Saturday, January 28, 2012

Airfare Comparison Tools Part 1:

Although my choice of air carrier is American Airlines, this does not mean I immediately purchase an airfare from the airline without still doing some price shopping. I still compare American's fare with other airlines and as long as American's fare is reasonably similar to other airlines, I feel secure about making the purchase knowing I have not overpaid for my ticket. If American's fare is much more expensive than other airlines, I will continue searching for other dates until the fare is similar. Depending how strict my travel dates are, my acceptable range between American's fares and other airlines does widen a bit.

Of course most people do flight comparison shopping as the primary way to find the lowest fare. Regardless if you are finding the best fare within a single airline or among several airlines there are three websites that you should be using. This post is about Kayak. Part two will cover Superfly and part three will cover MileWise.

KAYAK does not sell airline tickets or hotel stays like Orbitz or Expedia. It is a price comparison tool. But besides comparing fares ranked from the lowest to highest between airlines, the website allows the user to also compare fares on Priceline, Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire and ChaepOair. New browser windows open if you ask Kayak to includes these other websites in your search.

After entering your departure and arrival city and planned flying dates, your search will result in a list of airfares. Users can refine the search by nonstop flights, take-off or landing times, airports, cabin and airlines.

If you find a particular fare of interest, move your mouse over the select button and three buttons appear: details, pin and share. Click the 'details' button to list the flight numbers, type of jet, flight time and estimated number of seats remaining on the flight.

Should you find a great fare to share with others or planning a group trip, click the 'share' button and send emails (or use Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn) that will include the flight information. If you are doing multiple searches or scrolling through several pages of flights, use the 'pin' button to save the flight info at the top of the search results page so you can compare your selected fares side by side.

By clicking the 'select' button, Kayak will open a new window and direct you to the airline's website to purchase the ticket.

Persons using this website should be warned that airfares are constantly changing so do not be surprised if the actual airfare on the airline's website is not the same. Kayak does include a disclaimer that "we make every attempt to get accurate prices, however, prices are not guaranteed."

The upper left corner of the search results page will list additional tools to set price alerts, calculate the cost of including checked-bags and list airline fees and fare charts. The 'fare charts' track the history of fares for your particular search over the past 90 days.

If you see a 'Hacker Fare', this search looks for better round-trip deals by combining tickets issued by two different airlines for each direction of travel.

The website also helps to manage trip plans by allowing the user to store their searches, set alerts for price changes on specific flights or at certain hotels over a period of time as well as help to track reward points. A window prompts users to enter an email address to create a price alert for travel between certain dates.

Click HERE to get the Kayak mobile app for iPhone and iPad.


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