Best FaresThe best rates
This is a long way to spend browsing the Internet - and a potential revenue stream for tour operators who can make this quest quicker and simpler.
Now several " Metasuch " companies offer to do exactly that and promise in each case that their customers will either find the most favorable tariffs or that they will invest less and less effort in finding them. This metasearch site - including Kajak.com, Fly.com and Momondo.com - does not offer airline ticket or check booking services in hotels.
Rather, they browse several hundred pages at a time to find the best prices and then make direct bookings with the retailer. Kayak, fly and another metasearch site, Microsoft's Bing Travels, all work with ITA software for certain searching functions and tariffs.
The ITA obtains fares from the Airline Tariff Publishing Company, which gathers fares from 500 carriers around the world. This means that many of the metasearch pages are immersed in the same datapool. In a recent quest for a kayak, for a February New York to Los Angeles plane ride, I was offered fares that began at $299 roundtrip on Continental.
Refining my quest for non-stop departures before 11am, the lowest rates rose to 389 dollars. The kayak has re-calculated the rates automatic. However, it was Fly.com that found the best offer for a continuous morning: $362 for Americans who drove away from Kennedy and returned to Newark. Bringing together fares from these other resources, says Brian Clark, general Manager of Fly.com, often results in the website finding a lower fares, especially on cross-border itineraries.
Comparing itself with kayaking, Fly.com said that it found 16 lower fares and 6 lower fares when looking for 25 different destinations. In order not to be surpassed, Kayak asked a third person to perform 237 queries, which were chosen at random. Twenty three per cent of the goddamn day, kayaking was cheap.
"No one will outperform us (on average) on rates in the US and Europe," Mr English von Kayak said in an e-mail news item. Kayaking, he said, attracts fares from Amadeus, a worldwide sales system, in addition to ITA software, and directly looks for some large carriers. However, he also pointed out that "no firm can always have the lowest cost airline or resort for every individual search".
" In fact, Fly.com does not always provide the lowest rate. My own quest for flight from Detroit to Orlando, Fla. Kayak and Bing hit Fly.com at $36. Each metasearch site will configure its own technologies and access rates slightly differently, which can influence the results.
Websites also have a tendency to differ in terms of specific partnership and functionality that may be tailored to a particular traveller group. "Nobody can necessarily do anything for everyone right now," says Henry H. Harteveldt, a Forrester Research trip analyst. What's the best way to do that? Momondo.com, the Denmark trip book site for example, uses smart web browsers to browse both airlines' own websites and those of on-line agents, concentrating on low-cost carrier companies, some of which are often missing from US based webmasters.
However, because of the way Momondo draws fares, it often has to use buffered information, which can cause it to display past fares. Momondo says it's working on it and still it' still a worthwhile look if you look for the least expensive way to get through Europe.
Flight searches in early March between Paris and Amsterdam revealed that non-stop roundtrip fares have risen from $311 on Lastminute.com. Momondo also provided high-speed trains starting at $178 on Thalys, which extended the journey by about an additional 1h. A reservation: Passengers must restart their rail enquiry when directed to the reservation page.
At the end I felt well that I had found the best offer during the time I had been looking for the one. In retrospect, I have seen only a few pages, much less than the 21 visit averages, but still far more than the promises of a one-stop-store.