Expedia.com said Wednesday it will stop charging fees when customers book airline tickets over the Internet, upping the ante in the competition among online travel agencies.

Rival online agencies Orbitz.com, a unit of Orbitz Worldwide Inc., and Sabre Holdings Corp.'s Travelocity.com also had eliminated booking fees on a promotional basis. The companies declined to comment on possible next steps. "Orbitz intends to remain a competitive place to book online," a spokesman said. A Travelocity spokesman said: "We're continuing to waive booking fees through this month."

Other companies, including Priceline.com Inc. and Expedia Inc.'s Hotwire.com, permanently stopped charging airline booking fees in 2007 on most tickets.

Eliminates change and cancel fees

In addition, the company announced new changes to its service policies, eliminating change fees and cancel fees on all hotel, car rental and cruise reservations and on virtually all flight reservations.

The removal of Expedia.com change fees and cancel fees on all hotel, car rental and cruise reservations and on nearly all flight reservations allows travelers an unprecedented level of flexibility. Some other online travel providers charge as much as $30 per person to change or cancel flight or hotel reservations booked with them.

"Today we are announcing the next step in Expedia.com's ongoing efforts to provide our travelers the greatest selection, flexibility and value available anywhere in travel. Our aim is to be the single best place for people to book their travel. This is all part of our commitment at Expedia.com to put the traveler first in everything we do," said Tim MacDonald, general manager of Expedia.com.

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