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Experience with third party booking sites - airline travel

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I always book my flights directly with the airlines, so I have no experience with third party booking sites.

I'm trying to coordinate a trip with a family member - he will be flying from Colorado to Queenstown, New Zealand. We will be flying in from Perth, Australia. My flights aren't an issue.

He has no frequent flyer status with any airline, so that's not a consideration.

I can book his flights through Air NZ easily enough, including the flight on UA from COS to LAX, getting all three flights on one ticket. It's more expensive than other options, but not a deal breaker. But 13 hours squished on a 777 with ten seats across wouldn't be my choice - even as much as I like Air NZ - and I'm a heck of a lot shorter than he is.

I think Virgin Australia from LAX to Brisbane and on to Queenstown might be a better option - good connections and possibly a wee bit more comfortable with nine seats across on a 777 (or am I kidding myself?) .

However, it seems the only way to get this routing all on one ticket is via Expedia or another third party site. It combines three airlines - UA, Virgin Australia and Air NZ.

I have concerns about what happens if something goes wrong - meaning a missed connection or something - does Expedia handle problems, or do I need to deal with three separate airlines on an as-needed basis?

This is giving me a head cramp. I'd really appreciate hearing about your experience with Expedia (and others). The good, the bad and the ugly.

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