The travel giant, Expedia, has launched a stinging attack on travel agents over booking fees but says consumers are also to blame.The largest online travel company globally, Expedia has just launched a new media campaign to heighten what they feel is the rip off of booking fees.
“Some online travel companies charge booking fees of up to $50. We don’t.” the ad says.
The US owned travel ace announced it was cutting its fees permanently in May 2009.
The ad also goes on to state in no uncertain terms “we don’t charge flight booking fees,” referring to website surcharges, as opposed to airline fees which are seperate.
“Across the rest of the world, they’re not charging those kinds of fees. That’s extortionate,” claims Expedia Worldwide president Scott Durchslag.
And it seems Aussie consumers aren’t entirely blameless, with Durchslag hinting lack of protest at the hefty surcharges isn’t helping eliminate them, despite the fact that recent surveys show Australians are unhappy with being forced to fork out on such fees.
“I’m stunned consumers in Australia aren’t up in arms about this the same way they are about bank fees,” he said.
The Australian Federation of Travel Agents declined to comment on the issue when contacted by SmartHouse.
“In the US, about 50 per cent of travel is online,” he said. “Australia is about half that and across the rest of Asia it gets even smaller.”
According to Expedia, Webjet charges a $$50 fee on international flights, $35.90 on Asia Pacific and NZ fares, while Jetabroad also hike the price up $30.
However, it’s not as simple as that, argues Alana Theodore from Travel.com.au.
“We advise Australians to ensure they’re comparing apples with apples when booking airfares online,” she said.
“It’s not the size or existence of a booking fee that matters, but ultimately the price you pay at the checkout. Webjet also criticised the campaign as “the most pitiful and pitiable campaign ever heard”.
A quick scan of the skyways showed clearly which website was in fact the cheaper option.
On comparison of prices of a Qantas flight from Sydney to Melbourne return on exactly the same time and flight, we found Expedia won by just over $30 offering the fare for $225.70, compared to Webjet’s $256.60.
However, travel provider Webjet claims its strength in the Aussie market lies in the fact they offer low cost carriers like Virgin Blue and Jetstar on domestic flights.
Expedia usually offers Qantas and Regional Express.
“We are the only OTA (online travel agency) that has the low-cost carriers and that’s where the value is” said David Clark from Webjet.