- There are a number of different types of Web sites with information about travel services:
- Some services allow consumers to search for fares using specific times and dates. The results can usually be sorted by such factors as airline preferences or lowest fare. Once the consumer is satisfied with the quoted fare, he or she can usually purchase the ticket directly from the Web site.
- Other services ask consumers to commit to a particular price and then allow the Web site to select the airline to fulfill the traveler's request. These sites may allow you to "name your own price," but require you to submit a credit card number at the time you register for the service. Although this may be a great way to save money, there are terms which usually accompany such purchases, which consumers should read carefully before bidding:
- Tickets are immediately purchased and charged to the consumer's credit card;
- Often, tickets purchased through these services cannot be changed, transferred or canceled;
- The travel service may require that you be flexible about the date and time of your departure and arrival as well as whether the flight will require stops or connections.
- Tickets purchased may not be eligible for Frequent Flyer miles or upgrades; and
- Special in-flight needs, such as meals and boarding arrangements, may not be guaranteed.
- Many online travel services disclaim responsibility for overbooking, cancellation or delays, because they claim to only pass along information from airlines, hotels, and cruiselines.
- Tickets purchased online may be in the form of an "e-ticket," meaning that you will not receive a paper ticket in the mail prior to your trip. If you attempt to use your ticket to fly standby on another airline, they may require you to obtain a paper ticket from your original carrier.
- Consumers should also be aware that discounted fares are often tied directly to online promotions and may not be available offline (i.e., on the phone or through a travel agent). In addition, some airlines may offer specials that are only available on their own company Web sites.