When traveling, searching for flights online has become easier and easier for consumers. However, the ease of finding cheap affordable airfare has become more and more convoluted. In the past, online travel agencies such as Expedia and Orbitz established themselves as the top websites to aggregate airfares for the major airlines. Even today, those legacy websites, along with some of the newer players like Kayak and Priceline, are the most popular resources for travelers when comparing airfare between airlines. Although those agencies are quite effective when it comes to finding fair and reliable airfare, they lack the flexibility that is necessary today when searching for the best flight prices.
The shortcomings of these legacy online travel agencies are not so easily seen by the average traveler. For example, say a traveler lives in a city located in a tri-state area such as Philadelphia, which is close to airports in Delaware and New Jersey and is not particular about the origin city as long as it is close by. On those legacy websites, there is a limited ability to search flights for multiple cities as well as multiple dates, which ultimately restricts their ability to display options with the cheapest prices.
The options for online travel agencies have proliferated to the point where the most frugal of travelers can—if they’re aware of all of their options—leverage the shortcomings of one of their favorite websites with the advantages of another favorite in order to find the cheapest airfare for their trip. The only way to become a cash efficient traveler is to first know all of your options so, in this article, we will be describing the strengths and weaknesses of four of the more under-utilized online travel resources, Momondo, Google Flights, Skyscanner, and Skiplagged.
Well-known to the frugal traveler community, Momondo is one of the best and most thorough search engines when it comes to finding the cheapest fares for flights. Unlike some of the most popular online travel agency websites, the tickets to flights are not actually sold on Momondo. Rather, Momondo simply provides the cheapest possible fares for given destinations. Momondo is able to distinguish its service from others in a couple of areas. As opposed to searching online travel agencies one at a time, Momondo’s search engine combs through all of these agencies simultaneously. Furthermore, Momondo is often able to provide the cheapest fares which are rarely found on sites like Expedia or Travelocity.
Momondo’s deficiencies lie in its inability to provide a long-term outlook on prices, flexible airport destinations and search engine speed. While Momondo excels to provide the cheapest fare for a given date, the site is ineffective in displaying the cheapest fare over a range of dates. Although one could search via region, Momondo also fails to allow its users to search for multiple destination cities at one time. Finally, Momondo’s loading process for search results is noticeably slower than that of Google Flights, likely due to Momondo’s search engine searching hundreds of sites at one time.
Not to be outdone, the internet’s most popular search engine, Google, has its own service for those who are looking to travel on a tight budget. Frequently featured in cheap flight alerts, and powered by the largest search engine on the internet, Google Flights grants its users the fastest flight search engine, with a calendar-based fare view, and the ability to search multiple airports at once without sacrificing search speed.
With search speeds faster than any other flight search engine, Google Flights arranges several months' worth of flight fares in the mater of tenths of seconds. The calendar-based fare view allows users to view the cheapest fare for a given flight for the next 12 proceeding months. Moreover, Google Flights search allows for comparison between airports as users are able to search up to seven origin and seven destination airports. These are certain features that put Google Flights at a distinct advantage compared to other top flight search engines but it definitely has its own distinct disadvantages as well.
Google Flights falls behind its competitors in a few areas, the most prominent of which is the fact that far too frequently, the search engine does not display the cheapest fares. Google Flights’ search engine sources its fares directly from top airlines and online travel engines (e.g. Expedia and Orbitz), For example, Google Flights does not include results from historically lower budget airlines such as Southwest Airlines. Often, the lowest fares for a given flight is found on smaller online travel agencies which are overlooked by Google Flights. The lack of sourcing from smaller agencies also means that their engine misses out on most of the mistake fares found on smaller online travel agency websites. Google Flights also has a tendency to display deals that were recently available but when you click to proceed with booking, there is either a significant increase in price or the fare is unavailable.
Skyscanner is the ideal flight search engine for those with easily adaptable travel plans, with its users having the option to search for flights from multiple destination and origin airports all at once. Skyscanner provides its users with links to book flights through the airlines or an online travel agency by searching the smaller online travel agencies other search engines fail to acknowledge. On top of everything, Skyscanner boasts one of the best apps with a simple and easy to use interface that provides price alerts for specific dates and routes
Skyscanner's flexibility for searching dates is among some of the search engine’s best qualities. When searching flights, Skyscanner allows for a “cheapest month” option which displays fares for the cheapest month from a user’s given departure city to their destination. Additionally, if a user has no preference to their destination and is simply looking for a flight within their budget one can select a flight origin as broad as an entire country and a destination as broad as “everywhere”. Skyscanner is also well known for its proficiency in finding cheap fares for last-minute flights.
Skyscanner’s disadvantages share some similarities with a couple of the previously mentioned search engines. Just as we saw on Google Flights, prices on Skyscanner are sometimes unavailable at checkout as you might find a great price, but when ready to book with the airline, the deal is longer available. There are also issues with their monthly calendar since prices are based on other users’ previous searches, thus leading to accurate pricing for dates on popular routes but for infrequent searches, if users haven’t recently searched fares for these routes, the calendar will display only partially filled with no price information for dates. Skyscanner also suffers from not always providing the cheapest fares for a given flight.
Skiplagged is a flight search site unlike any of the other previously mentioned websites. What makes Skiplagged special is that it is a search engine specifically targeted for hidden city fares, which occurs when travelers book connecting flights that go one point beyond their final destination and choose to stay in the layover city rather than proceed to their final destination.
Outside of the hidden city ticketing, Skiplagged boast advantages in flight flexibility and keeping their users up to date with price alerts cheap fares are available. On the site’s homepage, users can see upcoming sample fares in which there is an option included to search flights to “Anywhere”. Skiplagged also allows users to filter their flight search by standard routing or hidden city, take-off and landing time, stops, and airlines
Skiplagged falls behind its competitors with its inability to be as thorough and providing the cheapest fares. Unlike the other search aggregators previously mentioned, Skiplagged does not include flexible date search, nor multi-city search, and users can't filter their flight search by multiple locations at once. Since Skiplagged directly links its users to the airlines’ websites, it will not always display the best prices.
This is not to say that those legacy online travel agencies are obsolete or even necessarily worse than the ones we’ve described here. As we said before it’s important for travelers to use more than one of these websites to balance out the negatives of one resource with the positives of another if you’re going to find the best available prices. While this is a good start, these websites are just the tip of iceberg when it comes to plethora of options for online travel agencies. No matter how experienced you may be as a traveler, it’s imperative to identify which of the many online travel agencies allow you take advantage of your budget and flexibility.