I stood in line, passport in hand, waiting to check in to my nonstop flight from Istanbul to Chicago. I handed the attendant my documents and watched a puzzled look come across her face as she entered my information.
"Sir, you don't have a flight today."
In a panic I checked my Orbitz itinerary. It checked out.
"There must be a mistake. I have confirmation from Orbitz!" I said.
"Well, you're going to have to talk to Orbitz then, because you don't have a ticket with us," she replied.
The above scenario is just one reason why you should never book a ticket through Orbitz, Expedia, or any other online travel service. It may seem extreme, but trust us.
If you buy a ticket through a third party service like Orbitz, you're a customer of the third party, not the airline. Ever wonder why you're in the last boarding group every time you fly? The airlines make less money on flights brokered by a third party, so they prioritize their direct customers. Start booking your flights directly through the airline and you'll enjoy a better boarding group, more direct customer support, and avoid learning the hard way like I did. That's not even mentioning the nightmare it is to change a flight through a third party.
So should we avoid using third party search engines altogether? Not exactly. Orbitz, Expedia, and other travel search engines are useful for finding which airlines are offering the cheapest flights for your itinerary. Use Orbitz to find your airline but use that airline's website to book your flight. But remember, those search engines don't show you flights from economy airlines like Southwest, EasyJet, or, our favorite, Pegasus.
You'll be thanking us when you don't have to gate check your carry on because the overhead compartments are full.
Image courtesy of Creative Commons.