On-line Booking Basics

On-line Agencies vs the Airlines

So you’ve finally make that trip to visit your cousin Vinny in Brooklyn. You went on-line, typed in "flight to New York" in your favorite search engine, and up came 26 million options. Now what?

Booking a flight on-line is the easiest way to purchase your trip, but knowing where and where not to book can make a big difference.

All major airlines (and most regional operators) allow you to book your flights on-line. The advantages are that in most cases, you are given frequent flyer bonus miles for booking with the airline directly.

The disadvantages are that you only see the flight options that carrier has. With an on-line travel agent, you’re presented with flights from all carriers, allowing you to select the schedule and price that meets your needs. Also, on-line agencies and their partners have access to more hotel rooms, meaning if you want to save by bundling your airfare and hotel, you will find more options through an on-line agency.

But with so many travel sites out there, how do you know who is repudiable and who wants to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge? Simple, look for a site that features one of the leading on-line travel agencies. Many sites provide free info on a topic, and also have a place where you can check on the price and schedules of flights, and even book directly there. Our advice is two-fold: make sure the site you’re on supports one of the major on-line agencies (Expedia, Hotwire, and Kayak are our favorites) or airlines, and take a look at the site to make sure its not a one-page wonder. To compare major agencies, click here.


On-line sites require you to register in order for you to book a flight, hotel or rental car (just as you would at Amazon or ebay). This also makes it fast and easy for you to return and quickly book a trip the next time you need to, as all of your info is saved so you won’t have to type it in again.

Payment - How Secure is it to book on-line?

The simple answer: it's very secure, as long as you book with a repudiable on-line company. If you’re not sure which company is taking your credit card, you may want to think twice about booking your hotel or ticket there.

Confirmation for your reservation

Once you have booked that great on-line flight, hotel, or car deal, what happens next? You’ll receive an email confirmation - usually within one hour - confirming all the particulars of your travels. Make sure you check the info for any errors, and contact the customer service number provided if there are any discrepancies.

eTickets (US Domestic Flights)

Gone are the days when you received a bulky ticket in the mail or from your travel agent. eTickets (electronic Tickets) have become the standard method of issuing tickets. In fact, if you still want to have a paper ticket issued for your flight, in most cases it will cost you more (about $10). The conveniences of eTickets are numerous. Just as with booking a hotel, where you present your credit card and ID to check-in, an eTicket allows you to go to the airport without needed any paper ticket. You simply present your government-issued ID at the check-in counter (or insert a valid credit card in a ticket kiosk), and you are then issues a boarding pass. Its that simple.

eTickets (International Flights)

Some non-US carries, particularly smaller ones, are not linked to US carriers, meaning that if you book a flight overseas with one or more segments on these smaller carriers, most likely you will be issued a paper ticket for that portion of your trip. This is because these carriers do not offer eTicket options. Fortunately, with the major alliance programs that all major carriers participate in, you very likely will be issued an e-ticket for that great fare to Rome to booked.

Making changes after you booked your flight

Once you have booked your flight, should you need to make any changes you will have to contact either the airline or your travel agent. Be aware that there are now fairly stiff change fees if you need to make changes to your tickets, ranging from $50 to $200 per ticket, depending on the airline, and your flight itinerary (changes to destination vs changes in date) and whether you trip is domestic vs international. Some travel agencies offer trip protection plans that allow you, for an up-front fee, to make any changes or cancelations up to pre-defined limits. iFly.com's partners all offer this.

Cancellation after you booked your flight

Should you need to cancel your flight, you will have to contact either the airline or your travel agent. The scenarios depend on the type of ticket you hold. Non-refundable tickets will get you a credit towards a future flight, usually within 1 year from the original departure date. Bear in mind change fees will still apply… that flight you canceled that cost you $125 might have a $100 change fee, leaving you with a meager $25 credit towards a future flight. Some travel agencies offer trip protection plans that allow you, for an up-front fee, to make any changes or cancelations