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I need help securing plane tickets online

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Jan 6th, 2016, 07:35 AM
  #1
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I need help securing plane tickets online

I've taken several trips to Europe over the past 20 years, each time using a trusted friend, who happened to be a travel agent, to book my flights. She did a great job helping me to get tickets at reasonable prices without charging me a high fee for her services.

Unfortunately, her assistance is no longer available.

So ...

What are the best strategies for buying plane tickets to Europe online? Where do I start? What online services work best? What steps should I take? What steps hould I avoid? Are there particular problems if I want to fly into one airport (say, in Amsterdam) and fly back out of another (say, CDG in Paris)?

Does it make any sense these days to use a travel agent?

Any advice would be appreciated.

Thanks.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 07:47 AM
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I have always booked my own tickets to Europe. I start by looking at the consolidators for an idea on price. I then set up price alerts for my dates if I am not ready to purchase (you can only do this for RT not multi-city). I prefer to check Kayak & Airfarewatchdog and sometimes Google flights. You can certainly check multi-city flights as well. Once I find a fare I like I go directly to the carrier to book my ticket. I have booked with the consolidator before and had not problems but now just book with the carrier directly.

I prefer to book this way because I like to be in control of whatever travel plans I have.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 07:50 AM
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always book with carrier directly...start there looking at their websites...they have multi city options where you can fly into one and out of another and play with dates...the price you get today may be different tomorrow so get an idea of what is out there to compare.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 07:51 AM
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http://www.kayak.com/flights

click on multi city option.
type in city or airport code and dates submit, list of flights and prices will come up. Choose your options and buy.

Easy to do!!
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Jan 6th, 2016, 08:03 AM
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I agree with the above in general. You haven't said which airport (or possible airports) are your departure point. If, by strategies, you mean getting the absolute lowest fare, rather than the easiest connections or a non-stop, it makes a difference. For instance, the lowest fare might be on a low-fare airline like Norwegian, but only if you leave from an airport they serve. Otherwise, yes, get alerts from Airfarewatchdog and watch the fares for a while. Or if you just want to get it over with and the fare you pay is less of an issue, look on one of the sites like Travelocity or Expedia to see which airline flies the easiest routes to your destinations at a fare you can live with, then as the advice above, go to the airline website and book it.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 08:08 AM
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>Does it make any sense these days to use a travel agent?<

That would depend. If you are booking a direct flight, one airport to another, then it's quite simple to book directly with the airline or through one of the online services. If you are booking a more complicated flight, i.e., more then one connection, different carriers, etc, then an agent might be more helpful, especially if there are any problems along the way. An IATA agent also has access to consolidator fares not generally available to the public.

If you're not a member of a frequent flyer program, and purchased your ticket from one of the online services, you shouldn't expect any help from the airline if something happens, like a strike, a weather related problem, or a missed connection. At that point you're on your own. If you booked directly with the airline or used an agent, then they would be required to assist you in straightening out the mess.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 08:10 AM
  #7
 
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If you have any flexibility, your first step should be itasoftware.com. You will find a flexible days area. There you enter your earliest possible start date and how long you want to stay (e.g. 12-18 days). The website then comes up with the cheapest days for you to fly. If you want to do an open jaw (also know as a multi city itinerary), you can do that there with days flexing three days either side of your preferred dates.

This is the website that is used by many airlines themselves, and the main problem with it is that you can't book flights directly. So, find your fare there and then go directly to the airline's own website to book. The other main problem is that it sometimes comes up with wildly convoluted, very difficult to find combos of flights on many different airline. These are often nearly impossible to find, but it can be done. Since you are looking at relatively easy European itineraries, I do not think this will become a problem.

As for alerts, you've already gotten good advice.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 08:32 AM
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Just one tiny note: as far as I know, sites like Kayak, Expedia, Travelocity are not known as consolidators. I believe that consolidators were once common, but no longer really do business as such.

These sites are aggregators. Their software finds routes, dates, prices. You can then buy from them or directly from the airline, which many find the better option.

The consolidators of yore were price driven and tech advances have pretty much driven them out of business. They often worked the phones and computers to buy up extra inventory. Since there basically isn't extra inventory any longer, the aggregators are the new model for searches. Not new, but you know what I mean.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 08:37 AM
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I agree that kayak etc. are not consolidators. However, the consolidator I have used on occasion, onetravel.com, is still very much in business.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 09:23 AM
  #10
 
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One consolidator still very much in business is Airtreks, from whom I've bought multi-continent & RTW tickets, their specialty. They don't do simple point-to-point tickets as a rule except, IME, business class. They're very useful for putting together a complicated itinerary at a reasonable price, in part, because they use some airlines most of us are unfamiliar with and don't show up on the usual searches. They have contracts for discounted fares with each airline they use.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 09:59 AM
  #11
 
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Factually inaccurate. Your tickets are still with an airline, and they are still required to do whatever the law requires them to do to straighten out certain kinds of snafus.

However, online companies like Travelocity allow you to book itineraries comprising different airlines, and if a snafu occurs with that kind of itinerary, it will be harder for you to sort out.

I find that prices on airline websites are usually the same as those found on Travelocity et al, but when the Travelocity (or similar) price is lower and the itinerary is good, I don't hesitate to book with them and have never had a problem.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 10:12 AM
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I also just use Kayak to compare and then go to the airlines own website to book when I've decided.

I agree with Newbe that Travelocity used to let you book RT tickets on two different airlines, but I'm not sure they do any more. I remember looking a year or two ago and I couldn't do it anymore so stopped using them. That was one reason I liked them, if I wanted two different airlines for coming/going due to schedules. But I only did it for complete legs, so no snafu would be a problem. Each leg was one airline and the two legs (I mean going and coming) were completely different flights so didn't affect each other). I never used them to book two different airlines for one flight day, I suppose that could be a problem if the first were delayed or maybe for baggage.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 10:21 AM
  #13
 
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"I never used them to book two different airlines for one flight day, I suppose that could be a problem..."

Probably better to think of it as 2 different tickets or reservations, rather than 2 different airlines. A code share could result in 2 airlines, but if on 1 reservation not any more likely, I'm guessing, to be a problem than on the same airline. I hope we aren't confusing wanderful unnecessarily. Maybe a travel agent isn't such a bad idea or, in any case, a fallback position.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 10:30 AM
  #14
 
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Me, too!

A baby steps option: do a bunch of research online, as suggested above, without booking anything, and then go to a TA to see what s/he comes up with. If the TA's itinerary beats the one you found for yourself, great; if it merely confirms your research, then you'll know you can handle doing it yourself for your next trip.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 10:42 AM
  #15
 
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I hate to disagree with anyone, but no, if you purchase a ticket through an online agency like Expedia, Travelocity or Priceline, the airline will tell you to check with them if there is a problem.

We had friends who arrived in Miami for their Iberia flight to Madrid only to be told the tickets issued by Expedia were no good. The flight had been overbooked (coach seats) and they were told that they would have to deal with Expedia regarding any ticket or flight change. They ended up having to purchase business class tickets at the ticket counter and had to deal with Expedia later.

> but when the Travelocity (or similar) price is lower and the itinerary is good, I don't hesitate to book with them and have never had a problem.< Let's just say you've been lucky so far, especially when it comes to an international flight.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 10:55 AM
  #16
 
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I always search for tickets and pricing using itasoftware.com and book directly with the airline through the airline website. The only thing is when using ita that for domestic US flights, they don't show all the airlines. This could also be true internationally but I've never needed to do that and you really didn't ask that. I'd rather deal with the airline directly if there is an issue so if it costs a bit more, so be it.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 11:01 AM
  #17
 
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I use whichairline.com and rome2rio.com to find the best fares.....then go directly to the airline's website to purchase. But go ahead and use a travel agent if it saves you time and stress, why not?
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Jan 6th, 2016, 01:44 PM
  #18
 
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I also like the itasoftware site - for one trip, I could find a fare there, that I could not find later on the website for the airline. I then used my local AAA (I am a member, but you probably don't have to be). I gave the AAA agent a print-out from the ita site and she booked 3 tickets for me, for a total of $25, saving me quite a bit of money.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 01:58 PM
  #19
 
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Robert, I believe your friends were misled by the airline's agent. If they had contacted Expedia immediately, they would have been told as much.
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Jan 6th, 2016, 02:10 PM
  #20
 
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Just a couple of points...

1. ITA is now owned by Google, and there's a link on the ITA search screens that sends you to Google Flights, where you CAN book your tickets. I'd still prefer to book directly through the airline(s) but if you want the convenience, it's there.

2. ITA is the "engine" behind Kayak and several other online agencies.

3. Travelocity and Orbitz are now both owned by Expedia.

Are there particular problems if I want to fly into one airport (say, in Amsterdam) and fly back out of another (say, CDG in Paris)?

No, this is a very easy open-jaw itinerary to arrange using any airline website's "multi-stop" (or similar name) function.
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