The 10 Best (and Worst) Airfare Search Sites for 2021
Frommer’s regularly pits the best airfare search engines, aggregators, and booking engines against each other in a battle royale to see which can find the lowest price on 25 different year saw quite a shakeup. Some of the biggest names (Hotwire, FlightNetwork, Google Flights, Fareness, and CheapTickets) are out of the top 10 entirely, an old favorite (Hipmunk) went out of business, and a scrappy new contender has seized the crown. Here are your new winners (and losers).
A Word on Methodology
We started with 20 top-rated sites, but four of them delivered results that were duplicated on a corporate sister site. Since they’re clearly using the same internal search engine, there’s no sense in listing that engine twice, but we do let you know within the ranking if a sister site delivered a clone of the same results.
We tested the remaining 16 sites on both last-minute flights (leaving the following weekend) and APEX fares (booked six weeks out). We covered major gateways (NYC to LAX, Miami to Rio) and secondary ones (Philly to Rome). We threw in a curve ball (Denver to New Delhi) and included a flight with no North American legs (London to Barcelona) to see how well each handled Europe‘s Wild West of low-cost carriers. We also ignored any itinerary that would be hell to fly—basically anything increasing total travel time by more than half through excessively long layovers, too many stops, or flying way out of your way just to change planes. Airlines may think that makes for a viable plan, but we don’nally, we used a complicated, weighted scoring system for each search that rewarded two points to any site that found the best fares, one point for second-best, nothing for average results, a negative point for high prices, and minus two for the sites that returned the worst fares. Fares within 1% of one another were considered equal.
What our terms mean
There are a few things to keep in mind before you search. • An aggregator is only as good as the OTAs it canvasses. There are booking engines that find prices themselves (Expedia, Priceline, Hotwire). And then there are aggregators—sites that do not book tickets but instead search dozens of booking engines, airfare sites, and OTAs (online travel agencies) and compile the results in one place; you then click through to the one of your choice to make the actual purchase. Some of the booking sites these aggregators show you are better than others. As with any unfamiliar company, always do a quick check and a complaints search for red flags. Also, some OTAs are prone to dangling lead prices a few bucks below what they will actually offer once you click through to the site, and some misleadingly categorize “direct” flights—which do actually stop, but do not require you to change plane—as “non-stop. ” Even the best OTA may sometimes accidentally direct you to a site that posted inaccurate prices, and these OTAs may come and go before aggregators realize they should be eliminated from the roster.
• You must search on your own. Southwest annoyingly does not allow its results to be aggregated or sold through third party OTAs. However, given Southwest’s competitive fares and free luggage, it’s well worth the additional step of searching it directly.
Trading William Shatner for Kaley Cuoco hasn’t helped Priceline improve its results, landing it dead last yet again. Only twice did Priceline find the lowest fare in our tests— but that low fare was also matched by many sites that outranked it. Most of its results muddled around in the middle or back of the pack at best, and it found the worst fares three times. Priceline’s saving grace has always been “Express Deals, ” an opaque fare in which you only get to pick your airports and travel dates, but not flight times, airlines, or stopovers—just a guarantee there will be “0–1” plane changes. However, in this year’s study, none of its Express Deals were actually the lowest-priced (in the case of NYC–LAX, the Express Deal was actually among the worst).
Pros: Opaque fares claim they can save up to 40%, but they don’t always do so
Cons: Performs middling to poorly on price; limited filters; doesn’t include low-cost carriers
How the mighty have fallen. Now that it owns Travelocity and Orbitz, Expedia runs all of the former Big Three booking engines, so you now get the exact same results on all three. It’s a shame those results are so lousy. Several years ago, Expedia was safely in the middle of the pack. Now it has slipped to the bottom for its utterly middle-to-end-of-the-road search results. It never, not once, found the best price, and only three times out of 25 did it find a next-to-best price (twice, it was for the NYC-LAX flights). On the other hand, it was in last or next-to-last place in seven searches. It actually excelled or failed on the same searches as the last time we ran our tests two years ago, which suggests it hasn’t done much to change its methods or algorithms, allowing other companies to outpace it. Yes, there are six other sites that fared even more poorly and didn’t even make this list, but still: Expedia may have a famous brand name, but we see little reason to bother using it.
Pros: Shows baggage fees; fare alerts; flexible date prices
Cons: Pricing is only fair to poor outside of major routes; limited filters
The results from this smaller discount OTA were all over the place. It performed the strongest of any on our list for several last-minute international fares, so it can be handy for that. But CheapOAir’s results on flights booked ahead of time ranged from above average to sub-par—finding the best NYC–LAX fare, but the worst NYC–Paris once. Like Expedia, it inexplicably wanted to charge nearly double the going rate for a direct flight from Philadelphia to Rome.
Pros: Vacation packages; showing details on fare rules (and, for some US carriers, seat selection map); alternate date fares
Cons: With a few exceptions on last-minute international travel, not very good at finding the best price
Note: The aggregator originally won our 8th place slot, but it closed up shop in January 2020, clearing the way for CheapOAir to rise one rank.
Yes, that, the one famous for hotels. It has added airfare searches and it has done surprisingly well. Oddly enough, although the results have recently been powered by its corporate sister sites, Kayak and/or Priceline, the search results differ often enough—as many as half of the results are different—that each deserved its own entry into our contest. That said, failed our tricky Philly-to-Rome search by coming up with a price nearly double what the best were offering. However, alongside Kayak and Agoda (higher up our ranking) it did find the best price on our quirky Denver-to–New Delhi route.
Pros: Shows luggage fees and restrictions, but only after you click through to each result’s details; very simple interface; plenty of filters for results
Cons: Is mostly fair-to-middling on price
AggregatorKayak is probably the most famous aggregator but frankly, its results were mostly middle-of-the-road. On the positive side, it has one of the most complete sets of filters, including obscure ones like landing times, layover cities, alliances, in-flight amenities, and aircraft type. Beyond that, it falters. It did well on pricing a last-minute jaunt from New York to Paris, but was the only site out of 16 that failed to find a direct Philly to Rome flight on American. In fact, since 2017 Kayak has slipped two places in the ranking on price alone—and has also become less user friendly. Kayak has inexplicably removed a handy feature that it was one of the first to offer years ago: a “Flex Search” option that checked fares up to three days on either side of your dates (also a monthly price calendar). Why would it remove that excellent feature? Kayak also used to include Amtrak, but, alas, no longer.
Pros: Fare alerts; vacation packages; excellent filters; advice on whether to buy now or wait based on historical price trends
Cons: Other sites usually match or beat it on price; it removed several of the great features that once set it apart
For an outfit that started as a specialist in Asian hotels, Agoda has expanded impressively. Agoda now aggregates airfares as well, and impressively so, faring better than its corporate siblings, Kayak and The results pop up lightning fast, and it has among the most complete set of filters. It also never fell into our “worst price” category, though it was among the second-worst a few times. On the other hand, it only found the best price one time, but did come up with a second-best price about a half-dozen times. In other words, there’s a good reason it sits at #5—solidly middle-of-the-road, runner-up results, but with a great interface. Given how new Agoda is to this game, we expect great things as it improves its, Summer 2021: However—and this is a big caveat—since we conducted our most recent pricing investigation, Agoda has earned the ire of customers who have reported it to the Better Business Bureau; you can read through the compaints on the website.
Pros: Quick, easy interface; fast results; fabulous filters
Cons: Price performance is only average; doesn’t display baggage and other fees until you click over to book directly from the airline
TripAdvisor is no longer just a place to vent about bad waiters. The granddaddy of travel crowdsource sites is trying to become a one-stop shop for all your travel needs and, we have to admit, once you weed through the pop-ups, its efforts in the airfare search department are pretty impressive. It’s obviously working hard: The two times it found the best prices involved creative uses of stopovers on international flights that no other engine came up with. Also, it never won the anti-prize for the worst result, and the few times it found sub-par fares, it was in good company with all six of the websites ranked below it. It offers a “FlyScore” rating for every flight based on in-flight amenities, duration, type of aircraft, and TripAdvisor reviews. On the other hand, the fare results on our Top Three were all head and shoulders above TripAdvisor, landing it just shy of the medalists’ rostrum at #4. (However, TripAdvisor desperately needs to figure out how to remove ludicrous results, like 10-hour layovers, or offering to fly us from Rome to New York instead of to Philadelphia as we requested. That was so strange that as an extra test, we tried a Philly-to-Salt Lake City search, and TripAdvisor’s top three price results expected us to either accept a 21-hour layover in Denver, a return flight that only made it as far as Kansas City, or—truly bizarrely—a leg that required us to somehow make our own way from the Kansas City airport to Denver International during a 4:37 break in the itinerary. )
Pros: Fast results; fare alerts; vacation packages; decent filters
Cons: Results only average; doesn’t include baggage fees; suggests hare-brained itineraries not worth the savings
Slipping one place to #3, Skyscanner was one of the first engines to include low-cost airlines (though these days, most do)—and it remains an excellent place to find some of the lowest fares available. Though in our tests it stumbled a few times on last-minute quotes—how did it miss so many direct London–Barcelona flights on Ryanair, easyJet, and Vueling that all the others found? —it did stellar work on fares six weeks out, either tying or beating the results of our #1 site. Add to that its decent filters, a flexible dates “whole month” calendar and graph on every search, the ability to search for destinations in an entire country rather than just one city (you can even type “Everywhere” in the destination field for a list of cheap fares from any departure airport), and our verdict is made clear: We suggest never booking a ticket without checking Skyscanner first.
Pros: Among the best at the lowest fares; shows price for the same flight from multiple OTAs/airline sites; can provide a whole month of fares on a calendar for flexible dates; shows which airline actually operates a codeshare; fare alerts; vacation packages
Cons: Not quite as strong on last-minute flights; doesn’t include baggage fees; clutters organic results with sponsored results (though it marks these clearly)
For the first time since it premiered in 2006, Momondo slips to the #2 spot, but it remains one of the best places to find the cheapest airfares, especially on last-minute tickets (though not consistently). Interestingly, Momondo has transitioned from pure aggregator to an OTA as well, now offering direct booking on its own site. It is admirably transparent about this; when you click the dropdown menu for any deal, it displays its own price first but also includes fares from other sites and the airlines itself that sometimes beat it. Its results screen remains one of the most complete in terms of all the intel it offers in its dashboard—though it would be nice to include actual baggage fees rather than generic notes like “baggage fees may apply” on airlines it knows will charge them. Momondo also offers that fun “Anywhere” option that displays cheap fares from any departure city.
Pros: Excellent results overall; provides shortcuts to your choice of the cheapest, quickest, or best overall results; nifty fare calendar graph shows average prices for other days (one week before and two weeks after each flight); fare alerts; “Flight insight” data feature for your chosen city pair (the cheapest and most expensive fares, pegged to season, airline, time of departure, day of the week, and more); shows price for same flight from multiple OTAs/airline sites
Cons: Occasionally not the cheapest on price (but usually by only 10% or less); it canvasses so many international OTAs and discounters (a positive) that you do need to do due diligence on unfamiliar airfare-selling outlets before purchasing
All hail the new champion! This upstart debuted in 2013 to exploit “skiplagging, ” a somewhat shady savings technique the airlines hate—it involves buying itineraries that have stops and abandoning some flight legs before the final destination. It’s important to note that we only included legitimate fares (not controversial skiplagged fares) for our analysis, and this site still won. It has now outgrown its hacker roots to knock Momondo from the #1 perch for the first time in nearly a decade. The results for the top three finishers show you how solid the victory was: #3, Skyscanner: 12 points. #2, Momondo: 13 points. #1, Skiplagged: 23 points. Wow. In our 25 search scenarios, this aggregator found the lowest price ten times, the second lowest five times, and the worst price never. The only two “bad” rates it found were for last-minute flights involving connections (and it’s worth noting Skiplagged actually found the best fares for direct flights on the same itineraries). It also offered a free-spirited “Anywhere” option for the destination field. We did have a few criticisms, most significantly that it didn’t let us enter a city name, only airports—for big cities with multiple airports, this will force you to search several times. Skiplagged also lacks robust filters, doesn’t disclose baggage fees and such until the end, and rounds down all the prices—that last complaint is minor since we’re only talking about a few cents, but just feels sneaky. Its unbeatable price performance surmounted all of those quibbles.
Pros: Price champion; noticeably fast
Cons: Mediocre filters; no flexible dates option (though it does has a graph showing indicative prices over 30 days); shows each leg of an itinerary separately, so you have to keep choosing various legs before you see a total price; doesn’t show baggage fees until you click to book; still sells optional “skiplagged” results that airlines have sued passengers for using (but you can disable this by unticking the “Hidden City” option)
The Pros and Cons of Booking With Fare Aggregators – JTB …
The Pros and Cons of Booking With Fare Aggregators
By | For Travelers | 2 comments | 31 October, 2019 | 0
This article was updated October, 2019.
The quest for cheap airline tickets can sometimes feel never-ending. And it often leads to this question: Do fare aggregators really find the cheapest flights? The answer is: sometimes. As with any flight-booking tool, fare aggregators come with their own unique pros and cons. Here’s a look at what a fare aggregator is, as well as the benefits and drawbacks each offers.
Fare Aggregators vs. Flight Booking Engines
When you think of a fare aggregator, you may be picturing Expedia, Travelocity or a similar site. But these are actually flight booking engines. There’s a fine line between fare aggregators and booking engines, but it’s an important distinction to make.
Booking engines like Orbitz, Expedia or Travelocity are basically search engines that find travel deals from airlines that agree to let their fares show in the results. In exchange for doing this heavy lifting, they charge a fee when you choose to book.
Fare aggregators are slightly different. They actually search the search engines, scouring the Internet more broadly to help pinpoint the very best deal possible. and are examples of fare aggregators — sites that are likely to share what you’ll find using booking engines, plus a multitude of other options that sometimes help reduce the cost of your trip. Fare aggregators charge a fee, too, but the additional savings you discover often cover this fee.
What Makes a Good Fare Aggregator?
What makes a good fare aggregator? First things first: helping you find the absolute cheapest airline tickets. But what helps a fare aggregator find this lowest-possible price? You’ll want to use a fare aggregator that is searching as many search engines as possible — casting the widest net, if you will.
There’s also user experience. You’ll want to use a fare aggregator that works quickly and that displays your options in an easy-to-understand manner. For example, you’ll want to be able to sort on different metrics, including number of stops, price, schedule, etc.
Some fare aggregators display cheap flight tickets that aren’t typically available to the public, and others allow you to search with vague dates — a function that helps you find the lowest fare from among multiple departure/arrival options. Each of these features makes for a more effective aggregator.
The Pros of Fare Aggregators
A good fare aggregator is a useful tool because it canvasses the greatest amount of options in search of the cheap air fare. You’re not always getting such a vast search when you choose booking engines or other flight search options.
Another benefit to using fare aggregators is that some focus on a specific type of travel. For example, looks at only international fares. This type of specialization is rare among other flight search options, but it can often yield a really affordable rate that you wouldn’t be able to secure otherwise.
The Cons of Fare Aggregators
Fare aggregators are only as effective as the search engines they are searching, so there’s no guarantee that you’re truly securing the lowest-possible rate. Also, some fare aggregators will prey on your desire for a low price by offering initial pricing at first, then upping the fare once you click through.
Fare aggregators are also imperfect in many ways. Some will bill a fare as non-stop even when the flight includes a stopover without changing planes. Of course, in this scenario, you’re technically getting a non-stop flight, but you still get all of the waiting and inconvenience of a multi-leg trip.
Ranking the 10 Best Airfare Search Sites
Frommer’s recently tested a number of different search sites, including both aggregators and booking engines. For each search site, they tested a blend of last-minute and well-in-advance flights traveling in and out of both major hubs and regional airports around the world. Here’s how different sites performed, starting with the best and working down to the worst:
Momondo (aggregator): Momondo easily beat the competition in this test, returning the lowest price 16 times out of a total of 25 searches. It also features a helpful, user-friendly yscanner (aggregator): Skyscanner is known as one of the first aggregators to include discount airlines, and it returned the lowest price several times during this Flights (aggregator): Google Flights couples incredibly fast performance with search results that include fares other sites have a hard time (aggregator): Kayak is one of the best-known aggregators, and it did well in this test at finding ways to shave a few dollars off what other sites returned as the lowest-cost flight. Hipmunk (aggregator): Hipmunk never returned the lowest fares compared to the other sites, but it did serve consistently low prices — and it scores highly for (booking engine): did well finding deals on last-minute international flights with plane changes, but it did not perform as well at finding good direct atguru (booking engine): While Seatguru does provide a wealth of information about plane configuration and comfort, it does not perform well on price or user wire (booking engine): Hotwire performed in the middle of the pack in this test, and it also offered a poor user experience that slowed down the fare search process. Expedia/Travelocity/Orbitz (booking engine): While Expedia/Travelocity/Orbitz does include baggage feeds in its results, it struggled to find good fares for itineraries that were off major iceline (OTA): Priceline often served the worst fares out of all search sites tested, and Priceline also does not offer low-cost airlines in its results.
JTB: Finding the Lowest Fares
At JTB Business Travel, we can be your partner as you search for the lowest possible air fares. Not only do we provide online and mobile booking, we also offer a low price guarantee — you’re assured of getting the best fares when you choose JTB as your business travel agency.
Contact us today about our comprehensive services and how we can help you secure the best air fares possible.
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How to Create a Travel Aggregator Website | Import.io
No matter the time of year, people are often looking to travel. The long summer months prompt travelers from all over the world to head to exotic locales and live new experiences. During the cold winter months, many people will head home for holiday celebrations or seek someplace warm to get away from it all. No matter how you look at it, traveling is a big business, and much of the preparation for a trip, big or small, happens online. The opportunities to attract new audiences are there, so grabbing their attention through a travel aggregator website can be viewed as a smart move.
What is a Travel Aggregator Site?
A travel aggregator is a website that finds availabilities and prices of travel offers across many sources and aggregates them all in one place. This helps users find the best prices out of all of the results the aggregator found. That way, it’s easy for consumers to know that they are booking at the lowest price.
Travel aggregator websites are very much like content aggregators, only focused on traveling. They take data from a variety of sources stretching across the internet and place it in one easy-to-access site for visitors to use. Some of these sources can come from airline companies, hotels, and travel agencies, and they all serve to inform the site visitor about anything from plane tickets to upcoming forecasts.
You’re likely already somewhat familiar with content aggregators in general. They take content from the internet and put it on one site, usually focused around a single topic or subject. This saves visitors from having to go to every individual site about a subject and instead puts everything within reach. Think of it like a hub for a topic that searches the whole internet for the best material related to that topic.
It benefits both the original source and website aggregators. Both will receive traffic, provided the content is good. Some of the most popular content aggregation sites include Popurls, WP News Desk, and Alltop.
Content aggregation is extremely convenient for visitors, and this is where you can capitalize with a well-designed travel aggregator site of your own.
Creating a Travel Aggregator
Since you’re reading this article, you’ve probably made the decision to create your own travel aggregator website, but you’re not exactly sure how to do it. You already have the basic idea down — a focus on traveling — but after that, there are many more choices that need to be made. Every good site will need to start with a plan, and executing on that plan will in many ways be the key to success.
What to Include
One of the biggest decisions you need to make is what you want to aggregate from other travel sources. Do you want an aggregation site that focuses mainly on flights? That’s certainly possible and very helpful for travelers. There’s plenty of data available that you can aggregate. Or perhaps you’d like to be known as a flight and hotel aggregator. That would require getting data about hotels in all sorts of locations throughout the world.
Are you going to include other travel topics, like content from travel blogs? That’s another decision that has to be made. All of these decisions will affect how your website is put together as well as how audiences will think of it. Plan now for what you want, and you’ll be able to start building the site more efficiently with an effective course of action already in mind.
Build With a Foundation
You don’t have to look too far in order to get started on your travel aggregator site. You can begin with a foundation that has already worked well for a lot of people. That foundation is WordPress. It’s well known that WordPress is used for creating almost any kind of website you can think of, so it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that it can be used to create a travel aggregator site. Think of WordPress like a toolbox, one that comes with a variety of useful tools that can add to what you’re trying to build.
An example of one of those tools is called a theme. WordPress themes have popped up all over the place and can be used in a variety of ways. For your purposes, finding themes dedicated to travel will be the most beneficial. Take one theme for instance: Pilgrim. This theme is a flexible component that has a large number of free features such as custom fields, group buying engine, filtering by distance and geolocation, and much more. It’s a theme that has been designed specifically for use in all things travel-related. Using a theme like Pilgrim can help you get a head start on creating your travel aggregator website. You can add your own unique flourishes here and there as well, but a theme is a great foundation to build upon.
Going with WordPress themes are WordPress plugins. Plugins are components that are easy to add to your site that give it more capabilities that will impress audiences. A WordPress plugin like TourCMS has features which allow users to book online safely which can really help take an aggregator site to the next level.
Build Your Own
While WordPress is a solid foundation, you can always try to build your site from scratch. The main advantage to doing this is that you get to use your own style, ideas, and features. There’s no need to conform your vision to a pre-existing theme or plugin. The possibilities for what you can do are almost endless. There is a downside to this strategy, however. Building your own site from the ground up will take more time, and if you don’t have any developer experience, you’ll have to pay more. Even so, some of the drawbacks may be worth it if you want to execute on your unique take on travel aggregation.
Getting the Data
Building the site is only part of getting everything set up. You now need the fuel that will help run this vehicle, and that comes in the form of data. Aggregating that data will be a major part of what separates your site from others. One of the best ways to get data is through web scraping using web extraction services, like what is provided with
This type of tool will go through designated sites to extract vital data and collect them within your database. Unstructured data is turned into something you can use and present to visitors. This can happen automatically, so your site will always have the latest information. Having this feature is what will turn your travel aggregator website into a real destination for people wanting to find out more about their travel plans.
Like content and search aggregators, travel aggregators can be a valuable resource for people who are always on the go. Sometimes there’s just nothing like taking a nice vacation, but it can be tough to relax when expenses pile up and plans change. Your travel aggregator website can mean the difference between a stressful trip and one that people will talk favorably about for many years to come.
There are certainly challenges to creating an aggregator site, but the benefits of doing so can be very enticing. Follow the tips and advice given in this article, and you’ll quickly be on your way to providing something very useful and advantageous for those who are looking for travel information. Get started now and create something you’ll be proud of.
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Frequently Asked Questions about travel fare aggregator websites
Is Expedia An aggregator?
When you think of a fare aggregator, you may be picturing Expedia, Travelocity or a similar site. … Booking engines like Orbitz, Expedia or Travelocity are basically search engines that find travel deals from airlines that agree to let their fares show in the results.
What is an aggregator in travel?
A travel aggregator is a website that finds availabilities and prices of travel offers across many sources and aggregates them all in one place. This helps users find the best prices out of all of the results the aggregator found. That way, it’s easy for consumers to know that they are booking at the lowest price.Apr 2, 2019
What is a ticket aggregator?
Ticket aggregator: Any site which aggregates ticket prices from other reseller sites, but does not conduct any ticket sales on their own site.