It used to be that the best way you could dig up information on the best airfare deals out there would be to visit all the travel agents, and spend the best part of a day on it. And then, just as the travel agents were getting a little secure in their indispensability, the Internet came along, and took the food out of their mouths.
Now, there were travel websites, that listed fares on every flight to every destination, except that now, there were so many websites, that clicking and searching on all of them became a real chore.
There was a survey done by a Web traffic researching company, that you see published on all kinds of blogs these days; it finds that people in general, have to visit 20 different websites, before they actually make a ticket purchase. It does seem preposterous that information that is digitized and online, shouldn’t have a way of being available at one place at one time. Airfare comparison expeditions should be so much easier that way.
It used to be this way with search engines too, when Google didn’t tower above everyone else. When people thought that all search engines were more or less the same, they would search on Altavista, on Ask Jeeves, on MSN, and so on, until they grew sick of it.
And then came the meta-search engines. You just had to put your search down in one box, and it would go around all the search engines for you and give you the top results from each one of them.
That’s what they wish to do for airfare comparison too now. Meta-searching for the best travel deal. Not that this is completely without its complications. There are many competing meta-search websites, and you’ll probably feel the need to search on all of them. But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let us just look at how one meta-search works, one at a time.
They go by names like Microsoft’s Bing Travel, Kayak and Fly. You might find it hard to believe that there should be any difference between these; they all go to the Airline Tariff Publishing Company for their airfare comparison information.
But there are reasons to distinguish between the services. You don’t just want the fare planner when you go search for flight information; you want to know how many seats are left on the flight; what each airline charges for extra baggage, and so on.
Bing Travel has a great new feature. It tries to predict for you which fares are the likeliest to change over the coming day, to rise or fall. Kayak will give you the baggage calculator information, and the number of seats remaining on each flight. Fly seems to search the farthest and the deepest, to find a low-priced ticket for you. For the best airfare comparison, nothing seems to beat Fly. They search Travelocity, Hotwire and also consolidators like Vayama.
It all comes down to individual experience, which meta- searcher works best for you. If you ask me, this just is a whole new level of complexity.