Saturday, April 07, 2007

The NYT reviews travel bargain finder services

It feels like we're completely outgunned by the airlines when it comes to pricing strategies, but there's no lack of sites trying to find a way to stay in the game. The NYT has a nice review. I'm going to add several of these to my old business travel page (emphases mine)
Sifting Data to Uncover Travel Deals - New York Times

... The Internet abounds with offers for low fares. You can find them on the major Internet travel agent sites like Orbitz, Travelocity or on more specialized sites like Cheaptickets.com or Sidestep.com.

Farecast.com, which gathered a following with technology that enables it to predict the direction of airfares on a particular route, is back with another innovation that it says can distinguish the best deals in air travel....

...George Hobica, a former travel writer, says he thinks that fare-finder sites that rely only on data feeds miss bargains mainly because they do not include the information from Southwest Airlines. Southwest offers bargain fares but does not share its information with other Web sites. He started airfare based on the idea that “technology can fail.

...For the hard-core traveler, the kind who wants to make sure he has the highest odds of making that meeting in Manhattan, there is Flightstats.com. It compiles statistics not just by airline, but by each flight. So, for instance, if you wanted to see which flights between Atlanta and Newark are most prone to problems, you would go to its Flight Rating section and find that while Continental Flight 1154 is on time 96 percent of the time, Continental Flight 1156 is on time only 44 percent of the time and was canceled or diverted 6 percent of the time over the last 60 days.

The site also helpfully lays out vital bits of information you need to make a decision. For instance, it cites the number of flights on a particular route. The on-time statistics become more relevant if you know only two flights were made on a particular route, not 54.

... One source of data at FlightStats on frequent-flier promotions comes from Boaz Shmueli, who runs MileMaven.com and PointMaven. If your goal in life is to accumulate enough points to get free flights to Hawaii for the family vacation, you will want to frequent these sites...

... Google Mobile’s (www.google.com/intl/en-us/mobile/sms/) text messaging service for cellphones provides information in a pinch. You can get flight arrival or departure information (it comes from Flightstats) by typing in the flight number, like “Jetblue 91” on your phone’s SMS service and sending the query to 466453. (That is Google on the keypad, in case you want to remember it.)

You can also get the phone number of an airline, which can come in handy when you have just learned a flight has been canceled. (While other frustrated travelers shove each other in line at the counter, you make a few calls.) Google also offers to translate words into foreign languages and provides driving directions.

Orbitz also makes flight information available to cellphone users. Type in orbitz.com from any Web-enabled phone and you can also get information about hotels that are near the airport in 20 major cities. It details room availability and prices.

Nextag.com, the comparison shopping site, scours other Web sites for deals on electronics, clothing and other products. Now it searches Web sites like Orbitz, hotels.com and cheaptickets.com to compile a list of hotels. It makes a similar effort for car rentals...

1 comment:

Paul said...

I recently made an emergency trip from Mt. to Ca., my mother was having problems. I booked a round trip flight through Expedia. After arriving in Ca., the decision was made for my mother to return with me to Mt. I didn't have access to a computer so I called Alaska Air directly and purchased a ticket for my mother. Then circumstances dictated that I return to Mt. sooner than expected, I contacted a friend who contacted Expedia online to change my flight, meanwhile I called Alaska Air to change my mother's ticket. Alaska Air was very helpful and changed the date. Expedia gave me phone #s to call which I did, but in the end they said they could not change the date and that the only way for me to accompany my 90yr old mother was to purchase another ticket. Dealing directly with the airline was much easier, faster, the airfare was the same price, and they were much more accomadating. In the future, I will go directly to the airline, I thought the Expedia was to make travel easier and lower cost, but it only increased problems and ultimately cost me an additional fare.