online travel agencies

The only thing certain about airline fees is that they only go up. The recent hike of legacy carrier change fees has gotten a lot of press, including on this site. However, Frontier Airlines, which has kept change fees at $100, has been quietly instituting new fees of their own.

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We imagine bridges and waterbuses in Venice decked out in advertising for Diesel jeans. We are surprised by the rise of Cheapoair.com into the #3 position among online travel agencies. And, common-sense is applied by Congress to former rules that required already-screened checked baggage to rescreened at US airports after arriving from out of the country.

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This post from PhoCusWright serves to promote one of their industry studies. However, it correctly points out the importance of websites that allow consumers to compare prices across airlines. Though many airlines are experiencing a high volume of direct bookings, this study shows that many travelers shop on sites where they can compare prices and then buy directly with the airlines.

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A slim plurality of travelers polled in a new Consumer Travel Alliance survey (37 percent) say they click on a meta-search site first. Another 35 percent begin with the airlines’ own websites, such as AA.com and Delta.com.

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The new airfare order with fares, surcharges, fees and variations thereof will mean passengers will have to give airlines, travel agencies, GDSs and search engines even more information than ever before to find the lowest airfare. Privacy, once an afterthought when purchasing a ticket will become an issue.

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There are many predictions that airlines will be consolidating, and we know they are cutting services. Now, it appears that online travel agencies are going through some sort of consolidation — the biggest are owned by four big companies.

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Traffic to the three major online travel agencies — Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity — is trending upward, as bargain-hunters snap up discounted airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars. It helps that the agencies eliminated some of their booking fees a few months ago.

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The first half of 2009 will see continued consolidation in the travel industry. The big and strong will be getting bigger and stronger and the small will face a tough time. Industry consolidation at the same time will be up against increased consumer search for better bargains.

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Are the big three online travel agencies about to become the big two … or one? Maybe. There are signs that something is in the works.

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The reasons for American Airlines flight displays disappearing from kayak.com are still a bit cloudy, but it appears that Kayak removed the flight listings because American demanded an all-AA-fares-or-nothing display. They got nothing.

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