for site functionality – the highest of any comparison site rated in the survey. It found the cheapest flights on six out of 30 occasions – comparable to Kayak and Cheap Flights, which each found the cheapest flights on five occasions. 

Which are the best hotel comparison sites?

When it checked hotel prices at 10 hotels for 30 overnight stays on nine different websites, Which? found it was cheaper to book direct half the time. 

However, comparison sites Kayak and Trivago found the lowest or joint lowest best on 12 occasions, while Skyscanner found the lowest or joint lowest 11 times.

Which are the best hotel booking sites?

Agoda returned the most expensive price on 14 out of 30 occasions, while Expedia and each had the dearest prices on 13 out of 30 occasions. received the highest customer score, with a rating of 73%, and achieved a four star rating for both site functionality and transparency of fees, just slightly edging out Airbnb (71%) and (70%).

What does Which? say?

Which? Travel Deputy Editor Naomi Leach said: “If you’re looking to book a flight or hotel, our research shows comparison sites can be an excellent starting point, scouring the internet to take the hard work out of your decision-making. 

“We’d advise checking a couple of different platforms so you have the best possible chance of finding the right option for you.

“Once you’ve narrowed down your selection, book directly. Booking with the airline will usually prove cheaper than using an Online Travel Agent, and will mean you know exactly who is responsible should something go wrong. 

“Calling a hotel directly will often secure you the best price or at the very least they’ll throw in a freebie like a bottle of wine or a room upgrade.”

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