If you’re starting to plan your next holiday, you’re probably wondering which website you should be booking your airfare with to get the best deal. Searching for a flight can easily become a bit overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider: dates, times, price, airfare class, airline, layovers, and more. And even when you know exactly where and when you want to fly, you need to work out where to look for the cheapest price. These days it seems as if there are endless options when it comes to selecting the best flight booking site. While you can book directly with an airline, there are numerous flight booking websites, known as online travel agencies, which offer various deals. Using the right flight search site can help to ensure that you find the right mix of resources to land the best deal.
Flight search sites often offer helpful travel information as well as special offers, plus price alerts which tell you when the cost of your ideal flight goes up or down. Unfortunately, no website consistently has the lowest prices, and not every airline or fare will be advertised on every site. Some airlines have pulled their fares from particular booking sites, meaning that you will need to do your homework if you’re after the cheapest airfares possible. Most airlines do make their fares available to online travel agencies, but it’s always advisable to do your research before buying your ticket. At Flyparks, we’ve combed through many popular flight search sites to compare prices and show you some of the benefits and drawbacks of each site.
Here’s a quick rundown of the most well known flight search sites for booking cheap airfares, for flights departing from Australia or New Zealand. Presented in alphabetical order, our top ten are:
Booking.com is an American travel website which allows you to book both flights and hotels, as well as handy extras such as car rentals and tours. You can easily switch the currency over to Australian dollars, making it simple to compare the prices of flights.
There are filter options for fares, the number of stopovers, journey time, and flight times, and clear information on what is included in the ticket price. The user interface is clean and easy on the eyes, meaning that you won’t be bogged down with too much information. The checkout process has been streamlined into three simple steps, and you can pay by credit card.
Best Feature: the ability to compare luggage options. If you’re taking a short domestic flight on a budget airline, and weighing up whether it’s worth paying for hold luggage, Booking.com displays the cost of each option side by side, plus the size and weight restrictions.
Exactly as advertised, Cheapflights will show you, well, cheap flights. Since cost is often the biggest deciding factor for many travellers, Cheapflights is good starting place for your travel planning. There a numerous offers available on popular routes in and out of Australia, as well as flight/hotel packages.
Cheapflights is one of the world’s largest flight comparison sites and is owned by Booking Holdings, similar to KAYAK. The minimalist design of the Australian homepage makes it easy to read and navigate, and allows you to search and compare the cost of airfares in a couple of clicks. All the necessary airfare information is well presented, with no hidden charges.
Since it’s no good purchasing a cheap ticket if the airline’s baggage restrictions end up doubling the final cost, or if the layover is longer than the flight time itself, the usability of Cheapflights is key in this regard. The website’s customer support is restricted to email, which may not be ideal for some.
Best Feature: You can sign up for weekly newsletters about ‘breaking’ travel deals, as well as price alerts.
There’s not much you can’t book on Expedia; from flights to hotels, car rentals to cruises. There’s also the ability to bundle your bookings together, in order to save, and to search for flights based on available deals and special offers. Many of these offers are upsells, so always double check the price before adding things like attraction tickets to your booking on a whim.
With so much travel content to display, the website can sometimes appear a little cluttered. Similarly when you select your chosen airfare, there’s an extensive list of options presented in an interstitial step, letting you know what is and what isn’t covered in the fare. While it’s great to know about cancellation information, changes, seat selection, and baggage rules, this can be a little too much if you’re still in the window shopping stage.
Best Feature: Expedia has its own rewards programme, which grants members the ability to collect points. Members are also offered a 10% discount on select hotels, which is useful when you’re also in the market for accommodation.
Google Flights is easily one of the best flight search sites for booking cheap airfares. The website is a powerful search engine, that comes free from ads and distractions designed on upselling, and offers a lot of pricing data. Once you enter in your departure and arrival airports, the calendar pre-populates with prices that show you how fares differ on earlier and later dates. You can also check to see how the price of your selected fare compares to the average price for that particular route at that time of year; which is handy if you’re not sure when the best time to buy is.
Once you’ve confirmed your dates, you can then track how fares change over time and receive email updates. Ideal for those that might want to go to Europe sometime over the summer, but don’t have specific dates in mind yet.
Best Feature: The “search by map” function allows you to easily visualize surrounding airports and compare prices. If you’re contemplating travelling to more than one country, this can help you assess the cheapest starting point for your trip, or even a cheap (unexpected) stopover.
Visit Googe Flights
One of the most powerful metasearch tools available, KAYAK allows you to search through hundreds of different flight search sites at once to see the cheapest prices. This website was a game changer when it was first launched in 2005, and many have replicated its format since. You’ll find more ads on KAYAK than on Google Flights, as well as a handful of new features including one which enables you to determine if your luggage fits in the overhead bins of planes or not.
You can view flights, hotels, tours, plus rental car prices on KAYAK, all in Australian dollars. There are multiple filtering and sorting options, as well as predictive technologies which help provide pricing guides and suggest the best time to book.
After entering in your search details, KAYAK will direct you to the site where the cheapest fare can be found. So make sure you check the payment methods accepted and the terms and conditions before booking.
Best Feature: KAYAK suggests ‘Hacker Fares’ which piece together separate, but cheaper, one-way tickets to complete a full journey. These can potentially save you money on your planned itinerary if you don’t mind taking a more indirect route.
Technically, Momondo isn’t too different from KAYAK or Booking.com, since all three belong to the same group. It’s a travel fare aggregator and travel fare metasearch engine, which shows you the lowest fares available on other booking websites. It does get a mention however as it searches more than 1,000 sites, compared to the average of 300 sources used by typical booking sites.
Momondo’s flight search tool has been endorsed by Frommer’s, Forbes, Travel & Leisure, and New York Times Travel, and has been found to display the cheapest airfare possible in independent tests. Be aware that it does charge servicing fees, which often bump the prices up between $25.00 and $50.00.
The site also operates a fairly nice travel information blog, Inspiration, which covers destinations off the beaten path and unusual places to stay. Worthwhile for those who prefer to skip the usual tourist traps.
Best Feature: The price trends graph lets you compare how the cost of a return flight to your planned destination changes over time. If you don’t have fixed dates yet, and you’re fairly flexible about when you want to head overseas, you can quickly rule out the most expensive months and hone in on the cheapest with this feature.
Over 100 million people access Skyscanner every month to research and book travel options for their trips, from flights and hotels to car hire. It’s one of the biggest and best flight search sites out there, with over 30 different country sites. You can view prices and book your airfare in Australian dollars when you book direct, which helps cut down on fees if you’re using an Australian credit or debit card, or utilise one of a variety of different payment methods when you order through one of Skyscanner’s partners.
The site has a clean, modern user interface, which makes it easy to navigate and compare prices. There’s a range of features and a lot of travel content to get you inspired about a range of destinations, new and old, without the usual ads you see on flight search sites.
Skyscanner makes the bold claim that their travellers rate them more highly than the likes of Kayak, Momondo and Expedia (based on Trustpilot feedback), and they certainly are one of the world’s most recognised brands.
Best feature: Speed. Skyscanner searches more than 1,200 websites to find you the best price on airfares, and shows you the results in a few seconds. Few other comparison websites can compete on speed, especially on mobile devices.
Travelocity doesn’t offer global sites yet, and has American customers more in mind when it comes to currencies. However, if you are planning a trip to the States, Travelocity may be of interest in regards to sheer number of activities and packages you can book alongside your flights.
Travelocity has been around for awhile, and it’s one of the best known flight booking sites in North America. As such, it has a large customer base and offers benefits such as a price match guarantee and free cancellation within 24 hours. Under Travelocity’s price guarantee, the company will offer you a 50.00 USD coupon to use on future bookings, as well as refunding the difference in price if you find a cheaper price elsewhere. To claim, the competing offer has to be offered by a U.S. based website within 24 hours of your booking.
Best feature: Free cancellation on flights within 24 hours of booking, on most major airlines. If you’re worried that your plans may change, this feature could save you both time and money.
You can book both cheap airfares and package holidays through TripAdvisor, in Australian dollars. It’s possible to search for prices using all the standard filtering options and create a price change alert. TripAdvisor will also allow you to compare prices to KAYAK and Momondo, which comes in handy when you don’t want to spend hours on research.
The site has its own FlyScore system, which helps you to find the best airfares based on your own specific requirements, and the prices displayed include taxes and fees. This can prevent any last-minute surprises, as many sites only display the base price, adding in the additional costs just before you pay.
It’s worth noting that offers from TripAdvisor’s partners and sponsors often appear at the top of the search results, but may not be exactly what you’re looking for. Instead of sorting by ‘best value’, you’ll need to adjust the drop-down menu if you want to see the lowest prices.
Best feature: TripAdvisor’s features may be a little more basic than those found on Google Flights or KAYAK, but they do display plenty of information on airlines as well as reviews from previous travellers. These can be helpful if you’ve never flown with a particular airline before, and you’re not sure what to expect.
The only homegrown entry on our list, Webjet has been headquartered in Melbourne since 1998. It’s own of Australia’s best-known digital travel agencies, enabling travellers to compare, combine, and book the best domestic and international travel deals. You can also search and book hotels, park, sleep, & fly options, holiday packages, and travel insurance, as well as hire motorhomes, and cars, and sign up for package tours.
With all these offers in one place, the homepage is a little crowded. However, the biggest drawback seems to be that Webjet charges a servicing fee of $21.95 for domestic flights, $24.95 for flights to the Pacific, and $32.95 on top of airfares to other international destinations. The prices displayed do include taxes and the airline’s own fees, but it’s worth taking into account the servicing fee when you’re comparing ticket prices.
Best Feature: Webjet maintains 24/7, 365-day customer support, and this includes phone lines. Since most of the companies on our list are based in the U.S. and Europe, they may not be able to respond to Australian customer queries quite as fast, purely due to the timezone difference.
We started out with a list of around 30 different, but all reasonably well known and reliable websites, and focused on those that would be useful for Australian travellers. Since cost is a priority for many, we looked for sites that offered the lowest prices, and had layouts that made it easy to search and compare different deals.
Factors we considered:
Whatever website you use to find cheap airfares, there are several points worth bearing in mind to ensure you get a good deal. To find the best results from any flight search site:
Some websites will charge you between $20.00 and $45.00 dollars on top of the ticket price, purely because you booked through their website. This is often referred to as a servicing fee, and it’s not always clear that this is part of the price unless you read the terms and conditions.
As most travellers know by now, baggage fees can add up. A cheap airfare which only includes one small item of hand luggage can sometimes be a worse deal than a ticket that costs an extra $50.00 but comes with a generous baggage allowance. Be sure to check before you book.
More often than not, booking directly through an airline’s website will give you the best price, or at least one that is the same as on the bulk of flight comparison sites. It can also be the simplest way to book, allowing you to collect and use frequent flyer miles.
Of course, to book through an airline’s website, you first need to know which airline offers the cheapest prices. There are plenty of flight comparison sites that can help you find the best deals, which will then point you towards an airline’s website. Some, however, do offer perks and savings that make it worth booking with a third party instead of with the airline.
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Most flight search sites are owned by one of two companies, either Expedia or Bookings Holdings. If you’re left with a sense of deja vu after visiting several websites and seeing the same prices and the same layout, this is likely the reason why.
Because finding the right flight is often just one piece of the puzzle, be sure to check out:
The goal of this article is to help you become more informed and to help you save time by providing you with an overview of popular flight search sites. Flyparks does not accept responsibility or liability for the use of any websites mentioned. Use of any of the websites featured in this article is at your own risk. Users should always read the terms and conditions before booking products and services online.