5 of the best flight search engines (analysis)
If recently we were talking about 5 of the best hotel search engines, this time we have decided to make a selection of some of the best flight search engines. I admit that we had some difficulty in finding 5 hotel search engines that would suit us, but in the case of the flight search engines the difficulty has been in discarding some of the ones we like. In this post we will analyze 4 meta-search engines and 1 flight search engine that we think are among the best. And you can also read our comparison of 5 of the best car rental and tour, activity and excursion search engines.
Momondo is a meta-search engine launched in 2006 based in Copenhagen (Denmark). It was purchased in 2011 by Cheapflights Media Ltd, which has since been renamed Momondo Group.
– In favour. Both the cover and the results page design are very attractive. The navigation is simple and intuitive, with the elements very well differentiated and organized. The results include (and show) most of the existing airlines, even low-cost ones like Ryanair, Wizz-Air or Vueling. The results automatically show a price calendar, we can choose from a large number of filters (no. of stops, times, airports, airlines, etc.) and there are options to sort by price, travel times or departure times. An own index scores each flight combining the variables «travel time» and «price» (a flight «10» will usually be the cheapest and shortest). Fares (which can be displayed in 40 different currencies) are usually correct and include charges or fees, not counting optional extras or baggage check-in. Customized newsletters and price alerts are available. They are present in Google+ and Facebook and have an app for iPhone and Android, as well as a version adapted for mobiles.
– Against. Flight details are fair and necessary; the number of suitcases included in the fare, the type of plane, possible surcharges to be paid with different cards, the take-off/landing terminals, etc. are not indicated. When redirecting to some web, like Ryanair’s, we will have to do the search again (it takes us to the home page). «Only» is available in 18 languages. Like most meta-search engines, the purchase is made outside the website, at the airline itself or an online travel agency. There is no contact method in sight and they do not have Twitter in Spanish.
SkyScanner was founded in 2001 by three Scottish computer friends who focused mainly on finding cheap flights with low-cost airlines. It is based in Edinburgh with offices in 30 other countries.
– In favour. Some of SkyScanner’s highlights are in their search box. For example, you can search for flights from your airport to a country (without selecting a specific city). This is useful when you do not have a fixed destination within a country and only want to fly to the cheapest airport. You can also search for «all airports» of those cities that have several or display a map of the world and know where there are direct flights. Its search engine is also fast and the database is very extensive (low-cost included) with the possibility of accessing the websites of the airlines. It has filters and sorting options similar to those above, including a price calendar. The website is available in 28 languages and nearly 80 currencies. You can create price alerts, receive news by mail and register to manage a user area. They are very active in the main social networks in Spanish (including a very lively news section) and have apps for iOS and Android, as well as a version adapted for mobiles.
– Against. The design of the website (at least in its PC version) is not particularly striking, even a bit «rough» in our opinion, furthermore spoiled by excessive advertising in certain areas. As in Kayak, we have to uncheck comparisons with other sites to avoid new windows. As for the results, once again we find few details about the flight and we cannot see the card charges. The purchase, as in the rest of the meta-search engines, must be made on the websites we are redirected to, which means that we have to repeat the searches. The contact by form is relatively visible at the bottom of the page, but without offering other ways (telephone).
Update 2018: with the latest changes they have notably improved the home page, they have included searches for nearby airports and much of the advertising has disappeared. They have also introduced an interesting tool to compare flights on a map.
Kayak is the only website that repeats in our selection, because we already talk about it as one of the best hotel search engines. Launched in 2004 and based in the USA, Kayak was only a flight meta-search engine in its beginnings.
– In favor. Sober design, but clean and perfect for an agile and efficient navigation. The search engine is very fast and the database of agencies and airlines is very large (including low-cost). Like Momondo, they have a good number of filters (including «type of plane») and different options for sorting, as well as a price chart and a prediction of fare increases or decreases. Unlike other search engines, Kayak opens a kind of new tab for each search (but not in new tabs of our browser, but within the web itself). The prices are quite reliable and you can add the charges for payment with different cards (not so accurate). The results show the direct price and the link to the airline’s website. Also interesting is the option to register as a user to save searches, preferences, history, etc. Another remarkable detail is its «explore» search, to help us find cheap destinations from our airport. However, this search is more indicative than reliable. They have a newsletter, price alerts, app for Apple and Android, mobile version, translation into more than 30 languages and conversion to more than 40 currencies.
– Against. Kayak has a very complete flight meta-search engine, so the negative aspects are minor. Again, we find few details of the flight. Its presence in Spanish social networks is modest or scarce for now. The contact is hidden and not very direct. Under the search box on the home page, we have to uncheck the comparison with other websites so as not to open annoying windows. It is also not possible to make purchases in Kayak, so we will always be redirected and, as in Momondo, we will have to repeat the search punctually (only with certain airlines or agencies).
Trabber is a simple meta-search engine founded by two Spaniards around 2005. It is the most modest of the ones we have selected in all senses, but we wanted to highlight it for having been useful for so long and for still providing interesting things.
– In favour. Trabber is an extremely simple and agile web. In the results it is very easy to modify the dates adding or subtracting days, as well as to access at a glance to the cheapest prices in nearby dates. The results have the usual filters and order options, incorporating the possibility of adding expenses per card and, as a differential aspect, the charge for billing suitcases (although it is not 100% reliable). The prices, as in the previous ones, include management costs and taxes. They are present and active in the main social networks in Spanish. In addition, on Twitter they offer the option of receiving personalized alerts for specific flights and days (in addition to the typical email alerts). They have a user area.
– Against. The design is not attractive at all and it is a bit outdated. You must also make sure that comparisons with other websites are not marked (although they are unmarked by default, that is). The search results include the main low-cost, airlines and agencies, but the catalogue is much more limited than in the other meta-search engines. Flight details are also very scarce and often do not link to the airline. Only available in 13 countries, with 7 different languages and only their local currencies. They do not have a mobile app, although they do have an adapted version of the website. Contact more or less visible at the bottom, but no phone.
OneTwoTrip is a flight search engine (not meta-search) founded in Russia in 2011. Normally we do not use search engines or online agencies, but recently we have started to give OneTwoTrip a try, as it incorporates some very interesting details that have made us look at them.
– In favour. The design of the website, in its desktop version, is striking and very visual. The user area is very interesting; we can accumulate points (1 point ≈ 1) with our purchases of flights, hotels, etc. In addition, we can save our data, those of frequent passengers and our credit cards so that we do not have to fill in forms in the search or purchase processes. We will also have a history of completed reservations and reservations awaiting payment, which will be kept for a few hours at the same price. The results show at a glance the cheapest and best flight (the cheapest and with the fewest stops). The prices are always final prices including – important – the fee for the corresponding luggage and the cost of paying by card. As for the suitcases, it should be noted that many times their rates do include suitcases when on the airline itself we would have to pay a higher price when adding them. Returning to the results page, the flights show their own rating with a star system that values delays, cancellations and age of the plane. This is another interesting feature of OneTwoTrip, as it gives many details about the flight: terminals, aircraft type, flight statistics etc. They have a presence on the main social networks in Spanish and, most importantly, a free telephone number located in Spain. The purchases, being a search engine, are made on the website itself (we are not redirected and the process is completed in 2 steps).
– Against. The company is still very young and lacks reputation (neither good nor bad, as far as I know) or enough opinions from travellers. Many of the deficiencies we have found will surely be corrected in the future, but for the moment there are some important ones. At the moment, for example, they don’t have an adapted version for mobiles or apps. It is only available in 7 countries and one single currency (?). The results shown do not load quickly enough and are poor compared to meta-search engines as some low-cost companies such as Ryanair or WizzAir are missing (Vueling is). The conditions of the luggage, on the other hand, are not very clear in the purchase process. On Vueling, for example, they indicate «1 piece of luggage», but it is not clear whether it is hand luggage or checked luggage, nor the size allowed. Like most search engines, they charge a handling fee, although it is small and well detailed in the purchase process, without being added at the end by surprise. At the moment they do not send newsletters or have price alerts.
During this analysis we have compared several flights with these websites, obtaining very similar prices on all 4 meta-search engines. The search engine prices have been worse when there were some low-cost flights available, but in comparison they could also be cheaper if we take into account that their rates include luggage. The differences between the meta-search engines were usually in the card fees, commissions or luggage check-in. A curious case is that of TravelGenio, an online agency to which some of them redirect, which offers different prices for the same flight depending on the meta-searcher we have arrived. Incredible, but true. Anyway, before buying from TravelGenio, or Travel2Be (which are in the same group), I would do a couple of searches on Google and on travel forums.
Our suggestion is that you do a lot of searches among the best flight search engines you know (here are five) and the websites of the airlines that travel to your destination before buying a flight. It can be a bit of a chore, but it’s worth it if you’re on a tight budget. Momondo, Kayak and Skyscanner are three reputable giants that are usually reliable and you will rarely find significant differences between them. Trabber, as we said, is liked for being a local company with a fast search engine that shows all the expenses. It’s worth taking it into account. As for OneTwoTrip, we are looking forward to seeing how they progress and how quickly they catch up with the shortcomings we have mentioned, because it really is a very nice website that provides new and quite interesting details.