A recent article in The New York Times spotlighted some new research from well-respected travel analysts at PhoCusWright and Forrester Research revealing that the online travel industry is losing customers.

‘This is a wake-up call for the industry,’ said Henry Harteveldt, Forrester’s online travel analyst. ‘Customers are tired of spending two or three hours trying to find the airline or hotel or vacation package that meets their needs…’”

It’s no surprise that travelers are buying less online:  it’s a real burden to have to keep checking prices on multiple travel sites, over and over, in search of the best itineraries at the best prices.   It not only takes a ton of time, but often results in people missing out when seats become available or when fares drop.

Harteveldt also highlighted some major gaps still looming in the online travel planning process:

“Nowhere can you say, ‘I have this amount of money to spend on a trip. These are my interests. This is where I live. Show me my options,’” he said. “Whereas online retailers have done a much better job of improving the shopping experience in recent years, the travel industry has been standing still.”

Does anyone remember when travel agents actually called you to tell you that the price dropped?  Yapta’s aim is to be your personal travel assistant.  You pick the exact itineraries that work for you (your “interests”).  We let you know when the price drops into your specified range, and send you to the airline websites to buy your ticket.

We send you to the airline websites to buy tickets because they have the most customer friendly policies:

  1. they don’t charge you booking fees
  2. they have the lowest fares for that airline (guaranteed)
  3. it’s much easier to change your itinerary versus buying through an online agency (which will sting you for second change fee)
  4. airline sites sometimes offer “bonus” incentives like frequent flier miles, and
  5. most significantly:  the airlines’ “guaranteed airfare policies” give you travel credits if the price drops after you buy (even if it drops 90 days after you buy)

Having built-in price protection is one of the big benefits of buying directly from airline websites.  The big online agencies, however, don’t guarantee airfare beyond 24 hours and won’t issue you a travel credit if the price drops.  Because of this, we’ve decided to re-tune Yapta’s “buy it now” links and “trip tagging” links to only include airline websites.  The “big travel sites” need to stop acting like the “big banks” which earned a reputation for dinging their consumers with countless fees.  We’re now challenging these companies to go back to their roots, and step up to re-focus on becoming customer friendly.  It’s possible the mega online agencies will change their stance on this, but until they do, it’s really not in travelers’ best interest to send Yapta users to these sites to shop for and buy airline tickets.

As time goes on you’ll continue to see Yapta as an agent for change in an evolving industry.  We will continue to improve the online shopping experience and look out for you at every turn.

Let us know what you think.  Drop us a line at: feedback@yapta.com

Thanks,
Tom

***Update:  Priceline has announced this week that they will no longer charge a booking fee for airfare (except “name your own price” tickets).  This is certainly a step in the right direction, but we’ll see if they move to match airline price guarantee policies, and see how the other online agencies respond.***