The answer is…probably, according to Seth Kugel, the New York Times Frugal Traveler columnist. That is, as long as you seek out niche travel agencies that tend to have been created to serve immigrant communities.
Kugel conducted several experiments in January and found that human travel agents almost always beat the search engines—sometimes by hundreds of dollars.
This is a foreign concept these days, as new travel booking apps and tablet- and smartphone-optimized travel search engines pop up almost daily, all touting the best prices, guaranteed.
Instead, you might save more by picking up the phone, or even (gasp!) physically stopping by a travel agency’s storefront.
The biggest savings were on complicated itineraries that deviated from the standard two-city, round-trip model.
Where to find these agencies? Paradoxically, online: Kugel says, “A clue you’ve come to the right place: the Web site looks as if it were designed a decade ago, does not have online searching, and directs you to call a phone number associated with a real address.”