Expedia and Travelocity have been ranked as top travel web sites according to The Consumer Reports Travel Letter (CRTL) and Consumer Webwatch that closely evaluated the six largest independent travel web sites.
CRTL assessed Cheap Tickets, Expedia, OneTravel, Orbitz, TravelNow, and Travelocity. Airline sites were not tested as part of this study.
CRTL compared the sites by considering five key factors: ability to provide lowest fares, ability to provide viable flight itineraries that make sense for most travelers, ease of use, customer service, and privacy and security policies.
“To get the best fares, you have to comparison shop,” said CRTL Editor Bill McGee. “None of the independent travel web sites we examined outshone the others in all aspects of booking. And the nation`s leading low-fare carrier, Southwest Airlines, refuses to display its flight times and prices on any of the independent travel sites.”
The CRTL study found that Expedia beat its competitors in providing the greatest number of lowest fares but that Travelocity offered the best array of low fares coupled with viable flight choices. Travelocity also had the best booking tools. Expedia and Travelocity offered the best customer service among the six sites that were examined in the study.
Overall, McGee commented that Expedia
emerged as the “clear winners”
, which is owned by five major airlines, performed well at providing lowest fares and viable flights, but it was edged out in most tests by either Expedia or Travelocity.
The technological divide between these three sites and the others - Cheap Tickets
, and TravelNow- is so considerable that CRTL cannot recommend the smaller sites at all, unless the consumer is looking for deeply discounted and nonrefundable fares.
The CRTL study also found that it is getting harder to find the best fares through a travel agent. Between 24 and 78 percent of the time, each of the six sites offered prices equal to or lower than those posted in the largest computer reservations system used by travel agents. That`s a big change from when CRTL tested travel web sites in October 2000, when the range was between 6 percent and 22 percent.
The study, which will appear in the June edition of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter and the Consumer Reports magazine in July, was funded by Consumer WebWatch (CWW)