According to figures compiled by the leading web analytics firms travelers made an average of 20-45 visits to various travel Web sites this year before finally booking a trip.
Flight comparison websites simplify the situation by highlighting deals and streamlining the booking process, but they can raise questions of their own. How can a flight be listed at one price on an airline’s website, at another on Expedia and at a third price on Kayak? Why do the prices change from day to day? How do these inconsistencies arise?
Airfare fluctuations can be attributed partially to the dynamic updates that come with yield management practices, but this doesn’t tell the whole story. For consumers, encountering price discrepancies is a natural outcome of using airfare comparison websites. These metasearch engines aggregate data from millions of flights both past and present and compare prices algorithmically to list the best deals for consumers.
Meanwhile, OTAs such as Priceline, Expedia and LastMinute.com have moved from showing only the prices from partner airlines to delivering a broader spectrum of metasearch results alongside commission-based listings. These agencies then earn referral fees when travelers click through on those links, following the traditional metasearch model.
Travel-booking websites negotiate deals with airlines to gain access to their data streams. The sites determine various factors like consumer location and language to provide accurate lists of relevant results. After a series of data searches are performed, results are cleaned up electronically and presented to the consumer who can then filter by price, date, time and so on. If a consumer ends up booking a flight through a flight comparison website, the airline pays meta search site a commission.
For one thing, online travel agencies have toll-free numbers with agents standing by to help you book or re-book a flight; meta search sites don’t, because they don’t sell airfares; they send you directly to airlines or to online travel agencies to book. Both an online travel agency and a meta search site will let you know if the best deal is on a combination of airlines (say, going out on Alaska Airlines and coming back on United).
But neither type of site will show you fares on all airlines and neither will always have fares that the airlines are keeping for their own websites (airlines sometimes hold back fares and inventory for their own sites in order to entice users to book direct). In general, however, meta search sites do a better job of finding “airline-site-only” fares than do online travel agencies.
Bottom line: you need to consult meta search sites, online travel agencies, and airline sites if you really want to find the best deal.
Company Name: J.B. Travel Services
Contact Person: Jetendra Asad
City: San Diego
Country: United States