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The Internet Travel Industry: What Consumers Should Expect and Need to Know, and Options for a Better Marketplace

The online travel market continues to evolve, creating both risks and opportunities for shoppers. Since Consumer Reports Travel Letter (CRTL) conducted its assessment of travel Web sites in October 2000, many changes, both good and bad, have occurred. While a wide variety of airline ticket-booking sites remain, the market itself has become more concentrated. We see improvements in five key areas: The ability to get low fares, viable itineraries, ease of use, customer service and privacy and security policies. Yet we also see many problems remain to be solved. Some are merely growing pains of a relatively new business. Others reveal challenges created by the underlying characteristics of the travel industry itself.