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4 reasons I'm done booking flights online

The Internet is indispensable for everything from shopping to keeping up with the news. But when it comes to booking flights, there's a better way.

By Stacy Johnson Sep 23, 2011 11:52AM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News.


This is a busy business travel season for me. In the last few weeks, I've been to Washington, D.C., New York, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Soon I'll be heading to Chicago.


You may remember a time when flying around the country was, if not enjoyable, at least tolerable. Now air travel seems like what I imagine a prison to be: rules without explanation, suspicious guards, big crowds, long lines, and even longer delays, all leading up to being crammed into a space that's way too small for way too long.


If there's one thing I detest as much as flying coach cross-country in a coffin-sized space, it's trying to buy an airline ticket online. But that's over now. Because I've found a way to book stress-free. Watch the following news story and I'll show you how it works. Then meet me on the other side for more.

If it seems like shopping for airfares online takes hours, that's because it often does. You start by reading articles like "7 steps to cheaper airfares," then go to a consolidator site like Kayak, where you're confronted with six different websites with a dizzying array of choices. And even after sifting and sorting, there's no way to know if you're anywhere near the best deal. Can you pay extra for more legroom? How much will checking baggage cost? Is there a low-cost airline that's not represented because they refuse to pay commissions? Would a different airport/day/time of day result in a better deal?


Just writing about it stresses me out.


What's old is new again

When I started in TV news 20 years ago, travel agents were how you got from A to B. Then along came the Internet and they all but disappeared from the radar. After all, who needed a travel agent when you could see every flight available and pick it yourself?


As it turns out, I do, because I care about the value of my time. Sure, the travel agent charged $26 to do the legwork for me, but she offers benefits that collectively far outweigh the cost:

  • I know I'm getting the best deal. Tina looks at every possible permutation. She knows which airports I'm closest to, what my preferences are, and how much luggage I normally check. She has years of experience in getting the best deal, and she has resources that people who depend on the Web don't, including the ability to see all airlines flying to my destination, not just the ones paying commissions to travel websites.
  • I'm not alone. Imagine you and I both get stranded at JFK because of something like a hurricane. While you're on hold for three hours trying to get through to your airline, Tina's calling me with a workaround.
  • I might get perks. For my flight to Chicago, Tina charged me $26 to book my ticket, but because she works for an agency with pull, she got me a free exit row seat both ways -- something that would have cost me $70.
  • I save time and stress. I've spent many stress-filled hours booking air travel online. Now I call Tina, have a pleasant, three- to four-minute conversation and hang up. About 10 minutes later, Tina calls me back with a couple of options. I pick one, get an email and I'm done. The time I save is more than the time it took to write this article. And the stress saved? Priceless.

When it comes to hiring pros, I'm the last one to suggest paying someone to do something that you can do yourself. I've written articles suggesting you do your own investing, your own home improvements, your own taxes, even your own will. So if you want to save the $26 that Tina charges, fine. Book your own flights. Me? I've taken my last Kayak trip.


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

Sep 26, 2011 11:10AM

Perhaps it's because I don't fly very often, but I've never had a problem booking on line. I've also used travel agencies without problems. I guess it just depends on the individual.

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