In theory, it was a changeable plane ticket. In practice, it was more complicated.

The traveler had purchased a round-trip ticket online from Expedia. But now, she had to change her travel plans and wanted to return to Montreal earlier than expected. It was easy to get in touch with an agent from Expedia, but he was unable to modify the famous return ticket: according to his information, there were no seats available for at least four days.

However, the website of the air carrier involved displayed availability on board several flights per day, every day. After a brief calculation of the various costs involved, the traveler opted to buy a new ticket directly from the carrier, but still got a credit from Expedia.

But why was it not possible to change the return ticket?

The whole question of the possibilities of modification, and therefore of the different pricing classes, is very complex, indicates Andréa Brouillard, program director and teacher at April-Fortier College. In his opinion, this militates in favor of using a travel agent in the flesh.

A spokeswoman for Expedia, Aisha Vernon, explains that the company receives a portion of the available seats on each flight.

“Unfortunately, in this case, Expedia’s inventory was already sold out for each of the desired flights, so we were unable to allow a change,” she said in an email. We activated a credit when canceling [the return flight], which is a standard procedure. »

Does this mean that it would be better to deal directly with the airline, after comparing the offers of the different airlines?

No, supports Expedia.

“Just as Expedia’s inventory for a flight may run out, Expedia may still have seats in inventory for a flight when the carrier is full,” Vernon said.

It’s not necessarily better to do business directly with the carrier, confirms Sylvie de Bellefeuille, budget and legal advisor at Option Consommateurs.

“You don’t have the same protection as when you do business with a travel agent,” she says. The travel agency has certain obligations in the law and it contributes to the famous FICAV, the Compensation Fund for Customers of Travel Agencies, which can compensate us in certain situations. »

Especially in the case of bankruptcy.

“If, for example, we have done business directly with a hotel and it goes bankrupt, we end up with a procedure to do against a foreign company which has financial difficulties, continues Ms. de Bellefeuille. Whereas with the FICAV, our money will be protected. »

In Quebec, Expedia is considered a travel agency and contributes to the FICAV. Its customers can therefore benefit from this protection. But the fact remains that reservations are made online, without the help of an agent, underlines Andréa Brouillard.

She adds that the travel agent can more easily compare prices because they have access to several platforms, various suppliers and even consolidators. He can also explain the various types of insurance offered and, above all, the exclusions that can be found there.

“That too is very complex. »

The traveler may have to pay professional fees for the services of a travel agent, but in the end, he can save by obtaining better prices.

“The typical traveler can decide to organize themselves, it can cost a little less to do business on the web, says Ms. Brouillard. But that is if all goes well, if there are no glitches. I can confirm that in the pandemic context of the past three years, those who have done business with a travel professional have gotten their money’s worth. »

“Since then, a lot of people have come back to the agencies to make sure they are well supported, well informed,” she concludes.