My favorite is Google Flights
It's easy to chose cites, dates, length of trip, etc. There is even a map where you can "explore destinations" which shows prices across the country/world for your selected dates.
I'm sure there are many great tools, but this is my go to option when I start looking.
I agree Google Flights is the best! Also agree that booking the flight on the airlines website is the best and the Google Flight Tool provides you a link to the airline's website.
I won't use a 3rd party website because they pile on change/cancellation fees. Further, I have never once paid more for a ticket on an airline website than I have on a 3rd party website. Also, one time I booked a ticket on a 3rd party website, thinking I was getting a good deal. Instead of informing me that I had to go to the airline website to select my seats, and oh, by the way, seat selection costs extra (I had never flown this particular airline), they just told me I had to select my seat through the airline after I purchased the ticket. Later, it was a rude surprise to discover I had to purchase a seat assignment from the airline, as that is their sales model. If I had known, I would've paid more and flown with a preferred airline who didn't charge for seat assnments, the cost being equal at the end of the day. Had I originally tried to purchase the ticket directly through the airline, I would have become aware of the extra charge prior to purchasing my ticket. So for me, live and learn. And use search engines for research, then book directly with the airline.
What's the use of a search engine if you won't book a cheaper rate on any other website and you're only interested in booking directly with the specific airline anyhow? It won't make sense of using a search engine in your case: just use that specific airline's website (or are you enjoying using search engines to realize how much you pay more most of the times when you book directly with the airline? ).
fistuk, I know how I use the search engine. Research.
For me, I typically fly with just a handful of airlines (Delta, American, United, and Alaska) in the U.S. Using a search engine like Google Flights for comparison across different airlines and gives a good idea of pricing. Once I know what an average fare on a specific route is, I can watch for bargains to come along.
Just like I won't risk booking a Marriott stay anywhere other than their site for fear of not earning points, I don't book airfares on third party sites. I'll stick with the best price I can get with the specific airline while still earning mileage and credit toward elite status.
Now if I always used the same airline for all my travel, perhaps their website would be the best search tool. I am price sensitive (to a point) so always look for the best fare to my destination that still earns mileage on one of my preferred carriers.
fistuk, I'm with bejacob on this one. I always book directly with the airlines because I've found out the hard way that if your reservations aren't booked with the airline and all the flights aren't on the same reservation (or the reservations aren't tied together in the airline's system), then the airline has absolutely no responsibility to get you to your destination if your flight is canceled, you miss a connection, etc. Also, if you have elite status on United (I don't know about the other airlines), you will have access to seats and flights that do not show up as available on third party search engines. I found this out when a client was using Expedia to try to find me a flight and no flights showed up on the Expedia search. But when I searched on United.com after logging in, I could buy a seat on flights that showed up as sold out or didn't show up at all on third party sites. I have also heard horror stories about booking business or first class tickets on a third party site and having the carrier honor the tickets but only provide economy seats - in those cases, your remedy is with the third party website and not the airline, and that can really complicate things. Plus, nowadays the airlines are overselling flights, and the first people to get bumped (after the airline employees flying on free passes) are the ones who booked third party for a lower price and do not have status. United, for example, bumps in this order: 1. Employees on free tickets; 2. Third party purchases; 3. Lowest fare paid; 4) No status; then 5) Lower tiers of status.
But I do like Kayak.com to do an open one-month search to find good deals. That's how I found some $139 and $154 round-trip tickets to MIA from MSP which is a steal.
While I appreciate your comments & opinion on this matter, I would like to emphasize the simple fact that even if you book your flights on a 3rd party website, you will still be able to do everything you mentioned by using your airline booking code:
This code will always be provided to you, no matter where you book, and you can use it to access your booking on the airline's own website, thus capable of updating your mileage plus account number, selecting your seats and everything else you thought you could do only when booking directly with the airline.
If you have multiple flights and you like them all to be booked under one reservation it really doesn't make a difference where you book, but it's all about how you book.
The only thing I can point out as a real difference between the airline's website to all the others is the cancellation terms. Usually those are worse on a 3rd party website, but that's all there is.
But are you able to still get your perks of being an Elite flyer on the third party site such as your ability to gain access to a premium seat upon booking, get your miles and be listed able to use miles for an upgrade without having to be on a wait-list if you are able to get it period? These are some things that you get cut of from being able to do or at LEAST used to when using a third party booking agent.
I think the answer is "probably, yes." I just prefer a more definite answer. I've also found that (at least for me) 3rd party sites don't offer any cost savings over booking with the airline directly. Not to say it doesn't happen. It's just that when I look, the 3rd party site isn't any better than the airline site.
Even on the airline sites (especially DL) their cheapest fares may not be eligible for mileage. You really have to pay close attention.
That's exactly what I indicated above
You won't be able to enjoy your perks during the booking, but if you can wait a few minutes you'll be able to do that after you complete the booking on the 3rd party website: when you get the airline's booking code which you use to access the booking on the airline's website and update your membership number, select your seats etc'
All you guys really need to understand that where you book only affects who you pay for ticketing your reservation. It doesn't have anything to do with the perks you deserve.
* If you need to use your existing miles you can obviously do that only on the airline's website.
Yes that is correct. You get the benefits as if you book on the airline and get a code and ticket number, Once you have that you have to go to the airline to do the other stuff. What I don't like about third party bookings is that it does not show up when I sign on to my airline account..
Finally someone agrees with me Thanks peymanagement!
If you make sure to update your membership number during the booking process (most of 3rd party websites allow you to) than it will show up in your account.
I booked a United flight on a 3rd party website and because I took care of updating my mileage plus number it was showing on my mileage plus account.
Hey it's not that nobody agrees with you.....just curious as I've never used these things other than AMEX and used some AMEX points so really didn't give a rats butt about the airline site. You're just making me smarter and that is a very very tough task.
Come on now....don't go Misterchk on us!!!!!
IAHFLYR, when you did it through AMEX did you not still have to go to the airline for a seat and to check in? Or did AMEX do that for you? I really liked doing mine through AMEX, but I have not flown yet. the agent found me a premium economy seat on a trans-Atlantic flight for the same price as coach. He also directed me over to a 787 which he says is more comfortable.
peymanagement that's a very good question as it's been almost 18 months ago and I do believe I was able to select seats through AMEX. I did not use an agent booked it online through my account.
I've always just gone to the airline website to search for flights however, recently have been using AMEX Travel to search as at times they have some specials when you log. As I'm starting to search for a few travel spots I'll give Google Flights a look, thanks for the tip pal.
I use Travelocity to search, and then go to the Air Canada or Delta website to book. Like IAHFLYR, I have started to search and book on AMEX lately. If I do that, I call their concierge and let a real human do it for me. I will have my computer going and they have actually got me a better deal twice in the last year than I could find on line.
My most recent favorite is SkyPicker.com because of the flexibility it has for doing ambiguous searches if you don't know where you want to go.
You can set the origin as a radial area so you can include additional nearby airports.
For the destination you can do "Anywhere".
For the dates you can do date ranges and length of stay.
My only wish is that you could have it to iterative searches so that it could chain together multiple flights to fill a whole itinerary as I usually waste lots of time trying to do that manually.