More and more airlines want you to book through their own website, not third party price comparison sites like Travelocity and Expedia..
Now, some are starting to penalize travelers who are booking through other sources, going so far as to not assign seats, and even put your family in different rows on the plane.
Frontier Booking Surprise
Some Cincinnati travelers trying out the region's new discount airline, Frontier, are getting a rude surprise when they book their first trip.
Dan Regenold is a savvy businessman, who built a small picture frame shop in the Springdale area into an major framing company over 20 years.
But even his sharp business mind didn't catch the fine print when booking a recent flight through his credit card's website.
"We tried to choose our seats," Regenold said. "And it wouldn't let us choose our seats on the site. And when I got the printed copy it showed my wife and I got seats directly behind each other, not next to each other."
Penalty for using 3rd party sites
What he didn't know was that Frontier airlines will not let you choose your seat assignment in advance if you book through Expedia, Travelocity, or in his case, American Express Travel. (It allows seat assignments on Orbitz, however).
Frontier no longer even lists its flights on Expedia, as of March of 2013.
Regenold called the airline, but says "Frontier told me they penalize you if you book through any website other than their own."
A report in USA Today says third party websites cost carriers about $20 a ticket, so a growing number of discount airlines, looking to cut costs, want travelers to book through their site instead.
Southwest Airlines goes even further: It does not even list its fares on third party sites, which means if you are searching Expedia, for instance, you won't find any flights on Southwest.
The big advantage of third party travel sites is the ability to get an airfare, hotel room, and rental car all at once, often at a good discount.
But if you decide to fly Frontier, you may want to book through
their website, or Orbitz, which now has an "exclusive" booking arrangement with the airline.
If not, as Regenold learned, you may end up rows away from your wife, husband, or travel partner.