Expedia has taken another step to completely annihilating any form of customer charges with news that it has dropped fees for any travel product booked over the telephone.
In a short statement Expedia Inc says the decision to scrap phone booking fees in the US is with immediate effect and follows similar moves over the course of the last six months on Expedia.com to eliminate air and cruise booking fees, cancellation and change fees on hotel, car hire and cruise.
It is understood that other Expedia regions such as EMEA will follow suit.
Not wanting to miss the chance to poke an accusatory finger at its competitors in the US, Expedia huffs that some OTAs are charging up to $25 per booking through its call centres and its latest move demonstrates its desire to stand up for the "rights of phone-loving Americans".
The move is likely to push the already heated rivalry between it and the likes of Orbitz, Travolocity and Priceline up a further notch.
But, equally, this run of fee-cutting is likely to be having far wider consequences.
Some, such as Forrester analyst Henry Hartveldt, suggest that the OTA sector has seen conversions improve and market share increase as a result of dropping fees.
This possible outcome is just one of many that perhaps are still to be demonstrated empirically and in top-line results across the industry.
Perhaps another is the impact on merchant relations within the OTA sector.
The recent high profile showdown between Expedia and Choice Hotels indicates that this particular OTA is willing to stand firm - one might argue, as charges fall off the customer booking invoice there is a shortfall to be filled.
But perhaps the biggest question of all is what does an OTA do when it has no further charges to cut?
NB: We asked Expedia what percentage of products are booked over the phone. A spokesman responded:
The answer is that air tickets are usually booked online.
The percentage of phone bookings is in the high single digits.
The percentage of hotel bookings made by phone is in the low double digits.
And cruise bookings tend to be booked by phone the majority of the time.
- Air tickets are usually booked online.
- The percentage of phone bookings is in the high single digits.
- The percentage of hotel bookings made by phone is in the low double digits.
- Cruise bookings tend to be booked by phone the majority of the time.