The Differences Between Popular Flight Search Sites

The Differences Between Popular Flight Search Sites

 

There are so many different flight searching sites out there! How do you know which is the right one to use? What are the differences? This article will help you to better understand the best options for you when searching for flights. 

 

Online Travel Agencies

The first group of sites that we’ll be talking about are OTAs. OTAs are Online Travel Agencies. These sites allow you to search and book flights through their websites. There are no third party bookings. OTAs also sometimes include hotel, car rental, or package booking much like a traditional travel agency. Priceline or Expedia are popular OTAs that you have probably heard of. 

 

Flight Aggregators

The next group of sites that are useful to know are Flight aggregators. Flight aggregators (also called metasearch sites) are essentially search engines designed to search the web for flights. One important thing to know about flight aggregators is that you will be directed to book through third party sites like OTAs, or directly with airlines, rather than booking on through the flight aggregator itself. This might concern some individuals who are unfamiliar with flight aggregators, but as long as the website or airline that you ultimately end up booking through is trustworthy, there is no need to worry. Flight aggregators have massive searching abilities that search airlines and OTAs including smaller OTAs. These sites can also include search options for hotels or car rentals. 

In the future, some sites are planning to add direct booking features that will make them more like an OTA. It is possible that there won’t be much of a difference in the future between OTAs and flight aggregators. Metasearch sites to look out for are Google Flights, Skyscanner, Kayak, and Momondo.com.
 

Flight Searching Sites In Detail 

Google Flights

Google Flights is the fastest metasearch site. It offers a Destination Map to search from a departure to anywhere in the world on a specific date, or cheapest date during a specific month or 6 month period. You can also use the calendar to see the cheapest fares for about 11 months in the future. The downside is there are sometimes ghost or phantom fares, which are fares that initially might show up incredibly low until you click through and the flights increase in price. Also, using Google Flights means you have to book directly through an airline or through an OTA, which can discourage some users. 

As far as future updates go, Google Flights is currently testing a Price Guarantee feature that might be a game changer if it is implemented. If the feature is put into effect, Google Flights will pay you the difference if the price of your flight drops during a certain period of time after booking. So, if you were to buy a flight for $400 that later drops to $350, Google would refund you the $50 drop in price that you missed out on. It is easy to understand why an avid flight searcher might be excited about this feature. Hopefully this update will become a reality, as it is currently being tested on a small number of flights.
 

Skyscanner

Skyscanner is another flight aggregator. Skyscanner does a great job searching through as many OTAs and airlines as possible, even including smaller OTAs and airlines. You will see more itineraries on this site that may have multiple airlines for each leg of a flight. Skyscanner also has a unique “cheapest month” option, that allows you to find the cheapest fares for specific months, or the cheapest fare over the next 12 months for a specific destination. Some of the sites that Skyscanner directs you for booking can be sketchy, so caution and critical thinking is needed. Be  sure to research any 3rd party sites before booking. One notable perk of this site is that for users who prefer environmentally friendly options, Skscanner will highlight “greener” flights that are better for the environment.
 

Momondo

Momondo, another aggregator, is similar to Skyscanner but doesn’t have a cheapest month feature. Momondo has a price graph and Explore map to see fares around the world. A huge benefit to using Momondo is that Southwest flights may appear during some searches. Southwest can not be found on other flight search engines. (Southwest prefers that customers visit their site directly.)
 

Priceline

Priceline is an OTA that allows customers to reliably book flights directly through their own site. It is trusted by many travelers and even includes an option to make monthly payments. Priceline also offers a 24 hour cancellation policy that other sites do not. The “Name Your Own Price Tool” and “Express Deals” can be appealing, but usually aren’t lower than the cheapest flights that you might be able to find on other sites. Priceline also doesn’t search many smaller OTAs like Skyscanner or Momondo.
 

Kayak

Kayak was an early standard setter for other aggregators. Kayak offers price forecasting, and hacker flights (cheaper one way flights instead of round-trip), and greater options for searching filters. The website can be very helpful, but the ads can be a bit overwhelming.

 

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The table below lists several flight search sites that we use and recommend to our subscribers. These sites all have pros and cons. Each has unique features that make using the site more useful depending on certain situations.

 

 

Google Flights

Skyscanner

Momondo

Priceline

Kayak

Travel Aggregator, OTA or Both

Aggregator

Aggregator

Aggregator

OTA

Aggregator

Book Directly or 3rd Party

3rd Party

3rd Party but check the reliability of the site before booking.

3rd Party/Select 3rd parties allow Momondo to book for them but the fares are still placed through the 3rd party.

Directly and monthly payment option available

3rd Party/Select 3rd parties allow Momondo to book for them but the fares are still placed through the 3rd party.

Price Alert Feature

Yes

Yes

Yes

No but working on adding this feature soon.

Yes

Distinct Features

*Destination Map option to view cheapest prices in real time.        *Price calendars that show lowest fares in green.       *Currently testing a price guarantee option.

*Price graph.

*Flight Insights.

*Cheapest Month feature that displays lowest prices during a month or the lowest fare found for any month.         *Search Everywhere feature.

*Fare calendar graph      *Anywhere feature *Explore Map

*Name Your Own Price.         *Express Deals

*Price Forecast tool *Allows extra filters like flights with Wifi *Hacker flights are one way flights that are cheaper than flying round-trip to and from a specific destination.

Searches smaller OTAs

Not always

Yes mostly

Yes mostly

Not usually

Not always

3rd Party Reliability

Yes

Yes/No

Yes/No

N/A

Yes

Search Speed and Reliability

Very reliable but sometimes phantom or ghost fares appear. Faster than all other search sites.

Yes but is slower than Google Flights and fares are not updated in real time. Sometimes phantom or ghost fares appear.

Average. Sometimes phantom or ghost fares appear.

Average

Average. Sometimes phantom or ghost fares appear.

Blog

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Hotel, Car Rental or Both

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Price Graph

Yes and has a price calendar feature.

Has price calendar search feature.

Yes

Has price calendar search feature.

Yes

Predicts Delays Based on Historical Data

Yes

No

No

No

No

Multi City Search

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

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What do we suggest?

All of these sites serve different functions and often come up with similar results. We usually suggest searching on Google Flights and then check out Skyscanner, Priceline or Momondo.com. When in doubt, try several different options. No search engine has the lowest price all the time but using a combination of search engines allows you to find the best fares especially if you have some flexibility with your travel dates.