Ticket fees drive travelers to the Net.
Escalating fees have business travelers thinking twice about buying airline tickets from travel agents. Two-thirds of agencies impose surcharges of $8 to $20 per ticket, according to the American Society of Travel Agents.
Booking a flight on the Internet lets road warriors avoid the extra fees. An April study by new-media research firm Jupiter Communications suggests travelers did just that last year, to the tune of $911 million in total online travel transactions.
But tracking down low prices on a booking engine can be a headache, and you might even end up with a more expensive fare. "Travel agents and booking engines have their strengths and weaknesses," concedes Terry Jones, chief information officer at Dallas-based Sabre Group, which operates the popular Travelocity booking engine.
Services like Travelocity might be free, but they don't always turn up bargain prices. Looking for less costly connections or red-eye flights on the Web requires practice.
James Shillinglaw, editor of Travel Agent magazine in New York City, says most business travelers will continue to use travel agents. "People booking online complain about how long it takes," he says. "With an agent, you make one phone call, and when you hang up, you have an itinerary."
Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.