Affordable Travel Guide to Flight Comparison Websites

Fares versus Fares; Who has the Accurate and Most Current Info?

Flight Comparison Websites

Flight comparison websites, like any other data source, are dependent upon in-the-minute information, accuracy of data and the limits of their own scope. What flight comparison websites attempt to achieve is a broad-stroke comparison of the prices of airline tickets so that readers can compare virtually before they book and pay for a flight.

The fact is that no one source exists that can provide a fully comprehensive listing and comparison chart of all flights for any given destination on any given day. Why? Because airlines’ information changes so fast, and not all airlines make their schedules and fares available via data feed. The flight comparison websites are dependent upon the availability of information.

How Can You Handle Your Own Flight Comparisons?

Unless you are planning a flight to one of the busiest destinations in the world (think Paris, London, New York, Toronto, Chicago, etc.), odds are there are a handful of airlines that service the airport you’ll be departing from and the one where you are going. Use Affordable Travel’s website data for a complete list of airlines and airports, or go to the website of your local airport and you’ll find a list of airlines that fly from there. Review each airline’s list of flights and compare. That’s the slow, perhaps more methodical way. And maybe you don’t have time for that approach.

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The number of airlines servicing your airport can have a major impact on the cost of flights to your destination. But some travelers like to see a chart that enables them to scan quickly and find the cheapest airfares all on one page. If you accept that such a chart may not include every possible option, then flight comparison websites might offer enough information for you to make and execute your plans.

Here are some tips to keep in mind if you do decide to employ flight comparison websites as part of your search for cheap airline tickets:

  • Don’t be surprised if what the flight comparison website has posted differs when you go to book the actual airline tickets. Things can change in seconds.
  • Don’t use flight comparison websites to find out flight status or flight tracking; that’s not their mandate or intention, and if they offer that service, you may find inaccuracies.
  • Be flexible as to the dates and times you fly so that you can take advantage of the airlines that offer reduced fares on specific days and at certain times that are less popular. Most reliable flight comparison websites will have facts to help you figure out the various alternatives.
  • Always compare apples to apples. If a flight comparison website shows a certain fare for a flight from, for example, Vancouver to Los Angeles, you need to dig deeper to find out why the cheapest fare is so low; is there a stopover or some other restriction, or maybe an extra charge for checked luggage?
  • Make sure the flight comparison website quotes all fares in the same currency. Most use U.S. dollars, but not all.
  • Once you have found what you believe is the best available fare for your travel destination through a flight comparison website, confirm it through the airline’s own website before you automatically book it, whether directly or through a consolidator.

Is There an Alternative?

There’s always an alternative, and anything or any service that enables you to do your homework very quickly should be regarded with some level on sense. It’s fast and easy, but not comprehensive. Still, if you’re tight for time and want to get a good grip on what flights are available at what price, it’s a start. And don’t forget to check out a travel agency; they mostly charge a fee, but it might save you more than their fee and then some in savings.

Flight comparison websites can be a good tool for a general examination of comparable flights and airfares, but don’t take any of the data as gospel. This is a pretty decent place to start your flight price comparison research, but the onus is on you, not the flight comparison websites, to ensure the information is correct. They mostly have published caveats that ensure they are not liable for your decisions (read: mistakes). Once you’ve bought and paid for your ticket, there may be no option for changes.

The alternative? Good old-fashioned detective work! But you have to be quick; this changes fast in the world of cheap airline tickets and last minute packages. If you find one that’s what you want and within your budget, jump on it!

Popular Flight Comparison Websites

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