Travelers using online booking sites have “serious problems” with refund policies and hidden fees, according to a consumer group.
Flight booking sites cut When researching Which? – Some companies have proven impossible to contact cancellations and charge administration fees for processing refunds.
The survey of nearly 4,900 members found that customers are typically better off booking a package deal through a tour operator or going directly to an airline or accommodation provider.
Booking sites offer consumers the opportunity to compare prices on a variety of travel options. However, the survey shows that the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in problems in the use of such services.
Flight booking sites performed particularly poorly when researched as some companies found it impossible to contact cancellations and charged administrative fees for processing refunds.
Opodo received the lowest overall score at 41%. Customer service was rated only two out of five stars.
Lastminute.com and Gotogate also had poor results at 46% and 45%, respectively.
Even Netflights, which received the highest score for flight booking sites at 65%, only received three stars for customer service.
The company said refunds “typically” take 45 days to process, but waiting times are longer due to the pandemic.
This also applies if passengers are entitled to a refund within seven days under EU law.
An Opodo spokeswoman said: “While each and every one of our customers is important to us and we strive for 100% customer satisfaction, the number of responses to the Which? Survey of Opodo customers (93) is very limited.
“This small sample size doesn’t reflect the 17 million customers we have around the world. We’ve refunded over a million tickets and 100% of package tours.”
Are booking sites a hassle-free way to find the best deal?
Accommodation booking sites were rated more favorably by respondents.
Airbnb took first place, with five stars for both customer service and price adding up to a 75% overall score.
Lastminute.com supported the booking table for accommodations with only 55% and only three stars in all categories.
Which? Tour guide Rory Boland told PA News Agency, “Booking sites have been seen as a hassle-free way to find the best deal on travel or accommodation when booking a vacation. However, our survey reveals serious problems stemming from dubious refund policies and undesirable administrators . ” Non-existent customer service fees.
“This year has shown us that nothing can be guaranteed when booking a vacation, so it is more important than ever to make sure that the company you are booking with can entrust your money.
“With a few notable exceptions, booking sites have failed their customers in this regard. The best way to ensure your money is in safe hands is to book a package, hotel, or flight direct with only a reputable provider book.”