Airline and nonairline alike--travel sites are flying high.
Airline Web sites aren't what they used to be. No longer static backwaters that merely display flight and gate information, carriers now feature customizable content, mileage information and discounted tickets.
A recent survey by New York City media research company Jupiter Communications predicts that within the next three years, 62 percent of online airline bookings will be handled by airline sites instead of nonairline travel sites. Just a few months ago, sales on airline sites represented only a fraction of online reservations.
This raises the question of where to book online. Nonairline travel sites such as Trip.com and Travelocity.com offer fares from a variety of carriers and suppliers. Most airline sites, however, only sell their own flights. On the other hand, a lucky traveler might find a price that's only offered on an airline's Web page.
Don't ditch one site for another just yet. Nonairline sites allow you to window shop and offer tips and special rates. "Each site has strengths and weaknesses," says Lorraine Sileo, a senior analyst at PhoCusWright, an online travel consultancy in Sherman, Connecticut. "But online travel agencies still offer the neutrality and choice that an airline site can't. It's best to shop around."
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.