Beware of bookings through third-party travel sites | Way of life

Travelers have come to rely on the convenience and savings of bundled packages at online travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline.

This year, these third-party websites have been hit by the same wave of airline flight changes and cancellations that are widely disrupting travel.

Flight deals analyst Gunnar Olson of Thrifty Traveler, a travel education website, said he has observed more challenges for customers of online travel agencies negotiating change during the pandemic, he therefore advises travelers to book directly through the airlines.

“The problem with booking with these third-party sites is that while they may offer savings…if something goes wrong, you’re stuck with a middleman,” Olson said.

Minneapolis’ Sherry Parker loved booking trips on third-party sites like Expedia and Travelocity. This year, after flight changes and cancellations of trips booked on these sites, she will use them for research purposes only.

“I hope more travelers are hesitant to book through these third parties right now,” Parker said. “They better go through the airlines in these turbulent times.”

Parker suffered a flight cancellation earlier this year for an American Airlines flight to Reno in August that she had booked through Travelocity. American started the refund process and she received a refund quickly, she said.

But she haggled with Expedia for months to refund her $795 airfare after every leg of an April round trip for her family of four from Athens to Santorini was changed by carrier Volotea from five hours, including a 10 pm arrival in Athens the day before a 6 am return flight.

First she tried changing the flights, but it didn’t work. She said Volotea accepted the refund then because the changes took more than two hours each way. But then she spent hours going back and forth between the airline and Expedia to process the refund.

After a reporter contacted Expedia for the story, Parker, 58, a civil engineer who specializes in environmental cleanup, received an email Thursday from Expedia telling her she would receive a refund.

An Expedia spokeswoman declined to comment on specifics. “We can often resolve the issue but are limited by policies established by our partners and (are) not permitted to make exceptions on their behalf,” a spokeswoman wrote in an email. “If we make a mistake, we are committed to correcting it.”

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