Priceline.com: The "No Option" Flight Reservation Service
Aug 1, 2001 (Updated May 16, 2005)
The Bottom Line
Priceline.com is too rigid to recommend. They don't offer enough options for the traveler.
Flight reservation sites are a dime a dozen these days. Theres a multitude of travel web services claiming to offer cheap airfare and there are some great deals, if a person is willing to shop around and make the effort to find them. I frequently surf through the travel sites to find great deals, and also just to compare one service to another. Priceline.com is a service that I have heard about before, on television and here in Epinions.com, so I decided one day that I should logon and take a look.
How Does This Service Work?:
Priceline.com flight reservations work a little differently than other internet flight services. With Priceline.com, you enter the airports that you wish to arrive/depart from, along with your selected dates of travel. This part is ordinary, but whats different is what comes next. Instead of viewing a list of possible flight options and prices, you are asked to enter the price you are willing to pay, for your ticket. Priceline.com then searches for an airline thats willing to sell you the tickets for the price that you requested.
In order to increase your chances of finding a flight that matches your desired price, Priceline.com gives you a few additional options, to widen your possibilities for success. Starting with your selection of airports, if there are other airports nearby the arrival and departure airports that you selected, Priceline.com will ask you if you are willing to broaden your search to include those airports, along with your chosen airports, to improve your chances for finding an inexpensive flight. You dont have to choose more airports, if you dont want to, but it does increase your chances for success.
After you make the airport selection, you will be asked more questions to increase your chances of getting tickets. You will be asked whether or not your travel plans are flexible enough to include departing and/or arriving a day or two before or after your chosen dates. Then, you can select an option to include off- peak travel times. Third, you are asked if you are willing to accept 2 or more connections each way. Finally, you are asked if you are willing to fly on a non- jet aircraft.
After you have answered those questions, you will click next, and on the following screen it will show you want your chances are, in percentage terms, for getting the ticket price that you requested. If you feel that the odds are too low, you can then increase your offer, to improve your chances. You need to keep in mind that the price you request is the price before taxes and fees are added in. Priceline.com adds a fee of $5.95 per ticket, and you can expect government fees to add another $10 to $80 per ticket, depending on where you are traveling (international tickets will include higher fees than domestic tickets). So, if you are requesting a domestic flight at the requested price of $300 per ticket, you can expect the final price to be in the neighborhood of $335 to $360, once all the taxes and fees are calculated. And if you prefer paper tickets instead of electronic, you will be charged an additional $12.50 per ticket.
If you agree to let Priceline.com search for tickets, you can then go ahead and enter your credit card information, name and address, etc. Priceline.com promises to get back with you within 15 minutes with a yeah or nay. To check the status of your request, just logon to the site and click on the Check Your Request link, at the top of the home page.
Whats Wrong With This Service?:
Priceline.com might sound like a good service with a creative way to find low- priced flights, but based on my own experience with them, I have found more cons than pros. I dont like the fact that I cannot specify my preferred times to travel. Instead of displaying a list of travel itineraries to choose from, Priceline.com just searches for the best deal, and makes the purchase. The time of day that you travel could end up being something that doesnt fit into your plans very well at all. Priceline.com promises that your flight will always depart between 6am and 10pm, and will always arrive by 12:30am the next day (for domestic travel). This is a very wide time frame! Your ticket could have a departure time late at night, and you could arrive at your destination at a very late hour of the night. You dont have any control over this. You could also wind up changing flights three times, with long layovers at each airport. And if your travel plans change, too bad! All ticket sales are non- refundable, non- transferable, and non- changeable. You cant even use your frequent flyer account, if you buy your tickets through Priceline.com!
Another thing I dont like is the fact that you have to enter your personal information, including credit card information, before Priceline.com will search for your flights. Then, if a match is found, Priceline.com will purchase the tickets. I would feel safer and less apprehensive about using this service if Priceline.com would conduct the search first, and then e-mail me with the results. If I liked what it found, I could then logon to the web site, enter my credit card data, and make the purchase.
Priceline.com is not a very good flight reservation service. Sometimes, Priceline.com will find some great deals on flights, but you will likely be flying during the night. Is it worth saving $20.00, knowing that you will have three connecting flights and wont arrive at your final destination until 3am? For most of us, I think the answer to this question is No!
I have my doubts about Priceline.coms ability to find the best deals, too. I decided to experiment with this service, by choosing two cities in the United States, along with a price of $250.00 round trip. According to Priceline.com, my total ticket price, with taxes and fees, would cost me about $290.00 and it said there would only be a 10 percent chance of getting this price. Well, I then logged into other flight service web sites, and I entered exactly the same cities and dates, and I was quoted prices in the $260 to $290 range. Not only was this less than Priceline.com, but I also got to select the times I wanted to travel, and the tickets were already available for purchase. I didnt have only a 10 percent chance for success- I had 100 percent chance.
Priceline.com could come through in a pinch when a traveler needs a low priced flight and is willing to accept whatever itinerary they get, like in the case of a college student. But the lack of options, for the traveler, along with the strict policies against refunds and exchanges (and the inability to accumulate frequent flyer miles), places Priceline.com near the bottom of my flight reservation web service preferred list. I dont recommend this service!
Be Sure to Click the Links Below to Read More Reviews of Other Popular Travel Web Sites:
American Express Travel
Americas Vacation Center
Vacations To Go
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