Yesterday, I went online to reserve flights and hotel for jmboyles and I for the holidays. The experience was quite enlightening, and has left me with a definite preference for travel websites.
I first tried to book on Orbitz, my longstanding favorite. I went all the way through the process of picking flights and a hotel. After I had both hotel and flight reservation selected, I once or twice got messages about the price going up (without clarifying whether hotel or flight costs went up) and at the very end, it told me that it could not successfully process my reservation and I should work with the airline(s) directly. Since the itinerary we found took different airlines each way, it wasn't obvious how to do this. So I tried again, simplifying how I used the website in two different ways in the hopes that it would process it. Eventually, I got through, and then read the confirmation email; one of the legs was the wrong flight (which was presumably why the reservation actually succeeded). Although I was trying to be careful to select the correct flight each time I tried to go through their reservation process, I honestly don't know whether I selected the wrong one that time, or whether either their system or the airline's substituted the wrong flight as the reservation was getting processed.
By this point, I was pretty frustrated, and I also was fairly certain that I couldn't undo this without getting someone on the phone to bypass assorted cancellation fees. Which I did. To their credit, the agent I got at Orbitz handled the first part of the problem incredibly well. He refunded my air fares entirely, and said I'll also get a refund of Orbiz's fees because of the problems I had with their website. This rep then also transferred me to another rep to make a replacement reservation. This attitude, and this rep, almost saved this sale, which might have kept me as a customer; sadly, I think the transferred call went to India; it had quality issues (sounded like dropped VoIP packets) and minor language issues; when the rep asked me to call back, I hung up, gave up on Orbitz, and went to Expedia's website.
Expedia presumably had the exact same issue getting the flight reserved. However, their processing engine handled it much better, with the message "Your ticket purchase has not been confirmed by the airline. Please check your complete itinerary after 24 hours have passed for ticket confirmation information." I assume this was to allow a human time to manually correct whatever issue went awry. And, indeed, the next day, I had complete reservation information.
At the end of it all, while Orbitz gets points because their rep was quite willing to help make things right after the craziness I experienced trying to use their website, Expedia avoided the craziness; their processing flow had what I consider the right way of handling things; they largely hid the internal problems from me and used a mechanism to make things right smoothly enough that I might never have noticed something was wrong if I weren't really paying attention.