The Travel Room's Guide to
Flight Comparison Websites
So what is the difference between a flight booking search engine and a flight comparison site. For us the big difference between the two is whether you have to be re-directed to another website to go ahead with the purchase of a flight. With the last category we discussed, the flight booking search engine you are able to choose and pay for your flight all on the same site. Flight comparison sites such as travelsupermarket and kayak will allow you to search for flights and compare airlines for different dates but if you do want to go ahead and purchase then you will be directed to the airline themselves for the purchase.
Flight comparison sites are great starting points, they very quickly give you a comparison of flight costs between the major players and a ball park figure. I personally start a search for flights at kayak.co.uk; which, if you sign up, will allow you to search flights with flexible dates and show the lowest price each day for a whole month at a time. This is a fantastic tool, although it has its shortcomings, as often finding that price on that day can be a bit like trying to pull a rabbit out of a hat...without a rabbit...or a hat...
So although they are very useful for finding out which airlines have the best prices, in all the cases we have tried this, we have been able to go directly to the airline and get the best price from there, cutting out the middle man. Or so you would think. But once you have carried out the search on the flight comparison site, a cookie will have been placed on your computer telling the airline (should you go ahead and purchase) who originally sent you in their direction and they will probably receive a payment, usually about 2-5% of your purchase. Of course for the convenience of providing you a tool where you can check out the lowest prices for a month at a time perhaps you can forgive them a cut of the profit?
For us, these sites have their usefulness, but not to be taken as gospel. You cannot guarantee their flights are the cheapest but they will usually give you an idea of what dates will be cheaper, making your search time on other sites much quicker. And don't forget some of them have great tools like multi-stop and flexible dates again assisting you with getting that great flight - even if you do have to go somewhere else to get it.
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We like Kayak. Its easy to use, brings up a good range of cheap flights and has some really cool tools. Explore is a really useful inspirational tool where you input where you want to depart from, when you want to go (The Travel Rooms favourite? Anytime) what you want to spend, how long you want to fly for, what if any activities you wish to undertake and finally average daily temperature! Fill in all or none and you get a map of the world with the cheapest prices available for all your destinations. Kayak also has a useful 3 day flexibility when searching and a built in comparator, currently against American Airlines, TravelPack and Vayama (though they could expand this to cover some of the other, larger travel providers). We like that they offer this as it shows a level of confidence in their ability to find the cheapest price. Consistently rated in the top 5 travel search engines, a quick search of the web only finds people gushing about how good it is. I guess we have just joined them.
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