4 Reasons I’m Done Booking Online Flights

By on

This is a busy business travel season. In the last few weeks, I’ve been to Washington and New York. And in the next few, I’m heading to Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Chicago.

If you’re over 50 (or maybe even over 40) you can probably remember a time when flying around the country was, if not enjoyable, at least tolerable. It afforded the opportunity to sit back, relax, and catch up on work – or maybe catch 40 winks. These days? Not so much.

Air travel today seems like what I imagine the prison system 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.

And there’s another thing I detest almost as much as flying coach cross-country in a coffin-sized space: trying to buy an airline ticket online.

If it seems like it 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.

But that’s over now. Because I’ve found a way to book stress-free. It’s called “Tina.” Watch the following news story and I’ll show you how it works. Then meet me on the other side for more.

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. Rather than doing stories about how to save on online travel, I was doing stories about how to pick the right travel agent. Then along came the Internet and they all but disappeared from the radar. After all, who needs 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 way more than today’s tangled Web does. Sure, Tina charged me $26 to do the legwork for me, but she also offers benefits that collectively far outweigh the cost…

  1. 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 resources retail Web travelers don’t have, including the ability to see all airlines flying to my destination, not just the ones paying commissions to travel websites.
  2. 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.
  3. I might get perks. On my flight to Chicago, Tina charged me $26 to book my ticket, but because she works for an agency with pull, she got me free exit row seats both ways – something that would have cost me $70.
  4. I save time and stress. I’ve spent many stress-filled hours booking air travel online. Now I call Tina, have a pleasant, 3-to-4-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 for you that you can do yourself. We’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.

Sign up for our free newsletter

Like this article? Sign up for our newsletter and we'll send you a regular digest of our newest stories, full of money saving tips and advice, free! We'll also email you a PDF of Stacy Johnson's "205 Ways to Save Money" as soon as you've subscribed. It's full of great tips that'll help you save a ton of extra cash. It doesn't cost a dime, so why wait? Click here to sign up now.

Check out our hottest deals!

We're always adding new deals and coupons that'll save you big bucks. See the deals to the right and hundreds more in our Deals section.

Click here to explore 1,075 more deals!

Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • Don Emenim

    How do I get a hold of Tina’s number so I can book my next flight…..

  • Don Emenim

    How do I get a hold of Tina’s number so I can book my next flight…..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_STN4RI5ARO7FECLY6CIBU2JFQQ K

    That’s the same thing that i would like to know, Don. That’s the one thing that Stacey didn’t mention in his article. Help us Stacey!!!!

  • Anonymous

    I have another reason that everyone should call Tina, or book directly through an airline  … Earlier this year I booked a flight through Expedia, for an United Ticket that was really a Continental Flight (United had a co-share agreement to sell tickets under their name on the Continental flight).  Two days after I bought the ticket I received an email from Expedia saying that I needed to contact them regarding my itinerary.   When I called I was told that my 2-1/2 hour flight was cancelled and that they had re-scheduled me on a flight that took 7-1/2 hours (with a 4+ hr lay-over).  When I investigated further, Continental hadn’t cancelled the flight & was actually still offering seats on the flight at a higher price; but United had decided to cancel their co-share agreement on that flight so I was out of luck.  I talked to Expedia, United & Continental & they all said it was someone else’s fault.  I actually think it was United fault – but Expedia’s customer service was the worst to deal with.  I have not & will never use Expedia (or similar) service again!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_MYY2X4S6WXQ4ZYMFKY2YBY3NPE MichaelB

    After reading your article, I am wondering If I have to keep doing that in the future.  If I have to hire a travel agent to do what I can do myself for more.  What is Internet shopping for anyway??

    To save yourself money. Now I wasted my time. Reading your article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Elizabeth-Warynick/1034315116 Elizabeth Warynick

    I have been a travel agent for over 20 years and I know how many times I have saved people money or have been there to help them with problems.  I can’t imagine going somewhere, especially on a big vacation and not having a respected travel agent behind you!  A good travel agent is worth every penny that someone pays!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_U3RVDDDDOUDBE4DV65ADPTP3AQ Michelle

    Recently I was struggling to book a short notice flight for my husband to attend his father’s funeral in New Jersey.  Since we live in Montana, we only have a handful of arirlines to choose from, and NO ONE flies non-stop to the East Coast.  In fact, there was not a single flight that did not requrie a plane change, long layovers and excessive per segment fees.  After several hours of trying to find combination of flights that would get him there in a reasonable amount of time, I was still not satisfied that I could get the best deal.  Finally I called a travel agent.  She took all of the information and called me back about 20 minutes later.  What she was able to come up with was only about $20 cheaper than the route I had come up with, except with her plan he had to change planes twice, with an eight hour layover on the first change and only a little over an hour between the second change-with him arriving on the morning of the funeral with NO leeway for error.  He would have spent more on food during the layover than the $20 savings.  Plus, if there had been ANY delay getting to the third segment, he could easily have missed his flight and therefore, missed the funeral.  When I pointed out the obvious flaws in her plan, she became very irritated with me and testily told me that if I could do a better job myself than to go right ahead.  So I did.