Searching for the lowest airfare can be a frustrating and time-consuming process. Airlines like Southwest and other low-cost carriers typically don't appear in most aggregator searches, so that means you have to check them individually, which adds more search time. You might even be duplicating your efforts if you search sites like Orbitz and Travelocity since Expedia owns these. If you're on the hunt for the best websites to compare airfare prices, give these a try.
Airfarewatchdog is a great site for those who travel a lot from the same home airport as you can set up email alerts to find the best deals to several domestic and international destinations. Unlike some companies that use computers to analyze fares, Airfarewatchdog uses people to search and monitor rates manually.
You don't book flights directly on their site, but it sends you to other third-party search and booking sites.
Airfarewatchdog has a few other travel resources, including a section to compare travel credit cards, hotel prices, and more. Be sure to check out their travel blog to keep up on the latest news and resources to help you save money on your upcoming travels. Users looking for upcoming deals, without exact dates in mind, will benefit from Airfarewatchdog the most, while travelers searching for a very specific detailed itinerary may not find the site as user friendly.
- Pros: Airfarewatchdog compares fares on Southwest Airlines and low-cost carriers like Allegiant and Skybus, which only publish fares directly on their own sites.
- Cons: Airfarewatchdog doesn't monitor as many routes and fares as some of the other sites.
KAYAK is a popular airline aggregator site that offers the ability to do a very detailed search for flights. You can choose specific travel dates and times as well as cabin class. Add in flexible dates and nearby airports to maximize your search results.
You don't book flights directly on KAYAK; it refers you to third-party booking agents. Some of the biggest complaints on sites like Consumer Affairs indicate that customer service through their agents is seriously lacking. Other complaints include high change fees and displayed fares not being available at the time of booking.
- Pros: Detailed filter searches on KAYAK include advice on whether to buy now or wait based on historical trends. The site also offers a flexible grid of prices and fare alert emails.
- Cons: You may not find the best results when using secondary cities/itineraries, and fees often are not clearly explained on third-party booking agents.
As mentioned above, Expedia is the parent company of a number of other online travel agent and aggregator sites, including Orbitz and Travelocity. Searching the three is likely going to result in the same fares or a miniscule price difference.
Because Expedia is an online travel agent, you can book directly on the site. It's best to create an account rather than try to check out as a guest, as it will make it easier to track your travels and contact customer service if, and when, needed. However, the site does save all your searches in a "scratchpad," even if you are not logged in.
- Pros: Expedia is easily one of the biggest online travel agents.
- Cons: Expect lots of pop ups and distractions.
Momondo is one of the most popular flight search sites, continually being ranked as one of the best. Interestingly, it's part of the KAYAK subsidiary of The Priceline Group. Frommer's recommends Momondo as their top pick for the best airfare search sites, as they provide shortcuts to the cheapest, quickest, and best overall results. Plus, they have a fare calendar graph that shows price averages for a wider range of time.
- Pros: Great for multi-city and complex bookings, Momondo is consistently the cheapest. It offers an easy user interface, particularly on mobile.
- Cons: You will need to do thorough research on the reputation of smaller booking sites before purchasing, because they use a number of options that may not be as well known.
Google purchased the licensing rights to ITA Matrix back in 2011, which is what many of the aggregators use to filter flight prices in search results. The Telegraph recommends Google Flights as one of their best flight booking comparison sites primarily for its speed and for its responsiveness on both desktop and mobile.
Google Flights will highlight the best options in search results, even noting cheaper flights that are close to your travel dates. It does fall a little short with international searches, sometimes recommending the train as a better option for getting to or around Europe. The Points Guy points out features like the map that allows you to drag and drop your chosen route to another destination to compare how the fare changes, and there is a bar graph that lets you see how fares rise and fall over a specific timeframe.
If you're curious how to use sites like Google Flights or Momondo, Scott's Cheap Flights has a great tutorial and comparison of the two popular aggregators.
- Pros: Two of the greatest strengths of Google Flights are availability and the quick search results.
- Cons: Google Flights is not great with international routes or with finding the absolute cheapest flights.
Known for its stellar round-the-clock customer service, CheapOair is a great option to search the cheapest rates. Sign up with your email address and you can get a booking coupon for up to $20 off fees.
Search results are ranked based on price, so the cheapest is at the top, and you can filter by shortest and most-direct routes.
Be wary of CheapOair's fees. They tack on fees for every ticket type-and you'll be hit with things like cancellation fees that may even cost more than your original package. Seniors, bereaved, or active military can inquire about getting fees waived if you cancel over the phone. Also look for online promotions and coupons to reduce processing fee charges.
- Pros: In addition to the Best Price Guarantee, you will also gain access to 24/7 customer service with live chat. CheapOair boasts over 5,000 TrustPilot reviews/ratings.
- Cons: Wait time for customer service can be high depending on time of day and there is a processing fees on tickets.
Note: A site often confused with CheapOair, called Cheapair, is another decent airline search and booking site.
Yapta is a unique airfare search site that you should use in conjunction with other options. Its FareIQ technology searches your purchased flight to see if it goes down. Enter the flight locator number and it will send you an alert if the fare drops. It will even include change fees and let you know if the new fare is lower. You can also search a specific flight number to see what the fares are and whether it drops within a specific time frame.
The Points Guy recommends Yapta as one of his 10 best web resources for cheap airfare, calling it "a partial cure for travel-buyers' remorse."
- Pros: FareIQ technology can offer you some peace of mind in case the cost of your flight drops after you've already purchased a ticket.
- Cons: Because of how the site works, this isn't as useful for when you are still actively shopping for current fares.
Aggregator Versus Booking Sites
It's important to know that there are different options when it comes to comparing airfare prices.
Aggregator, or search sites, compare prices and take you to third party booking agents to complete your purchase. These are options like Google Flights, Skyscanner, Hipmunk, or Momondo. Online booking sites are companies like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, CheapOair, Hotwire, and Priceline, which allow you to book directly on the website.
Convenience and Cost Savings
Online agents sites may be able to find flight combinations using multiple airlines, an option you wouldn't find if you were searching via airline sites alone. This can definitely be a benefit as you only have to enter your contact info and credit card one time, something that can be challenging when navigating foreign-based, non-English airlines. These airlines may not accept certain cards, which makes the whole process even more frustrating.