Which? warns consumers about booking flights with OTAs

By Linsey McNeill
Home » Which? warns consumers about booking flights with OTAs

Consumer champion Which? is warning consumers that booking flights via an online travel agent is often more expensive than booking direct.

It says that out of 28 spot price checks, comparing the cost of booking flights with an airline or with eDreams, Gotogate, Kiwi or Opodo, it was always cheaper to book direct when adding on extras such as check-in bags.

While the headline prices advertised by OTAs are often ‘marginally’ cheaper, said Which?, they usually charge more than airlines for additional services, including seat selection and bags.

However, Which? said that a survey carried out in October last year revealed that 60% of consumers were unaware that third-party sites could charge a premium for optional items

In one example, eDreams quoted £556 for a British Airways return flight from London Gatwick to Orlando, £2 less than booking direct with the airline, but once bags and seat selection had been added the price rose by £258, making it £102 more expensive than booking direct.

Similarly, Which? found that it was £66 less to book a Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Athens direct with the airline rather than via Opodo if adding a 20kg suitcase, a 10kg cabin bag and seat selection. Without the extras, it would have been £3 cheaper with Opodo.

Which? pointed out that Ryanair has repeatedly complained about OTAs selling its flights, saying that without a commercial agreement in place such sales are in breach of the terms of its website.

However, OTAs say they offer consumers more choice, enabling passengers to look at different fares from different airlines at the same time, and also add hotel bookings and other services.

But Which? added: “As well as charging inflated prices, there are countless reports of OTAs offering substandard customer care.”

It also said services sold by OTAs including Trip.com to help passengers receive compensation if their flight is delayed or cancelled could be unlawful under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. Consumers in the UK could be automatically entitled to compensation without paying a fee.

Editor of Which? Travel Rory Boland said: “It’s easy to be tempted by headline airfares from online travel agents that save a few pounds but you are always better off booking directly with the airline. Not only is it likely to work out cheaper in the end, but in the event that something should go wrong, it will be clear where the responsibility lies.

“If you’re looking to find the best value prices, flight comparison sites will always be the preferable option for finding the cheapest seats. Likewise, if you’re keen to book as a package and add accommodation to your flight booking, Which? would always advise using a reputable package holiday firm.” 

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