Airport codes, travel dates and departure times.

For many consumers, the best way to research trips used to consist of keying those three components into the booking engine of a site like Orbitz.com, then checking for the cheapest results.

But as the Web evolves, online travel behemoths like Chicago-based Orbitz find they have to devise new ways to engage customers or risk becoming irrelevant as social media and search engines change how people shop for travel.

One challenge is finding ways to reap advertising dollars from people who browse but don't buy from Orbitz or its peers. According to Forrester Research Inc., nearly half of the traffic to online travel agencies consists of people who check out hotel or air fare options, then book directly with the supplier to get a better deal or avoid paying a $5 transaction fee.

Get the full story at the Chicago Tribune