Wading Through the Flight Comparison Jungle

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Choosing Flight Comparison Sites

A Travel Tip by Stephanie Bartup

When it comes to planning your next hiking holiday, how do you start the search process? Some people use every flight comparison search engine available to try and find the best deal for the destination they have in mind, while others religiously book direct and then curse their fellow passengers for finding a better deal.

More and more savvy tourists are choosing to use flight comparison sites to make sure they get the best deal on a return flight, a round-trip or a complete package holiday. But is there too much choice out there when it comes to search engines, and are we beginning to spend so much times searching the flight comparison sites that we are actually missing the better bargains?

Often, some of the more complex sites can be difficult to work around – especially if you don’t have firm dates in mind and are just looking for an idea of when the cheapest place to fly to a destination might be. Of course, with the added complication of airlines constantly fluctuating their fees, it’s difficult to know what the optimum price is.

One comparison site might show up a bargain price for one trip that you’ve plugged in, while a search for another destination will reveal one of the more expensive prices in the market. Another major issue flight comparison users have is knowing what is included in the price they are being shown – are all the taxes payable added in, is luggage included – there’s an endless list of exceptions that could add on tens or even hundreds of pounds later on in the search process.

Other search engines might show up what appears to be an absolute steal for a flight, only for you to realise that if it looks too good to be true, it usually is. Last week, I was searching flight comparison sites for a journey to Thailand. When one return trip came in at under £400, I almost booked it then and there. However, after looking more closely, I saw that the voyage included two changes both ways and each journey took close to 37 hours to complete. Once I added in the epic time that I’d be sitting around in airports and the stress of trying to make six different planes in all, I decided the deal wasn’t so great after all.

Hidden costs are often the demon in any flight booking scenario – most airlines send out flash sales on some of their routes every year with headline prices of £15, £10, or even 99p. These obviously don’t include taxes though, and are often headed to destinations that lie quite far away from city centres.

So having used flight comparison sites on approximately 20 occasions in the last year, I’d advise that you come equipped with as much detail as you can about the dates you’d like to travel, and know how much you’d be willing to compromise for a cheaper flight. The low prices can be very tempting when the purchase is just a click of a button away, but remember to study the fine print, factor in any extras or hidden charges, and just stick to one or two super comparison sites – that way, you’re more likely to find a bargain, and leave with your sanity intact.

Stephanie Bartup is an avid traveller, and has spent time exploring south East Asia, the USA and Eastern Europe.


1 comment to Wading Through the Flight Comparison Jungle

  • I’ve been making plans to walk the Saar-Hunsrück-Steig next May. The best and cheapest route (for me) seemed to be from London City Airport to Luxembourg.
    However I discovered “the Man in Seat Sixty-One” and will now take the Eurostar instead of flying. As well as being more relaxing, it also works out £20 cheaper by following his advice. I really recommend checking there – http://www.seat61.com/

    Merry Xmas and good easy hiking in 2014!

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