When it comes to travel planning, nothing feels better than securing a deeply discounted flight or hotel.
You do your research.
You juggle at least 12 different browser tabs, each crammed with copious amounts of information.
And after hovering your finger gingerly, hesitantly for a few seconds, finally you click that big “book now” button. Ohhhhh yeahhhhhh, so satisfying.
You might not think twice about the companies behind each of those websites or apps. They are just a window to help you shop. End of story.
This is the era of commoditized travel.
But a product as complex, intricate, and personalised as travel can never be fully distilled down to a virtual brown box the way Amazon does it.
But that won’t stop me from trying to score the best deals and save as much money as possible. In my popular article about finding cheap one-way flights, I included strategies like booking at the right time and subscribing to dedicated newsletters. It’s all about understanding the industry dynamics so you can best navigate those to your advantage.
I never stop looking for new ways to make travel more affordable. I’m here to help you, after all.
Recently I came across a relatively new concept in the travel industry, a travel subscription for an online travel agent (OTA), called eDreams Prime. The premise is pretty simple – pay a flat fixed annual rate for access to the lowest possible flight prices and hotel offers.
So, I lifted the lid and dug through the nuts and bolts to find out if this subscription is good value for you. Here’s the answer.
What is eDreams Prime & How Does It Work?
Let’s start at the beginning.
eDreams ODIGEO, Europe’s largest flight retailer, is one of the world’s leading online travel agents and owns several brands (including eDreams). If you live in Europe, chances are you’ve heard of them.
Founded in 1999, eDreams now serves 18 million customers per year, selling flights, hotels, car rentals, activities, and travel insurance.
In 2017 they launched the travel industry’s first subscription program of its kind, eDreams Prime. Membership has grown strongly, and as of early 2022 more than 2 million people have signed up. That’s really impressive considering the challenges faced by the travel industry in recent years due to the pandemic.
eDreams Prime offers members the following benefits:
- Discounts on flights (this varies by flight, but all flights are eligible)
- Discounts on accommodation (up to 50% off)
- Discounts on car rental (up to €40 off)
- Access to an exclusive customer service hotline (24 hours a day)
- Discounts can be used for your entire travel group (up to 9 people)
Before you even think to commit to the subscription, you can see the discounted prices on the website.
Best of all, you can get access to the discounts without paying a cent upfront. All customers get a free 30-day trial. If you don’t want to keep the subscription going, just cancel before the due date. No risk.
Members also gain exclusive access to Amazon-inspired “Prime Day” deals periodically throughout the year (each time lasting 72 hours).
But I know what you’re thinking.
Why should I pay for a subscription when I can get cheap flights using an aggregator like Skyscanner, Momondo, or Kayak? They do all the hard work and provide me with the cheapest prices around.
Well, that’s a very good question and the short answer is “it’s complicated”. I’ll explain.
Related reading: Is eDreams Legit & Reliable?
Lifting the Lid on Online Travel Agents (OTAs)
This quote sums up the situation with OTAs…
"Competition brings out the best in products and the worst in people" - David Sanoff
Due to the rise of flight and hotel aggregators, who compare online travel agents side-by-side, OTAs have been under pressure to provide the lowest possible prices to customers. Most customers just look at the big price figure and make a purchasing decision solely based on the apparent total price. This is commoditized travel, after all.
There are razor-thin profit margins on reselling flights – sometimes OTAs have to sell at cost-price or perhaps a dollar or two above their cost to entice a paying customer. They also pay the aggregator for bringing the customer to their front door.
It’s a tough business.
OTAs have some big costs:
- Developing and maintaining the platform (servers aren’t cheap)
- Security and fraud prevention (dodgy credit card transactions abound on the Internet)
- Customer support (someone to answer the calls and emails if you have a question)
- Backend office – negotiating deals with suppliers, marketing, accounting, management, etc.
They have to sell a lot of flights to keep the lights on.
Having booked many, many flights over the years I know that not all online travel agents are made equally. When it comes to customer support, it can be night and day. There are even smaller unreliable OTAs that take your money and never actually book the ticket with the airline, or the airline mysteriously “cancels” your ticket – and when you ask for a refund, they drag it out and you might never get the money back.
OTAs with questionable tactics feed a lower flight price to aggregators and then bump up the price when the customer navigates to their website. This can be hidden (in exchange rates), nominal (just a few dollars higher than what you were expecting), or blatant (a message saying the price is no longer available and get bumped to a much higher rate).
I’m looking at you, HutchGo.
I almost fell for their trick once, lured in by the price that was too good to be true. On TrustPilot 89% of their reviews are 1 star for very good reason. As a demonstration for this article, search for a flight on Skyscanner and clicked through to their website, only to find a popup saying the price has changed… with a price increase by 39%. Ouch!
Skyscanner allows HutchGo (and other similar players) to stay on their platform even though they are aware of these games. Why? Because Skyscanner gets paid every time a customer clicks and makes a purchase. How does HutchGo make a profit? By jacking up the price and hoping some customers won’t notice. Oh, and by cutting back on customer support staff. Good luck getting a reply to an enquiry!
This kind of behaviour is not respectful to the customer, and it’s not sustainable for larger, more dependable OTAs who try their best to run an ethical business within a murky ecosystem. So how to get around this?
eDreams is turning the travel business upside down. Rather than play games with the customer and nickel & dime them, just ask for a flat, transparent fee and in return give them exactly what they want. Cheap flights and dependable support without shady tactics.
eDreams Prime gives the OTA dependable, sustainable revenue and reduces reliance on aggregators. Most travellers are not loyal to a specific brand but just follow whoever’s got the cheapest price. A commitment to a subscription changes this dynamic and encourages consumers to make their next travel booking with eDreams directly.
The first mover’s advantage is that few customers will likely pay for multiple travel subscriptions, so it will be harder and harder for competitors to copy the eDreams strategy.
How Much Can You Save?
Firstly, just looking at the bottom line can be dangerous. Why? Flight aggregators like Skyscanner, Momondo and Kayak, link out to whoever will give them a big fat commission. And as I pointed out, some OTAs give data feeds to aggregators that are deliberately out of line with the “real” price given to the customer during checkout.
My piece of advice… treat any flight quotes from an aggregator with a big pinch of salt. At least half of them (from my research) are not legit. Sometimes more.
According to eDreams, the average Prime saving for a flight €149 or less is €20. This goes up with more costly flights, at €300-499 saving around €40. When I did over a dozen tests side-by-side with competing OTAs I found the savings to be on the milder side, between 2-5%.
Since I started investigating eDreams Prime, it’s become clear to me that their business model is shifting toward driving as many of their customers onto the annual subscription as possible. That means their “prime” prices are closer to everyone else’s “normal” prices, and then non-members will be paying a premium for simply not joining up. A cynical person could look at this as just another game with the customer. But I see a prudent and gutsy forward-thinking strategy forging into new territory to bring transparency and accountability in an industry that has been greatly lacking.
What you save with eDreams Prime is not just the ticket price. In fact, it’s actually the least important part to me. You really save what matters most - your sanity and time. Anyone who has attempted to travel via air during the COVID-19 pandemic (and I used the word “attempted” deliberately) will know that flights get cancelled or rescheduled more often than ever before.
Dealing with understaffed support teams from that dodgy OTA you used just to save 2 dollars doesn’t feel like much of a bargain right now. Spending hours on hold just to speak to a human who barely understands what you’re saying is not going to get that flight re-routed. At least not before you pull your hair out.
Now the regret starts to sink in.
You should have booked with eDreams when you had the chance.
Well, as the prophet of travel, I’m speaking to you now. Make the change today to avoid heartache tomorrow.
Ok, I’ll dial down on the drama and intensity. Let’s keep things moving.
What I Like
There’s a lot to like about eDreams Prime and their platform in general:
- Use the discounts on up to 9 travellers (good for groups and families)
- Every flight can be discounted – yep, 100% of them.
- You can book either via the eDreams website or mobile app. Prime discounts are attached to your user account, as long as you’re logged in.
- Prime discounts can be stacked with other promotions (for example, use “APP10” code for €10 off when you book via the mobile app, or if you don’t complete a flight booking within a few hours you may receive an email with a unique €10 discount).
- eDreams website is super slick – user-friendly, intuitive, fast. Search results are easy to browse and filter. The checkout flow is smoother than butter, with all required information intelligently grouped, and easy to read – especially luggage allowances, flight times, meal selection, and cancellation policy. It’s clear some smart designers put a lot of thought into making this platform highly functional but also enjoyable.
In fact, as a web developer with 24 years’ experience, I’d say eDreams is my favourite OTA based on user interface. That’s a big compliment and not one I make lightly.
What Could Be Better
Nothing in the world is perfect. Not even me. ;-) Or eDreams.
- I’m not a fan of artificially inflating the discounted Prime rate to make it look better than it is – but rather than being a carrot, I understand it’s a deterrent to discourage customers from checking out without a Prime membership.
- You can only sign up to eDreams Prime when making a flight booking at the same time. It would be nice to have the option to sign up directly without travelling. But I get the logic in their decision.
Is eDreams Prime Worth The Money?
I hope I’ve been able to shed a little light on the complex cut-throat world of online travel agents. There’s a lot more than meets the eye. And I also hope you can appreciate that finding a great flight is more than just the total price at the end of the checkout.
Next time I’m ready to book a flight I’ll certainly be considering eDreams Prime. If you’re thinking of taking at least 1 or 2 international trips in the next year then when you’re ready to book a flight, give eDreams Prime a try.
With the free trial, you’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Including your sanity.
Price: €54.99/year (Europe), $59.99/year (USA), £59.99/year (UK)
Where to buy: www.edreams.com/prime