Organizing your vacation through an online vacation giant like Booking.com might seem like an easy option, but you might not get the best deal, research shows.
The online hosting specialist also sells travel and flight packages through its partners, but analyzes by consumer group Which? found the same cheaper trips from the travel site’s biggest rival on three-quarters of vacations.
When which one? Compared to holidays at the same hotel on the same dates, Booking.com was beaten on price by Expedia nine out of 12 times.
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And performance was worse for the price of flights alone, with Skyscanner showing cheaper fares for all 12 routes compared to 10 of the 12 routes cheaper to book the flight directly with the airline.
The price difference between Booking.com and Expedia was significant for many vacations.
A couple traveling to Nice, France for a week’s stay at the four-star Hotel Okko could save £154 by booking with Expedia instead of Booking.com, and a week’s stay at the hotel Plaza del Castillo on the Costa del Sol would set you back £99 more with Booking.com at £961 versus £862 with Expedia.
Although a search with Booking.com is “powered by Lastminute”, which one? also found that it seemed to be cheaper to book directly on Lastminute.com.
Lastminute has confirmed that its holiday partners have access to the same inventory of flights as themselves, but flight availability is dynamic and subject to change at any time, meaning that a simple price comparison of a platform to another may not be enough.
While Booking.com is now the ninth largest ATOL holder in the UK, with a license to carry 285,292 passengers on Atol-protected package holidays in 2022, it has opted to partner with LastMinute instead. com to make package reservations.
Atol protection is important because it prevents you from losing money or being stranded abroad if the travel company you booked with goes bankrupt before your trip or during your vacation.
Any flight and hotel package booked through Booking.com currently has LastMinute.com as the Atol holder.
However, over the past two years, LastMinute.com has finished at the bottom of a Which? member survey of flight booking and accommodation booking sites.
In the survey of online booking sites, published last November, LastMinute.com received a customer score of only 30% as a flight booking site, although Lastminute says the score does not paint a picture. complete travel “in the context of a pandemic”. .
Booking.com has reassured its flat-rate customers that they don’t have to use LastMinute.com’s customer support, saying: “Our customer service team is available 24/7 to assist our customers. , whatever type of trip they book with us.”
LastMinute.com also has a poor record when it comes to Covid refunds, with regulator the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) threatening LastMinute.com with legal action in January 2021 unless it refunds over a million pounds in unpaid refunds to customers whose holidays have been canceled due to the pandemic.
As the Atol holder, it will be Lastminute.com rather than Booking.com who will be legally responsible for refunding customers if and when holidays are disrupted.
Booking.com is teaming up with Swedish online travel agency GoToGate to sell flights.
Which? checked four routes at three different times of the year and compared the cheapest round-trip nonstop flights that Booking.com found with Skyscanner and direct with the airline.
Booking.com did not find the cheapest fare on any occasion, and for ten of the 12 flights it was cheaper to book directly with the airline.
On a summer holiday return flight from London to Malaga, Booking.com found the cheapest non-stop fare with Spanish airline Vueling for £183. But when we checked the same flight on the airline’s website – Vueling.com – the fare was just £129.
A customer using Booking.com would have paid £54 against the odds.
Booking.com said: “There are no hidden charges or fees for travelers who choose to arrange their flights with Booking.com. The price the customer sees when searching for flights is the final price. that he will pay”.
Which? recommended booking flights directly with the airline, as the customer experience offered by online travel agents (OTAs) during the pandemic has often been poor.
“Booking flights with an OTA can complicate and delay the refund process. Some of the worst OTAs charge refund processing fees – although you can still request a free refund from the airline for a canceled flight (in the EU/UK)” the survey said
“Additionally, OTAs can charge overpriced extras such as checked baggage, seat selection and online check-in and most have their own cancellation fees – in addition to the airline’s.”
A Booking.com spokesperson said: “Booking.com works with many partners, including Lastminute.com, who offer travelers flights and package holidays.
“As with many other online travel platforms, we perform continuous testing and experimentation (known as AB testing) on our platform to ensure that we fully optimize and improve the customer experience at every stage of the journey. process, offering the best choice and evaluating.
“While these tests are in place, it may, on occasion, cause temporary price fluctuations – which we understand to be the reason for some of the changes presented to us by Which?
“Travelers who use Booking.com to access packages through our partners can be confident in knowing that our prices are in line with what is available on Lastminute.com.”
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