Expedia Drops Phone Booking Fees

Expedia announced today that they are removing booking/service fees on all travel products sold through Expedia's call centers.

From an airline perspective, the move is interesting in that it will now be cheaper for consumers to book with an online travel agency than calling the carrier directly. (Except, of course, for Southwest which does not charge extra for a call center booking but they don't participate in the OTAs anyway.) The move is another example of how the OTAs have continued to differentiate themselves from the suppliers in terms of service, functionality and price. The list of enhancements the OTAs have made this year is long and compelling and great for consumers. Just to tick off a few: Orbitz TLC, Orbitz Price Assurance, Expedia's SeatGuru reviews, Priceline's iPhone app all come to mind.

And what of the timing, by the way? Interesting that Expedia announced this change the same morning as Orbitz announced earnings--particularly when Orbitz had this to say in their statement: "This net revenue decline was due primarily to the removal of most air booking fees and the significant reduction of hotel booking fees on the company's domestic websites, as well as a decline in average hotel room rates globally."

Today's move by Expedia along with the OTAs' other enhancements this year should be a wake-up call for suppliers. Airlines and hoteliers cannot continue to sit still while they are out-innovated by the distributors. Piling on more fees or other dis-incentives for booking through specific channels only further harms the supplier's brand and the overall customer experience. Suppliers, wake up!

These insights are excerpted with permission from Tom Botts' Hudson Crossing blog.