Expedia enhances pricing transparency

Online travel purveyor Expedia, Inc. has upgraded its web sites to make it easier for users to determine the all-in price of the airline tickets before they click the “purchase” button.

With airlines moving ever more aggressively to à la carte pricing (read: “nickel and diming”), the published ticket price may be only the starting point in the price of passage. Now, Expedia (NYSE:EXPE) has introduced several new products and services intended to give travelers booking on Expedia's sites a better sense of the total cost earlier in the process than previously and a better basis for an “apples-to-apples” comparison across different carriers.

Expedia has been making significant progress toward improving air travel by introducing, innovative site features and clearer fare choices from airlines’ fare families, the company said in a statement announcing new and planned product improvements. Those changes are intended to help customers better navigate the increasingly complex air travel marketplace.

One of the improvements is a feature that allows travelers to get more details about the flights they are considering, though that information is not supplied automatically.

Screen shot showing basic results
A search on Expedia.com for an example non-stop flight from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) to Las Vegas McCarren International Airport (LAS) returned a number of options in a format familiar to Expedia users, as shown at right.

However, clicking on the words “Flight details and baggage fees” located below the name of the carrier now returns more detailed information not provided in the brief synopsis, including the travel time in hours and minutes, the full names of the airport, the flight class and a link that allows travelers to preview seat availability.

Screen shot of expanded results
Directly below the link to the seat map is what may be the more important bit of information: estimated baggage costs for carry-on (yes, some carriers DO charge for carry-ons), and first and second checked bags. That information is available for a majority of airlines represented on Expedia’s sites.

Expedia has also rolled out upgrade options that enable customers to search for and purchase a broader range of fare choices from select carriers. It also offers paid seating options so that customers can more easily identify, select and purchase premium seats via the online seat map.

More changes in the works

As part of its commitment to air innovation, Expedia also unveiled several flight products that are being tested and are expected to be rolled out by the end of 2015. Those include Price Trends, a tool that will analyze the high, low and midpoint prices of tickets to a given destination over the previous 14 days. It is designed to offer shoppers a deeper understanding about how much current fares have increased or decreased over the prior two weeks.

Improving on the Price Trends tool will be one called Price Predictions, a tool that will predict how fares are expected to increase or decrease over time and will provide travelers with recommendations about the best time to book a ticket.

Finally, because using nearby airports can often result in substantial savings, a tool called Structured Discovery will present customers with alternatives to the specifics of their searches, including different dates and nearby airports, reducing the need for customers to make additional searches manually.

Expedia, Inc. is the parent company for a broad range of travel brands including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Hotwire, Travelocity.com, Orbitz Worldwide, European hotel reservation specialist Venere.com, trivago and CarRentals.com, among others.

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