The other day a friend was telling me the story about how he purchased a long haul flight via an Online Travel Agent as the price was much cheaper than what he could find on the British Airways website. I found this a strange story, and I didn’t verify it myself, but this was the customer perception and the OTA got the business. In his view the OTA’s were a much better way to book and he had a very strong preference for using them over buying direct from an airline website for all of his travel purchases.

Then less than a day later I saw this interesting exchange on Tripadvisor involving a self proclaimed inexperienced traveller requesting advice on whether to book via Orbitz or Delta.com when the Orbitz fare was much cheaper.

Hi – Newbie looking for some help. I’m not a very experienced traveler, but I’m trying to learn as much as possible through these forums. One area I’m confused about is whether or not I can trust travel sites such as Expedia or Orbitz. Ideally, I would just book directly with the airline, but there is a significant gap in the price from Delta vs. Orbitz.

After much back and forth and various advice from different people, the user was shown how to get the same price on the Delta website by searching via schedule ranther than by price.

Thanks Tep2! I took your advice, and ran a multi-city search and was able to re-create the same itinerary for the same price on Delta.com that I saw on Orbitz. So, I booked it!

It got me thinking about how and why different people have such a strong preference for one channel over the other. I’ve mentioned the so called Expedia billboard effect before, but for a direct sales manager within an airline, the more interesting question is understanding why certain people have a preference for OTA’s and then devising strategies to counter that preference.

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