Researching and booking your flights has become so much easier in the last 20 years I have been travelling the world, and thanks to the internet the potential traveller is now spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing what earch engines, aggregators and booking engines to book their flights with.
This article was originally written in 2016 and has been updated first in 2018 and now for January 2022 to reflect changes in the market with many companies closing down over 2020 and new companies emerging.
The travel industry can be very temperamental when it comes to booking flights, especially with wildly fluctuating prices and peak time price hikes. Thankfully there are also a ton of little tips, tricks and travel hacks to save you a lot of money too.
One of the best ways you can save money is by knowing exactly what search engines, aggregators and OTAs can get you the lowest price on flights, and with a turbulent couple of years seeing so many old favourites going out of business and some of the biggest names no longer fit for purpose, knowing where to book your flight has never been more important.
Here are a list of some of the best online resources for booking your flights.
The Best Flight Booking Resources.
A great engine that is perfect for searching out budget flight deals for both short haul and international flights and unlike many aggregates and OTAs (Online Travel Agencies) they also have hotel and car deals too. Momondo really has risen from nothing to become one of the absolute must use sites in the last five years and has one of the best and most consistent low fare OTAs out there as well as showing you options from other aggregators, even ones that may be slightly cheaper.
Kiwi is a relative newcomer to this list but has exploded in popularity in recent years thanks to its solid search engine, consistently great fares and varied options including not just codeshares but options with different airlines too (it’s up to you if you want to balance a cheaper fare with the absolving of airline responsibility if anything goes wrong with delays or cancellations) and brilliant multi city round the world tickets with its Nomad engine. There are also some great guarantees built into booking with them which make this a solid option.
Skiplagging is a controversial hack that airlines hate, where you buy an itinerary with multiple stops that may be cheaper than the one way or return fare to the destination you actually want, and then you ditch the rest of the flights you don’t need when you get to your destination (usually in the middle of the itinerary). So if you want to fly from London to Egypt for example and a one way flight is £500, but you can find a one way flight from London, to Cairo then the UAE for £200, and just happen to ‘miss’ the flight to the UAE, which one will you choose? Now some people have a problem with this and say it is unethical, personally I say it is unethical for the airline industry to create a pricing structure that makes this possible, but hey, you can make your own mind up.
This aggregator has risen very quickly up the ranks in recent years and may have started out only as a ‘skipplagging’ aggregator but has evolved to include legitimate fares too, and has become one of the best aggregator sites out there for the cheapest fares. I also like the ‘anywhere’ search option!
One of the best agregates out there and one of my absolute must use websites, Skyscanner has a huge list of airlines that it searches through, including a lot of budget carriers. This site should be one of your starting points in your price comparison research. What I love about Skyscanner is that it is such an enabler of spontaneous travel, as you can put in your home airport, click some rough dates you want to travel, and it will show you flights all over the world based on price! Great if you want to travel but don’t know where.
No longer the best option on price and it has for some reason removed many useful features such as a flexible date option, Kayak is still a great option with a huge database of airlines and flight brokers to search through and help you find a decent baseline for fares. They have a US site and a UK site, so which one you use would obviously depend on where you wanted to leave from.
Travelzoo is a great search engine that offers a much broader range of flexibility options for travellers and back[ackers who want to head to a region within a rough time frame but aren’t ultra picky on exactly when and what time they get there. This flexibility option can net you some great deals you will not find on other aggregates and even included discounted business class flights or upgrades and multi city itineraries. Perfect for backpackers.
Given Googles omniprescent monopoly over everything else it isn’t surprising that it is trying to take over the flight booking engine space too, but annoyingly it does it quite well. It is a simple but effective search engine based on the ITA Matrix initially developed for travel agents, that gives you decent search options (including entire regions and countries instead of just single cities and airports) and displays the flight prices for all destinations. It then takes you directly to the airline or OTA. It doesn’t always find the best deals however but is a solid search engine for comparing prices.
Ones To Avoid.
Once one of my favourite sites when it concentrated almost exclusively on Asia, this site has expanded to the rest of the world and still offers some great results. However in recent years it has become notorious for bad practices and illegal credit card charges, earning it a ton of complaints on the Better Business Bureau and an unaccredited ‘F’ rating from them. I certaily wouldn’t trust it enough to book with them anymore.
Once one of the biggest and most popular agregates out there and probably a victim of its own success in many ways after swallowing up other former big players like Travelocity, Expedia is now best known for returning average flights and fares that are far, far from the best options. There is nothing wrong with having a look of course, but don’t expect anything great from it anymore.
One of my perennial favourite sites, and also the one I booked my very first flight with over twenty years ago! This awesome company for those under 26 or students unfortunately fell victim to the great travel industry shutdown during the pandemic and ceased operating in 2020. It will be sadly missed.
It is important to remember that no matter how good an individual site is you should stuill always use a few sites and shop around. Not every aggregator will have every airline, not every OTA will let you book every option. Sometimes it is even better to book direct. Either way these sites will be a great starting point for you to research and book your flights!
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