Once known for a "best selection, best price scenario," the big online agencies are "getting squeezed in the middle" from airline and hotel websites on one end and travel meta-search sites such as Kayak and Sidestep on the other, says Larry Freed.of ForeSee Results, an online customer satisfaction firm that helped sponsor the survey.

With many airlines and hotels offering a low-price guarantee for travelers who book at their sites, the agencies' competitive advantage is eroding, says Freed. And while agencies have stepped up their customer service efforts as a way to set themselves apart, "I'm not sure they're executing very well," he adds. "At the end of the day, they're still middlemen."

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