An In-Depth Examination of Travel Web Sites Selling International Airline Tickets (Abstract)
William J. McGee, Consultant,
Consumer Reports WebWatch, Yonkers, N.Y.
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In recent years, Consumer Reports WebWatch has conducted numerous testing projects to determine which travel Web sites provide the lowest airfares. But previously this testing had always focused on domestic airline routes. With this project, Consumer Reports WebWatch examined a more complex and expensive product: international airfares.
For many consumers, buying airline tickets for foreign destinations via the Internet can be a confusing proposition. Compared with the domestic market, it often means higher fares, more detailed tax structures, less familiar airlines, fewer flight frequencies, and more complicated itineraries.
For this project, Consumer Reports WebWatch simulated a variety of trips from cities throughout the United States to destinations in the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Using scripted itineraries, seasoned testers queried airfares repeatedly from a variety of travel Web sites. These included the three largest third-party “integrated” sites (Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity), as well as numerous domestic and foreign “branded” sites maintained by the airlines themselves.
The good news for consumers is this project made it clear that the online international airline market is robust and competitive, and chock full of good deals. The more disturbing news is that many of these low fares are difficult to book. That's one reason Consumer Reports WebWatch will continue to examine the online travel market in the months and years ahead.