Booking flights using on-line services

I just got back from a trip to Colorado. I used Expedia to book it online, and the itinerary they sent indicated I would be flying on U.S. Airways, and of course it had all flight numbers and departure and arrival times.

When I got to LaGuardia airport in NY I went to the U.S. Airways terminal and was told that the flights I was booked on were all on United Airlines, which was in another terminal altogether. The times were correct, but the airline and flight numbers weren’t.

I got a long but helpful lecture at the United check-in counter about something called “code sharing”. The short version is, when you book using an online service, larger airlines share their booking codes with smaller airlines. That means that it’s up to the consumer to figure out what airline you’re “really” flying on. You can’t rely on the itinerary that gets emailed to you by the third party booking service.

I’m writing this calmly. But that’s not the way I felt when I was finding all this out at 7 AM on a Saturday.

The advice I was given was to book directly with the airline in the future. I think that’s good advice!