Airfares Cheaper Online or Through Travel Agent? - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

5/28/04

Airfares Cheaper Online or Through Travel Agent?

Lynn Gibson and his stepson, Bobby Burgess of Tyler are planning a vacation with their family of four. We asked them where they think they can find the cheapest airfares.

"Probably the travel agency," Burgess said.

"The local travel agency," Gibson said.

But recently, Burgess looked to an out-of-state company called Hot Spots to book a vacation package with his friends to Cancun. The company went bankrupt, its phone numbers disconnected, and has only a P.O. Box.

Now, Burgess and his friends have each lost more than $700. A tough lesson to learn. Now he's sticking with his local travel agent.

"Somewhere where I can actually see their face, where I'm actually talking to them, a well-known place," Burgess said. "Somewhere where we can get some insurance or something like that."

Sharon Howell, with Travel Masters in Tyler, says they look for the best value and vacation experience for you.

"We're not loyal to any airline, any cruise line, any tour operator," she said. "We are loyal to you, the consumer."

Sounds good, but why are more and more people ditching the travel agent and going online? Well, we hit the Internet ourselves to see if people are really finding the best deals there. Going to three places -- Las Vegas, Orlando, and London -- and taking our typical family of four on a round-trip.

Some people say sites like Orbitz.com, Travelocity.com, or Expedia.com have the best deals.

Others say go directly to the airline's website. Departing from Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, we can choose from Continental or American Airlines. Then we turned to our agent at Travel Masters.

Including all taxes and fees, and travel agent commission, out of six different companies, a flight to Vegas will cost you the most with Continental.com, at more than $1,200. The cheapest is with Travel Masters, at just more than $1,000.

To Orlando, you'll pay the most going through Continental.com or Travelocity.com, while Travel Masters still offers the best price.

And to London, the local travel agency is about $200 cheaper than its closest competitor and about $700 cheaper than the most expensive online service, AmericanAirlines.com.

So Burgess and Gibson were right after all. From what we found, the travel agent is still the best way to go.

The ticket prices we researched were available for purchase at least two weeks in advance, for a 7-day vacation from June 16-23. We also looked on Priceline.com, which claims to have the best deal through its "Name Your Own Price" option. But you have to enter your personal information, including your credit card, to do that, and there's less flexibility in choosing your flights.

Julie Tam, reporting.

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