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Stupid question: How do you buy cheap flights on the internet? Is… - Sally's Journal
June 26th, 2008
09:53 am

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Stupid question:

How do you buy cheap flights on the internet? Is there a website that's really good at doing comparisons of different airlines if you know where you want to go to when? Do you have to go to all the different websites, like ryanair and easyjet etc? How do you find out who flies from A to B?

Apologies if this is the sort of thing you can Just Google, but googling just seems to give me a huge range of commercial websites all of which want to sell me flights and have annoying user interfaces.

[I have previously Just Gone To Travel Agents, but that seems to be very stupid in the Bright New World of the future. And everyone else buys flights on-line, so how hard can it be?]

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From:megamole
Date:June 26th, 2008 09:01 am (UTC)
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Cheapflights (a client of ours).
Lastminute.com.
Ebookers.
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From:crazyscot
Date:June 26th, 2008 09:12 am (UTC)
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ARGH NO NOT EBOOKERS
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From:crazyscot
Date:June 26th, 2008 09:29 am (UTC)
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A fares search engine like travelocity, expedia, ebookers[-1] or BAA's web portal will tell you who amongst the non-budgets fly from A to B and on what routes (and try to sell you the tickets, and hotel, and hire car, and tickets routing you via Timbuktu if you're not careful). Personally I prefer to book with airlines direct for some unquantifiable reason, so if it's a simple ticket[0] I will then go to that airline's website and see if I can match that fare direct[1].

[-1] Do Not Book Anything Via Ebookers. Ever. Worst customer service imaginable. But their website does at least give you fares in pounds, unlike some of the others.
[0] I mean one-way or A<->B or A<->C<->B - no open jaws, round-the-world or anything else funky like that
[1] This doesn't always happen; some of the fare search engines are also consolidators, which means that they buy blocks of seats on particular flights and sell them on for whatever they can.

If you want to get fares for the budgets, you're stuck with approaching them individually. However you can usually at least get a list of the applicable budgets from the airport's website.

If you want something weird like open jaw, stopover, RTW, or a mixture of travel classes[2] you're straining the edges of the search engines. Your only real options there are the websites of individual airlines, where these are sufficiently clever like BA's, or to visit or ring a real travel agent - ideally one with a good reputation for knowing how to work the fare systems well.

[2] e.g. economy shorthaul to connect with suit-class longhaul

Note that I've talked about scheduled flights here. Charter flights are a different kettle of fish, of which I've very little experience save to note that they come with a set of pitfalls all their own[3]. They may appear on some of the travel search engines, but otherwise will generally only appear via tour operators and travel agents. Either way, whoever sells you a charter flight is under a moral duty to inform you that that's what you're getting.

[3] airlines you've never heard of; frequent delays

Oh, and double check everything before committing. Really. And make sure that the confirmation itinerary you get back is the itinerary you thought you were getting. And check the fine print, beware of odd flight combinations that make you transfer from e.g. Gatwick to Heathrow at your own expense.
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From:aiwendel
Date:June 26th, 2008 09:41 am (UTC)
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I'd do a google for 'cheap flights' look through some of the compilations which give different airlines going to where you want to go, then I'd go buy them from the airline itself, assuming they're cheaper from there.
On the individual airline websites they tend to do maps of where they go, but it's a slow process going through all of those individually...
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From:oedipamaas49
Date:June 26th, 2008 09:58 am (UTC)
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From:ext_72852
Date:June 26th, 2008 10:36 am (UTC)
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another vote for this. (although I think it's only europe?)
From:rmc28
Date:June 26th, 2008 10:12 am (UTC)
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Well, I won't fly budget airline any more, but when I did:

I went to each of ryanair, easyjet, etc in turn to see whether they went near where I wanted to go, and what fares they were offering at the right time.

I also once or twice picked up good deals from KLM, again directly.

Skyscanner (mentioned above) is also good.
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From:emperor
Date:June 26th, 2008 10:46 am (UTC)
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For complex journeys, I'd talk to a travel agent (probably a travelcounsellors one, since Keith was so good). For simple ones, the arilines' websites themselves are not bad...
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From:vanessapyjamas
Date:June 26th, 2008 10:50 am (UTC)
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Skyscanner is good and covers the whole world. It also checks non-budget airlines which can sometimes work out cheaper. Last time I went to Berlin I flew BA because it worked out cheaper to fly with them from Heathrow (which cost nothing to get to 'cos a friend gave me a lift) than fly Ryanair from Stansted, which would have involved shelling out for the Stansted Express.
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From:pozorvlak
Date:June 26th, 2008 11:07 am (UTC)
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Ooh! They're hiring! And they're located in Edinburgh! Butbutbut... impending climate death!

Bugger.
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From:cartesiandaemon
Date:June 26th, 2008 11:07 am (UTC)
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I just started doing this this year. (I resolved to go away to Europe sometimes last year, but really have this year.) Like many other things, I assumed it ought to be really easy, but like most other things it turned out to be a mess of different webpages. I only worked out what travel agents were for when considering the hypothetical question of how one would sell flights pre-internet. (Although, obviously, for many places in the world you may need local expertise.)

Friends recommended kayak.co.uk and expedia.com and they seemed to aggregate most airlines between them. But I don't have any experience, except to say that it worked for me travelling from European City X to European City Y and back.

Reading other comments, I see there's a lot I don't know. FWIW, kayak (and I think expedia) transfer you to the airline's webpage to actually buy, so I don't know anything about middle-men who actually sell flights.

Kayak had nice user interface features, such as being able to specify dates that were flexible before and after by some number of days, and filter the resulting hundreds of flights by unchecking boxes to see only ones to this airport, or only ones in the afternoon (or more precisely, with a little slider).

(And of course, if you know the airports specifically, you may be able to find which few airlines fly between them and search those directly.)
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From:weaselspoon
Date:June 26th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)
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I would first read this:
http://www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-flights
because he tends to know what he's talking about, but I haven't done it myself as I've only ever needed to book directly through a choice of one airline.
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From:wellinghall
Date:June 26th, 2008 03:14 pm (UTC)
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The excellent www.seat61.com tells you how to get to lots of places without flying ...
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From:atreic
Date:June 26th, 2008 03:22 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I do a lot of travelling by train, and I know a lot about buying train tickets on the internet.
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From:robert_jones
Date:June 28th, 2008 12:23 pm (UTC)
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I used edreams for my recent jaunt. It seemed to work.
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From:robert_jones
Date:June 28th, 2008 12:28 pm (UTC)
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So, doing a quick test, skyscanner says there are no flights from Lisbon to Rome on 13 August, whereas edreams says there are loads.
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From:bluap
Date:July 10th, 2008 05:01 am (UTC)
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Coming very late to the thread...

I use farecompare and/or expedia for checking for checking between airlines, but always use the airline's own website when booking.

Wikipedia is good for the "who flies from A to B" query: the articles on airports tend to have a list of all destinations.

(Disclaimer: charter flights won't be included in the above, and some budget airlines aren't searched by comparison sites)
From:writinghawk
Date:August 7th, 2008 06:40 pm (UTC)
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Another latecomer (I've been away):

If using these websites drives you totally insane and you prefer to talk to someone on the phone, I recommend DialAFlight (www.dialaflight.com) with whom I've always had good experiences. In particular they answer the phone quickly and are helpful even if you are vague about where and when you want to go. But I recommended them once to aldabra who IIRC found them rubbish, so your mileage may vary.

(BTW I'm back now and up for any dinner plans ...)
From:writinghawk
Date:August 7th, 2008 06:41 pm (UTC)
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Actually I wasn't away, I just missed this question at the time ...
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