Online booking websites just potentially got a major boost from the government. The steps that follow in the coming months could affect how much you pay for flights in the future. Insiders are buzzing over the fact that the United States Department of Transportation just released a statement regarding the distribution methods of airlines in the United States.
Of course, no clear details have been provided regarding what the department's next move will be. However, insiders believe that the upcoming changes will have to do with transparency regarding schedules and fares in the airline industry.
Why The Announcement From The Department Of Transportation Matters
You might be wondering why an announcement from a government agency regarding airline transparency would be important to you. The reality is that this could have major ramifications when it comes to how the average traveler books his airfare. What you may not be aware of is that major airlines and popular travel-booking websites have been locked in a battle regarding cost transparency for quite some time.
Airlines have relied on direct bookings for decades to increase revenue by essentially charging the highest possible rates for seats. However, the rise of online booking websites has introduced a level of competition that makes it hard for airlines to charge full rates for seats.
Popular online booking platforms essentially aggregate lists of available flights using metasearch technology. This enables a traveler to simply search on a single website to find the best deals from all of the airlines out there.
This level of transparency isn't ideal for airlines because typically, it causes many travelers to purchase tickets based on the lowest prices instead of remaining loyal to a single airline.
Why Is The Government Stepping In?
The Department of Transportation is no doubt stepping into the conversation regarding fee transparency in the airline industry because the battle between airlines and booking websites has reached a peak.
The most high-profile airline to put up a fight against online booking websites was Delta. The airline blocked access to its ticket details on TripAdvisor and several other booking websites in 2015. Delta has instead relied on fattening up its customer loyalty program to ensure that travelers book directly with the airline instead of searching the Internet for cheap fares.
Most other airlines have also followed this trend by adding perks and benefits that extend to anything and everything from free miles to points for free hotels stays, rental vehicles and tickets to attractions. Not all airlines have chosen to engage in battle, though. Virgin Atlantic has actually embraced booking websites like TripAdvisor to reach wider audiences.
What Should Consumers Do?
If you travel often, you're probably concerned about what a lack of price transparency could mean for you. The reality is that what ultimately happens between online booking agencies and airlines won't have a big impact on you if you've already signed up for an airline's loyalty program.
You're likely to get a better deal simply by sticking with one airline and enjoying seat upgrades, free miles and other perks instead of wasting your time browsing online booking websites for the best deal every time you need to fly.
It is the occasional travelers who have the most at stake when it comes to airfare transparency. People who fly less than five times a year can surely benefit greatly from browsing websites that offer travel deals based on aggregated ticket information from airlines.