Booking straight from the source can have its perks

  • New York Times
  • September 29, 2012 - 1:28 PM

Frontier Airlines caused a stir recently when it announced that travelers who do not book directly with the airline will pay higher fees, receive half as many frequent flier miles and will not be allowed to select a seat in advance of check-in. The news got me thinking: Should travelers assume that the best deals always come from online -- even offline -- travel agencies?

Direct bookings may net higher profits for hotels and airlines, but there are benefits for consumers, too. With that in mind, here are three outdated myths about booking direct.

Myth 1: You can't save money. When price-shopping for a hotel, keep in mind that many chains now promise that their rates are the same or better than those found anywhere else. For instance, Starwood Hotels and Resorts offers a "best rate guarantee." Delta Air Lines also has a best-fare guarantee. If travelers buy a ticket on and then find a fare for the same itinerary that is at least $10 lower on another site, Delta will refund the difference -- and provide a $100 Delta travel voucher.

Myth 2: Your room or plane seat will be the same whether or not you book direct.

Executives at hotels and airlines said they can deliver a more personalized experience when travelers book directly. That means guests may have a better chance of getting the bed or room type they want. Passengers who book directly with airlines can select a particular seat or buy priority boarding.

Myth 3: It's easier to change plans with a travel agency. When plans change, it's nice to be able to make a single phone call to a travel agency. But booking directly can spare you cancellation fees on the best hotel deals, which are often nonrefundable.

Travel editor Kerri Westenberg's column will return next week.

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