Travel Agents Save Clients $80 per Itinerary
A study by Topaz International, an independent research firm, found that during 2008 traditional travel agencies saved air travelers more than $80 per itinerary compared to online sellers – including the airlines' own sites. In fact the results of the Topaz study over the past 4 years have consistently shown that traditional travel agencies obtain lower or equal fares over 90% of the time when compared to online sites. Here are a few reasons why agents have the upper hand:
- The four Global Distribution Systems (GDS) used by professional travel agencies display all “web fares” offered by the airlines under the DCA3 agreements signed three years ago.
- Online agencies sell screen positioning as part of their revenue model. This positioning reorders and biases the results of a pricing query based on which suppliers pay for top positioning. Travel professionals use unbiased displays to find last seat availability at the lowest fare.
- While online sellers are subsidized by suppliers, professional travel agencies charge Itinerary Research Fees that shift their allegiance from being an agent-for-the-supplier to being an advocate for the traveler.
- Put another way, online agencies and the airline sites are driven by convincing the traveler to complete the reservation on their site without regard for alternatives. Travel professionals are compensated for providing alternatives from a host of sources. As part of an agent's comprehensive search they will, from time to time, use online sites to secure reservations.
- Comparative Shopping Sites such as Hotwire, FareChase, SideStep and others have limitations that you probably don't know about. For example, three such sites including SideStep are prohibited from accessing Expedia or Travelocity content. Expedia owns Hotwire. Hotels.com operates from the same database as we do (Worldspan). Orbitz licences its comparative shopping technology from FareChase. Throw in Yahoo Travel and Amazon.com and the mix becomes even more incestuous and biased.
- Carriers such as Southwest, Sun Country, Jet Blue and others prohibit certain web sellers from displaying their flights and fares. Some are not represented on ANY online sites.
- American Airlines offers a pricing guarantee that says if a customer finds a fare on the online sites that is less than that displayed on their own site or the GDS systems, they will refund the difference and issue a $50 voucher for future travel.
If a traveler's time is worth $30 per hour ($62,400 annually), the time spent booking online plus overpaying an average of $80 does not make good sense. Since airlines stopped paying commissions, travel professionals transitioned into working for professional fees paid by travelers who value expertise, experience, personalization and recommendations.
Topaz International based in Portland, OR is an independent airfare auditing, benchmarking and statistical information firm specializing in business travel cost reduction. For more information, phone 503/254-4303.
"When things go right, you LIKE Your travel agent; When things go wrong, you LOVE your travel agent!"