- Lowest Fare? Try it!
- In 1997, Washington Post writers Carol Sottili and Craig Stoltz concluded that you couldn't trust the low-fare claims made by various travel sites. There were several problems:
- E-fares and other special deals are often available only when the fares are booked on its own web site.
- Contract rates (i.e. non-published fares available through consolidators) would be available only from the specific suppliers' site.
- Even considering only the published fares, travel sites would occasionally fail to find the lowest fares.
If you were willing to, you could visit dozens of travel sites and you might be pretty sure of finding the lowest fare. Of course, this would take several hours, and by the time you found the lowest fare, there might no longer be seats available. Qixo will do this for you. It submits your request to about 2 dozen travel sites and returns the results on your screen. It has an annoying habit of reloading the page every 10 or 15 seconds to display any new results that may have been returned in the interim, But if you're interested in the lowest fare, you can save a lot of time, knowing that if one site has missed a low fare, it's likely another site will have found it.
e-fares fare search engines auctions accommodations ground transport reference info
- Deal Watch (WebFlyer)
- Internet Specials (Best Fares)
- Snooze You Lose Deals (Best Fares)
- America West Airlines (posted Wednesday)
America West's offers are valid for travel Saturday and returning on Monday or Tuesday.
- Delta Airlines (posted Wednesday)
Delta's offers are posted on Wednesday for travel outbound on Saturday and returning on Monday or Tuesday.
- Northwest Airlines
Northwest's offers are posted on Wednesday for travel during the coming weekend.
- Southwest Airlines Internet Specials
Unlike internet specials from other airlines, Southwest's deals are not weekend fares, and generally have a 3-week advance purchase requirement. Purchase is available up to 5 months in advance. Offers are available from Tuesday through Thursday. Caution: Southwest does not allow the use of discount tickets for same-day standby, even with a penalty fee... instead, you must pay for a full-fare "walkup" ticket, applying the value of your discount ticket to that fare.
- TWA fare sale (posted Tuesday)
These offerings are usually good for the coming weekend only.
- US Airways (posted Wednesday noon through Friday)
More weekend deals.
- American Airlines NetSaavers
You'll have to click on "Net Saavers" and login to view the current NetSaavers.
- Continental On-Line
Sign up for the Continental On-Line service to receive notice of fare sales. Caution: Continental's Flight Wizard may not display the best flights based on the date and times you request, even if you request that it select flights based on best schedule. For this reason, it is suggested you avoid using the Flight Wizard service.
- Airfare Bargains on the Net [Epicurious Travel]
Links to sites offering internet-only airfares and email-only airfares.
Fare Search Engines
- Airline Consolidator
- American Airlines
American Airlines' reservation system is apparently completely independent of Sabre and Travelocity, requiring its own password even using the same login id. Worse, it seems to have one of the least functional reservation systems in the business, that doesn't let you build an itinerary incrementally, but makes you choose only the exact itineraries it comes up with.
- American Express Travel (aka Internet Travel Network)
Internet Travel Network (ITN) used to make a low-fare promise. They seem to have dropped this claim, possibly after realizing how difficult it is to live up to it. Anyway, ITN's fate is now tied to American Express, a company that the Cagey Consumer declines to do business with. (See Can You Trust American Express?.)
If your travel can be done by rail, you can get walk-up fares without paying the huge fares that most airlines charge without an advance reservation. Occasionally, discounts of up to 70% are available. But save yourself the trouble of using their web site, which does its best to keep train fares secret. Just call 1-800-USA-RAIL and wait on hold.
- Best Fares [$]
This site claims to be "the best one-stop shopping resource for all manner of discounts."
- European Travel Network
One of many sites offering non-published air fares.
Where do you want to go today?
As with Priceline, the flight times aren't revealed until after you have agreed to purchased the tickets, and you have no right to change the reservations in any way. Unlike Priceline, you don't "name your own price", so that you don't risk overpaying significantly for your tickets. Furthermore, you won't have to wait for an email that tells you whether your offer was accepted or rejected. Be sure to check the Hotwire Experiences on the Cagey Consumer Twiki site. If you still want to try Priceline, check out the Bidding For Travel web site.
- Internet Air Fares
Each weekday morning, this site scans through the airlines' computerized reservations system database, and finds the lowest fares for travel between about 30 different cities. When the lowest fare is found to be substantially reduced from what it was previously, it is featured in the Big Fare Cuts section. If you want to pick up on exceptional fares using this service, you will need to check it daily (the best deals typically are pulled in two or three days, some are pulled later on the same day), be persistent, and be flexible in your travel plans.
- Lowestfare.com (aka Global Discount Travel)
The "discount" in the name of this travel service refers to its connection to Carl Icahn, who had a deal with TWA that allowed him to offer discounts of 20% to 25% off of published fares. The re-bankruptcy of TWA makes it unlikely that they will continue to be able to make this offer.
This leaves the question as to how well they can meet the promise of "lowest fare" implied by their name. Lowestfare's reservation system doesn't try to show you the lowest fares until after you select your travel dates, a definite disadvantage compared to some other sites. Unfortunately, it is frequently unsuccessful at actually finding the lowest published fare for the dates you specify. On top of this, Cagey found that it isn't very good at paying attention to the time of day you indicate you want to travel, even when you request "time-matched" fares.
OneTravel.com (aka FareBeater)
Their FareBeater service gives very spotty results for domestic fares. They do seem to provide the Carl Icahn 20% discount on flights on TWA, for as long as that is likely to last. It may be a more useful site for checking fares to Europe and for checking rental car rates.
This is the production version of ITA Software's flight search engine. A big advantage offered by Orbitz is its ability to do flight and fare searches that apply to multiple origin and destination airports It also makes it easy to switch to different views of the results, allowing you to view results by airline, airport, or number of stops. Unfortunately, it's not as good as the original ITA Software beta site, but you'll have to use Orbitz to make reservations.
Simply Quick helps you choose from among the fare search engines based on its research which shows which search engines are best for a given departure city.
Includes a low-fare notification service.
Travel Discounts [$] Travelocity (login with EaasySabre id)
Travelocity is Sabre's replacement for the old EaasySabre. Travelocity now makes it very easy to find the cheapest published fares, when you indicate that your travel dates are flexible. It will usually advise you if you could get a lower fare by flying in or out of a different airport than the one you specify. It can sometimes be tedious going through each fare it finds, but this does give you a lot of control over the itinerary. However, it is limited to using a single fare code for an itinerary... meaning that you will occasionally have to use one of the other options in order to book the fares you find with this option.
US Airways Reservations International Air Fare search
- Luxury Link Traveler (accommodations)
Tips for bidding at priceline.com.
- Airport Hotel Guide
- Hostel Reservations Worldwide
- Hotel Wiz
Searchable weekend internet airfare and hotel offers.
Coupons on popular hotels.
It is suggested that you do not book any reservations through this site, as they impose additional charges and obligations beyond what you would pay booking direct with the hotel, and charge your credit card immediately for the full amount of the booking. They refer you to their "user agreement" for additional information about the immediate charging policy, but the user agreement actually provides no relevant information about this policy.
- Sunterra Resorts
Sunterra is a timeshare operator, and while buying timeshares from them is probably a pretty bad deal, using some of their "excess inventory" (meaning they have lots of spare capacity) as your vacation accommodations may save you a good deal of money.
- USA Hotel Guide
USA Hotel Guide has one of the widest selections of hotels among the online discount reservation services.
Ground Transportation (including car rentals, shuttles, parking)
Discounted rental car rates at major airport locations.
Easy way to shop for best car rental rates.
Contract car rental rates at airport and non-airport locations.
- Free Parking at SFO
Request email coupon for one day of free off-airport parking at San Francisco Airport.
- UK Airport Parking
Get rate quotes for parking at major airports throughout the UK.
Advisories & Reference Information
- Azoos Travel Resources
This is a useful list of travel resources from the Azoos search engine.
- airport codes
- airline reservation numbers
- airline reservation numbers & web sites (Princeton University)
- Air Traveler's Handbook
This is the FAQ posting for the rec.travel.air newsgroup, containing links to airlines, bucket shops. online reservation systems, etc.
- Concierge.com Expert Travel Advice
- U. S. Department of Transportation
Guide to getting the best air fares.
- Are Cheapest Fares Online? (alternate link) (ABC, 12/12/2000)
Perils and pitfalls of shopping for airfares online, and the better alternative to Priceline, hotwire.com.
- Priceline: The Real Story (eSmarts Travel, 7/1998)
- Hotel Deals for the Asking (CNN, 4/27/1998)
If you can't get a lower rate, maybe you can get a free movie?
- Fare Game (Washington Post, 12/14/1997)
This story indicates that the lowest fare promises don't hold water.
Cagey Consumer Good Deals page
Clicks on green links support the Cagey Consumer web site.
[$] == fee for services site
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