My hope for this article is to teach you a few of the rules of the process in personal shopping for airfare using online agencies. I hope you think the article is worth your time to read. I learned a few new things while shopping for airfare for a recent trip. Actually I reinforced some old knowledge and learned a few new things.
When one visits the various sites offering airfare quotes and buying opportunities, one should always keep in mind that different sites will quote slightly different prices for the exact same flights. In some cases that will only be a few pennies, at most a few dollars difference. In most cases the prices quoted on the travel sites selling tickets will be a few pennies to a few dollars cheaper than the same fare booked directly with the airline.
You may be amazed at that last statement but it is true. Either the airlines are willing to give a minor discount to the booking agency allowing them to make a small gross profit for not having to deal with the problems that might arise after the sale, or the agencies hope to make an incremental sale of hotel or other travel accommodations. That isn't true for all airlines and agencies but it is true a lot of the time. In no case I tested with full cookie clearing between sessions did I ever get a better direct price. The best I ever did was the same price both places.
I mentioned cookies in the above paragraph. If you don't know what a cookie is I suggest you read thisa href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HTTP_cookie>HTTP_Cookies . One disturbing thing that I discovered at one of the major travel sites involves the aforementioned cookies. I visited, got a quote and went back 24 hours later only to find that cheaper option no longer available, only more expensive flights were listed for the exact same dates. My initial reaction was maybe they sold that flight out.
Something about that just rubbed me the wrong way since this flight was a few months in the future. I left the site, cleared my browser cookies and went back to search again. An amazing thing happened; the bargain flight was back. Now stuff happens! So I repeated the experiment the next night with the exact same results. Coincidence or not; you tell me or just draw your own conclusions.
My bottom line conclusions are: -That the major known brand name travel sites will offer you the best current price for any major airline. The prices between all of them may vary by a few pennies or dollars but you won't get a better direct price.
-If you don't 'buy on the spot' you may need to clear cookies or use a different computer on the return visit to see the same offers.
-You can do this yourself and save the additional fees added on by using a travel agent. Just be darn sure you have the dates right before you pay for a non-refundable ticket.
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