This topic is quite debatable. These are my overall perspectives in regards to both sides. Years ago, I would only purchase via third party because I found it so easy to use and did not think it was a big deal versus booking directly. The travel industry cancellations have really changed a lot since COVID-19. I can count how many times I have cancelled with Expedia and had no issues getting a refund. Now? Good luck! You will be on hold forever (That’s if they even pick up).
I booked with KAYAK.COM (THIRD PARTY TRAVEL AGENCY) and had the WORST experience. I booked a trip with them and even paid for traveller insurance. My initial trip was cancelled (BY THE AIRLINE DUE TO TROPICAL WEATHER) and I was told that they would refund Kayak, then Kayak would refund me. Nope… I literally had to contact the Department of transportation and the New York district attorneys office to file a complaint. I booked DIRECTLY with KAYAK.COM (THIRD PARTY travel agency).
Weeks went by and I still did not receive a refund. They gave me the run around for over two months and said that QATAR airways did not send the refund. I literally had to merge the call with QATAR and KAYAK and it was so time consuming and exhausting. I called KAYAK.com customer care number everyday for a month. I found it so pathetic that Kayak’s supervisor literally dismissed my situation and said they could no nothing and to keep calling QATAR.
I AM THE CONSUMER, WHY AM I CALLING?!! I did anyway and QATAR informed me over and over again that they did refund KAYAK. When the Dept. Of Transportation contacted me, they told me that they reached out to KAYAK.com about my compliant. Not even a day later, KAYAK.com refunds me…QATAR even sent me proof that they gave KAYAK.com the refund a week after my flight was cancelled. That experience was so over whelming and now I am very skeptical booking on certain third party websites. Most people told me to file a claim with my credit card but I rightfully made the transaction. I would have still had to file a dispute and provide proof of refund to my card company to be given a refund.
With that being said, even with insurance, you can have issues getting your money back. The customer service that I have experienced (PERSONALLY) with booking direct has been a breeze! I recently stayed at a HYATT in NYC and was charged double for my stay. I was able to get through to customer care and within a day, I was refunded and given two complimentary stays.
Both have cancellation polices that vary but when you are traveling, especially during COVID-19, the last thing you want to do is be stuck. I booked with Orbitz in March and when I got to my hotel, they gave me a different room and it took two hours to get Orbitz on the phone to clarify with the hotel about the room situation. End result? Hotel still gave me a view I did not ask for…Keep in mind, a lot of companies are bombarded with customers trying to modify or cancel reservations so it can be complicated to get in touch with some of these companies, especially those who outsource.
When booking directly with the hotel, I have noticed the treatment is better. I booked my stay on Secrets.com and I was given a free massage (upon arrival). I was also give a welcome towel and drink while other guests were not offered it. I politely asked and they did confirm that hotels appreciate guests who book direct and perks are given typically to those guests! I wanted to also add that I even called Secrets and told them my arrival time was going to be earlier than expected and they still let me check in early!
If you do prefer to book with third parties, Just be careful with what third party website you book with! My experience booking third parties in generally have overall been ok but I prefer to book direct!