Travelers using online booking sites are facing “serious problems” with refund policies and hidden costs, a consumer group said.
Flight booking sites fared particularly poorly in Which? – with some companies that are unable to contact you about cancellations and charge an administration fee to process refunds.
It said the survey of nearly 4,900 members indicated that customers are usually better off booking a package deal through a tour operator or going directly to an airline or accommodation provider.
Booking sites allow consumers to compare prices on a wide variety of travel options, but the poll suggests the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in problems using such services.
Flight booking sites fared particularly poorly in the study, with some companies unable to contact about cancellations and charging an administration fee to process refunds.
Opodo got the lowest overall score with 41%. The customer service only got two stars out of five.
Lastminute.com and Gotogate also scored poorly, with 46% and 45% respectively.
Even Netflights, which received the highest score for flight booking sites with 65%, received only three stars for customer service.
The company said refunds “normally” take 45 days, but waiting times are longer due to the pandemic.
This is despite the fact that passengers are entitled to a refund within seven days under EU law.
An Opodo spokeswoman said: “While each of our customers is important to us and we strive for 100% customer satisfaction, the response rate to the Which? Survey from Opodo customers (93) is very limited.
“This small sample size does not reflect the 17 million customers we have worldwide. We have refunded over a million tickets and 100% of package travel.”
Are booking sites a hassle-free way to find the best deal?
Accommodation booking sites were rated more favorably by those who responded to the survey.
Airbnb was ranked first with five stars for both customer service and price, contributing to an overall score of 75%.
Lastminute.com supported the accommodation booking table, scoring only 55% and collecting only three stars in all categories.
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland told PA news agency: “Booking sites are seen as a hassle-free way to find the best deal on travel or accommodation when booking a vacation, but our survey points to serious issues, from unreliable refund policies and unwelcome administrators. to non-existent customer service.
“This year has shown us that nothing can be guaranteed when it comes to booking a holiday, so it is more important than ever to make sure the company you book with can be trusted with your money.
“With a few notable exceptions, booking sites have let their customers down on this front, so the best way to make sure your money is in safe hands is to book a package, hotel or flight directly, and only with a reputable provider. “