Expedia's phone fee drop could make their tickets cheaper than airlines'

On November 5 Expedia, the world's largest online travel agency, claimed to be the first major company to eliminate its booking surcharge for any travel reservation made by phone.

The US-based company, with dedicated sites in 18 different countries, formerly charged a $20 phone reservation fee for booking flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises.

Phone bookings only comprise a minority of Expedia's bookings but it does give them an advantage over airlines, which charges a fee for phone bookings. No airline has yet announced a commensurate cessation of their phone fees.

Even though major online agencies like Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity all operate internationally it has only been in the US where these extra fees have been abolished.

International customers must be wondering when the fruits of this year's online travel agency fee-cutting war are going to fall their way? This year Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity have all confirmed to Relaxnews that they have no plans to extend recent surcharge cuts anywhere but the US market.

If history is any guide, other online travel agencies will soon follow Expedia's lead for the US. Last May Expedia ended change and cancellation fees on all hotel, car rental and cruise reservations as well as nearly all their online air-booking fees. With no choice but to stay competitive, by the following week competitors such as Orbitz and Travelocity had adopted the same changes.

More recently Travelocity announced that beginning October 28 any of their customers who find the same hotel room for a lower price will receive a refund for the difference plus a $50 discount on future travel. Other major online travel companies have not declared their intent to match Travelocity's new policy.

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