EXEC shows you some great sites that’ll help you make cheap and efficient flight bookings and also some of their major pitfalls.
Finding the flight that is right for you – price, convinience and efficieny-wise – can prove to be a tricky business. Especially when you are presented with so many options, permutations and combinations. Which airlines give special discounts on round trips? Should you wait a while for the price to drop? Can you save more by breaking your jouney, taking a different route? Is this detour worth your time? Here are a few websites that might help you make your decision.
The internet is abuzz with the incredibly efficient Orbitz’s matrix display, which allows users to easily narrow down their choices based on different criteria (number of stops, flying time, price and more).
Special Features: The site’s functionality especially stands out when your dates are flexible. For example, if you want to take a weekend trip in the coming month, instead of doing four different searches for each weekend, just one flexi search gives you the fares and timings of flights to your destination for all the month’s weekends.
Let Downs: The site only gives information on the three major Indian carriers – Air India, Jet and Kingfisher. This along with the fact that all prices are displayed in USD.
Microsoft’s answer to Google Flights, Bing Travel gives the best available fares across multiple travel sites, a Rate Indicator (set up to highlight the best hotel deals), travel deals, comparison light and fare alerts.
Special Features: Though the Price Predictor isn’t yet available for Indian flights, this is the site’s biggest USP. It is designed to forecast how airfare prices are going to evolve based on past performances. The site advices you on whether you can wait for the prices to drop or if it is better to purchase right away as there is a chance that the prices will go up (they promise an 75 percent accuracy)
Let Downs: Similar to Orbitz, the site doesn’t work to its full potential for Indian flights. Prices are in USD and a cursory view of the flights available are disappointing. However when it does get its act together for the Indian scene, it will beat all the country’s current top travel sites hands down.
A venerable name in the travel website scene, Kayak is widely recognised as the best site to begin researching your travel options. Kayak.com scours service providers, booking sites and international sites to come up with the best offers on flights, hotels, rental cars and cruises.
Special Features: A search-only site, Kayak’s algorithm throws up airfares that the airlines sell only on their own sites and links you directly to the site offering the travel option you select. Their filters are very effective and thorough and thankfully, the prices are displayed in INR.
Let Downs: The search,which ignores budget airlines like IndiGo, SpiceJet, Go Air and the like that account for about 40% of the air traffic in the country, is by no means extensive. Also bookings can’t be done via the site.
One of the earliest sites to introduce India to the online travel planning experience, the site has a robust search engine which makes sure the user can make an informed and well-researched decision. The site also allows users to compare fares across Yatra and Goibibo.
Special Features: There are some subtantial cashback offers and discounts when you opt for booking both flights and stay through the site.
Let Downs: The site could do with a revamp. It’s a shame that some of the most extensive search results are buried under an archaic and cumbersome interface.
Goibibo is a subscidiary of ibibo Web Private Limited and provides facilities to search for and book domestic air tickets in India. The site also incorporates holiday packages and hotel deals.
Special Features: The search engine here as well is very effective and the results are easy to filter. The site highlights special round trip discounts for each airline which can at times save you upto 20% on the total fare.
Let Downs: As the site deals exclusively with domestic tickets, we might have to find another address for your international travel needs. Also the internet is crawling with consumer complaints about the site’s booking process, which still needs some serious troubleshooting.
Yatra, with its wide patronage among India’s traveler community, doesn’t need an introduction. The site is extremely user friendly, with options to display the results via an airline matrix. The results themselves give a lot of information right away, like meal options, baggage limits, layover times, refundability, fare breakdown and more, without users having to click on the particular flight.
Special Features: Yatra’s own miles program awards loyalty points or Yatra Miles on buying travel services with them which can be used to earn discounts on your future transactions at Yatra.com.
Since it’s inception in 2000, makemytrip has always been among the top 3 travel sites in India. Although the layout and information delivery to very similar to Yatra.com, this site fare grid is much more evolved.
Special Features: Visitors have the option of Car Rentals in popular Indian cities though bus and train bookings have been given the miss.
New Heights of Social Networking
Estonian Air ‘Flight Book’
With a Facebook application called ‘Flight Book’, the Estonian Air was the first airline to allow its passengers who wanted their names and flight dates to be shared publicly to view who is on the same flight with them and contact other passengers to agree on sitting next to each other.
KLM ‘Meet & Seat’
KLM’s ‘Meet and Seat’ scheme, launched early this year, encourages passengers to pick seatmates based on interest and occupation by checking their profiles on Facebook and Linkedin who would link to their profiles during check-in.
Amin Khan, Executive VP Commercial Strategy at Malaysia Airlines says, “Our passengers are spending more and more time using social networks. With MHbuddy we are pleased to provide our fans an easy way to book a ticket without having to leave Facebook. In doing so, we have also opened another distribution channel for ticket sales.”