|by Sean O'Neill||Questions and Opinions||1|
About 50 readers responded to our recent post, Dumb websites are turning off travelers.
We noted that there's been a drop in the number of people using the Internet to book travel. Nine percent fewer people booked trips online this year than did a couple of years ago, according to the survey of about 60,000 Internet users by Forrester Research, which is a technology consultancy. Another top consultancy, PhoCusWright noted a similar drop during roughly the same period, reporting a 6 percent jump in the number of people making travel plans without the Internet.
The 50 comments from readers split between a majority of people who had been disappointed at one time or another by online travel companies and other travelers who had nothing but good things to say about the Internet.
Readers offered several examples of out how travel websites aren't nimble when it comes to special circumstances, such as funerals (Allen's story), or special needs (such as David T.'s story about needing a room for a person with disabilities), and complicated itineraries, (such as Kristin's round-the-world trip).
Brian L.'s story is a case in point of how travel websites are generally bad at amending reservations that have already been made--even though travel plans often change prior to departure. (By the way, Brian, I hope you finally got through to someone on the phone to help you.)
One well-put comment was from Tony W.:
If you are doing something non-trivial, the travel sites aren't very good at finding all of the alternatives, so you either have to be imaginative or persistent. To see what I mean, try searching for flights from SFO to Bangalore with a return from Hyderabad. Some sites send you east, some send you west, and it's nearly impossible to screen by airline or alliance.
Another problem is phantom, or "come on," prices that can't actually be booked when you click through. As one commenter discovered, a major meta-search site was recently quoting $175 to Europe, but on further inspection the ticket turned out to be much more expensive: "Then you find that's only one way; that the price may vary depending on the specific departure date; that one must add in various taxes; whatever."
Of course, I'm not saying the Internet is a waste. The problem is that some websites are not doing as much as they should to be as useful as they could be. They're losing customers as a result. And other industries have found solutions that online travel companies have been slow to adopt.