Prior to the airline industry moving into digital media marketing, they relied on the third-party agent to help drive customers to airline booking sites. Third-party bookers ranged from large websites to stay at home moms working as independent travel agents

The number of third-party bookers has increased dramatically over the last ten years. Commercials promising the lowest rate and the option to add a hotel and car rental to their itinerary inundate travelers. Third-party booking agents offer the opportunity to bundle travel needs into one transaction. Often this bundle effect reduces the consumer’s ability to choose a brand with whom they are familiar and loyal. Instead, the third-party will steer the customer to the lowest initial price, opting for the upsell at a later time. To do this, the third-party booking agent will present a low-cost ticket to entice an immediate booking. The customer has the option to pay for the additional cost for seat selection and baggage shortly before the date of departure. While third-party booking agents fill seats, they neglect the value of brand loyalty and brand building.

These sites thrive on the upsell. As such, advertising moved from the experience of flying with a specific airline to a Frankenstein mash-up of multiple airline carriers to get the best price for a trip all the while, pushing customers toward credit cards linked to their sites, hotel, and rental car add-ons.

Third-party booking agents fill a need for consumers solely focused on monetary cost. However, a majority of consumers are willing to delay the gratification of saving a dollar up front for long term rewards if they can forecast a payoff.