Monday, June 1, 2009

Travelocity and Orbitz match Expedia but Differences Remain and Orbitz Adds a Twist

So, today is June 1st and not surprisingly, Orbitz and Travelocity have fallen into line and matched Expedia's air booking fee removal which was announced last week. However, as usual in this game, plenty of nuances remain between the different sites.

For one thing, Orbitz and Travelocity have not eliminated *all* booking fees - they still charge them on multi-carrier itineraries and trip which originate outside the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. So, intrepid travelers who use Travelocity or Orbitz to book a flight from Moscow to Minsk will still get hit with a booking fee on Orbitz and Travelocity. Similarly, let Orbitz or Travelocity find a great fare using American one way and Delta returning and you'll also get hit with a booking fee. Odd, because these kinds of tickets certainly don't cost either Orbitz or Travelocity more to sell or process than a regular old domestic ticket to Chicago.

(As an aside, Priceline does not sell international point of origin tickets)

Orbitz is still charging $30 (over and above anything the airlines charge) to cancel or change a ticket they sold. Priceline has not charged these fees for years and Expedia eliminated them last week when they announced they were removing booking fees for good. Travelocity also does not charge these fees.

Orbitz is showing another new feature for air consumers - it is a little hard to find, but Orbitz is now allowing bookers to cancel a ticket without penalties until 10PM CT the day after it was booked. This feature (which has been long available to traditional agents who are able to simply void tickets before they are fully reported to the airlines via ARC) is new to the online travel agency world. While the websites have always been able to do this, none have ever used it as a marketing tool. Several airlines (Delta, United come to mind) have similar features but this is one more example of Orbitz delivering more value to consumers. As just pointed out by Travelocity, they too offer this feature. Very cool but again, pretty well hidden - and it seems like a key differentiator from supplier sites.

And, if none of the OTAs are charging fees, do all the "fee chop," "no fees," and "booking fees eliminated" marketing messages really mean anything to anyone anymore? These are starting to sound a little like "Best Rate Gurantees"


  1. Tom, Travelocity has offered so called "courtesy cancellation" as part of the Travelocity Guarante since 2005. Check out when you have a moment. If you have any questions, email

  2. Thanks Joel - didn't see that - its fairly buried! I have updated the posting to reflect.

  3. Tom: I was unaware also about online agencies voiding tickets within said timeframe. And Orbitz, although it didn't actively promote it like it is doing now, told me they have been doing courtesy voids for as long as they remember. Go figure.

  4. I appreciate the labour you have put in developing this blog. Nice and informative.

  5. this is something usual, these two companies will always have much to offer!