Finding cheap flights among a dizzying array of online fares often takes a great deal of time. Airlines price flights based on their own individual criteria, and different travel sites display fares according to different search algorithms, traveler priorities, and negotiated deals. Sometimes, the best way to save time and money is to book with an online travel agency.
Different airlines use different systems to price their fares. Travel websites utilize a Computerized Reservation System (CRS), which contains ticket and fare reservation information for most airlines. For each ticket sold from the CRS, airlines pay around twelve dollars. For this reason, some airlines have opted out of CRS, which means that travelers must contact their websites directly for fares.
Computer algorithms also determine differences in fares. Airlines file their reservation times with a clearing house called ATPCO, which then files the information with different CRSs. Each CRS has different search algorithms, and so do the different search engines on the travel websites. Some search engines look for fares within four hours of the time entered by the traveler, while other search engines search the full day’s worth of fares, to find the best deals.
A traveler’s search criteria will determine fares. Fares may be sorted by shortest travel time, or by the fewest number of connecting flights. Different websites, and different passengers, will place a priority on different search criteria, when looking for flights. If passengers prefer no layovers, for instance, then they will receive information only about direct flights near their selected time of day. Because they do not want layovers, they will not see the cheapest fares.
Different channels will display different fares for the same flight. Many airlines prefer that customers purchase tickets directly from the airline’s website, because this lowers ticket distribution and customer service costs for the airlines. To reward the customers for using the airline website, carriers will offer the lowest fares to those customers.
Travelers must consider all fees, in addition to quoted airfare prices, before purchasing tickets. The prices that the website quotes should include all taxes and associated fees. Additionally, because airlines do not want to pay commissions to websites for advertising their fares, websites often pass those charges along to the customer. The final amount that the customer pays must be broken down to include every line item fee that is charged.
Airlines often partner with travel websites to offer exclusive deals. A travel website may choose one airline as its preferred carrier for a certain route, because of a deal that the website has negotiated with that airline. In many cases, promises of unbiased information from many large websites are simply not founded in reality. To find low fares, customers have no choice but to search multiple channels.
Searching the web for great airfares is a time-consuming hassle. To make the search for cheap flights easier, travelers should consider booking with an online travel agency. Travel agents complete the search on behalf of their clients, finding inexpensive fares, and saving valuable time.