Travel Technology News - North America.

 
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Dec 6, 2009

You are looking to book a vacation but want the cheapest possible airfare . There are countless Web sites out there with airfare searches, but some offer substantially cheaper flights than others. Most travelers will scour several sites before actually booking a ticket. So we decided to put 10 of our favorite sites to the test. We looked at cost, flight options and ease of use. The idea was to look at five random itineraries and see which site offered the best fares. The results will surprise you. While some trips were nearly identical across the board, others differed dramatically from site to site. All searching was done Friday, Oct. 30. The trips selected were: New York to Denver from Nov. 26 to Nov. 29 (nothing like a little Thanksgiving travel, the lessons of which can now be applied to Christmas), Chicago to London from Dec. 14 to Dec. 21, Nashville to Omaha from Dec. 3 to Dec. 10, San Francisco to Houston from Nov. 19 to Nov. 23 and, finally, Minneapolis to Miami from Jan. 10 to Jan. 15. We should note that none of these sites include Southwest Airlines, which likes to keep its system to itself and not pay out booking referral fees. (For our search, this did not matter because Southwest was not cheaper on any of the routes.) Stay Up to Date on the Latest Travel Trends from ABC News on Twitter Travelocity This might be one of the big powerhouses of the travel industry, but when looking for airfare, we found the site was clunky and not cheaper than any of the others. Travelocity no longer charges to book flights and, like other sites, guarantees that if you book a vacation package and the fare drops (the exact same flights and hotel on the same dates), you will get that lower price. The real annoyance here was that Travelocity kept trying to sell us hotel rooms. Also, the price here wasn't extremely clear. The price (with taxes and fees) was listed but not displayed as large as the initial price. Finally, Travelocity automatically clicked the "yes" button next to purchasing additional flight protection for USD39.95 a person on our London flight. Our searches on the site averaged 20 seconds. For New York to Denver, the cheapest Travelocity fare was USD419 with tax, with one stop on United. The cheapest nonstop was USD432 on Delta. We eventually found two nonstop flights for USD403 on other sites (we'll get to that in a minute) leaving on Delta and returning on Continental. Chicago to London didn't fare much better. The best Travelocity gave us was a USD836 nonstop on American Airlines. Three other sites (Expedia, Fly.com and ITASoftware) gave us USD829 nonstop, leaving on United and coming back on BMI. (Hey, it's USD7.) Travelocity didn't show the cheaper one-stop connections, including a popular USD811 on KLM that several other sites provided and two other options we found on other sites for USD805 and USD807. Check Out Travelocity for San Francisco to Houston All 10 sites we reviewed came in with Midwest Airlines as the cheapest airfare for the Nashville to Omaha route. Travelocity matched the cheapest fare we found, USD251. (Only one site, Cheapoair, had the same ticket for higher: USD279.90.) Travelocity was the winner for the San Francisco to Houston route, giving us a USD411 nonstop on a US Airways flight operated by United and USD345 for an Alaska-Continental one-stop package. Finally, for the Minneapolis to Miami itinerary, Travelocity and eight of the other sites found us the exact same deals: USD266 with one stop on AirTran or USD315 nonstop on Delta or Northwest (now the same airline). Again, the only outlier was Cheapoair, which was higher at USD290 for the AirTran flights and USD339 for the nonstops. Expedia The site layout here is very similar to Travelocity, and the company also doesn't charge any booking fees. Expedia was among one of the sites with the cheapest airfare for the New York to Denver route. We also found a USD10 cheaper fare here for the Nashville to Omaha trip, but we wouldn't have learned the flight times or airline until the purchase was made. (Our review did not include Priceline and Hotwire, which will often sell cheaper tickets under such conditions.) And while Expedia was cheaper than Travelocity on the Chicago to London trip, we noticed that the American Airlines flights given to us by Travelocity were USD45 more on Expedia. Searches here averaged about 23 seconds. Orbitz Most of the flights here were competitive with the other sites. For Chicago to London, Orbitz found the USD811 one-stop flight on KLM and the United/BMI nonstop, although the Orbitz price was USD10 more than some other sites. One of the nice features of this site was that it showed you both the outbound and inbound flights on one screen. Several other sites made us click through a few pages to get all the details about our journey. Searches here was just 17 seconds during our average test. Sidestep and Kayak These two sites have now merged and while they operate two independent URLs, the sites are identical in use....

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