Vacationers using travel booking sites have “serious problems” with refund policies and hidden fees, according to a consumer group.
Which? 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 for a variety of travel options. However, the survey shows that the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in problems when using such services.
Which? has claimed that vacationers using travel booking sites have “serious problems” with refund policies and hidden fees
Flight booking sites did particularly badly in the research and which ones? Some companies were unable to reach out to them for cancellations and charged administration fees for processing refunds.
Opodo received the lowest overall score at 41 percent. Customer service was rated only two out of five stars.
Lastminute.com and Gotogate achieved 46 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
Even Netflights, which achieved the highest score for flight booking sites at 65 percent, only received three stars for customer service.
Refunds “typically” take 45 days to process, according to Netflights, 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.
Accommodation booking sites were rated more favorably by respondents.
The flight booking sites in Which? Research. This table from Which? Shows how Netflights was rated above and Opodo below
Airbnb took first place, with five stars for both customer service and price adding up to an overall score of 75 percent.
It was followed by Booking.com (71 percent, runner-up) and Vrbo (69 percent, third), which were recently renamed by HomeAway.
Lastminute.com supported the table for booking accommodations with 55 percent and only three stars in all categories.
On the comparison sites, Skyscanner was the clear leader with a customer rating of 67 percent.
It was the only comparison site that received a five-star rating in any of the categories. Customers gave her top marks for the functionality of the website.
In the meantime, Travelocity was at the bottom of the table with a customer rating of 43 percent and only got two stars in each category.
Airbnb was at the top of the accommodations booking sites and Lastminute.com at the bottom (table courtesy of Which?).
The clear front runner among comparison sites was Skyscanner with a customer rating of 67 percent (table courtesy of Which?).
Which? Tour guide Rory Boland said, “Booking sites were 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, from dubious refund policies and unwanted administration fees to a lack of customer service.
‘This year has shown us that nothing can be guaranteed when booking a vacation. Therefore, it is more important than ever to make sure that the company you book with can be trusted with 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.”
An Opodo spokesperson said, “While each and every one of our customers is important to us and we strive for 100 percent customer satisfaction, the number of responses to which? The survey of Opodo customers (93) is very limited. This small sample size doesn’t reflect the 17 million customers we have worldwide.
Which? According to the survey, customers are usually better off booking a package deal through a tour operator or going directly to an airline or accommodation provider
‘Our priority this year has been to manage all cancellations due to Covid. We have already refunded over a million tickets and 100 percent of the package tours. All package tours made with Opodo are protected by the Spanish financial protection system, which fully complies with the protection standards of EU law and offers the same level of protection as Atol.
‘We know the current travel environment is frustrating for our customers. Our teams across the company are working hard to reduce this as much as possible. However, airlines continue to withhold refunds that belong to consumers. Carriers are responsible for approving refund requests and arranging the money transfer.
“We cannot issue refunds to our customers until this step is completed by the airlines, and their delays add significantly to our customers’ waiting time.”
MailOnline Travel asked Gotogate, Lastminute.com and Travelocity for a comment.