ConsumerWatch: Jumping Websites Doesn’t Save Much On Airfare

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A United Airlines 757 in flight after takeoff from San Francisco International Airport. (AP file photo)

A United Airlines 757 in flight after takeoff from San Francisco International Airport. (AP file photo)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS 5) – Most people use them, the travel sites that promise the cheapest airfare. But is surfing the web and going site to site really worth the effort?

Travel expert, Jennifer Gaines of Spire.com said cyber-hopping between websites like Travelocity and Expedia probably will not save you a lot of money, if any.

“In terms of airfare only, you’re probably not going to find that big of a difference from site to site,” Gaines said.

As she explained, the airfare websites use the same or similar search engines. Global Distribution Systems pull flight information and consumers can access that information through the popular travel sites. Gaines said both Expedia and Travelocity use the same GDS.

What Gaines recommends for prospective travelers is Kayak.com.

“Kayak is a meta-search engine that will search across airline websites and online travel agencies to find cheap airfare,” Gaines said.

Kayak may not necessarily find cheaper prices than other popular search sites, but saves time because it is a one-stop shop that aggregates price quotes from several sources, including the top travel sites.

With Google recently launching its Flights feature, many people have had their eyes on the search engine’s addition. Gaines said the premier of Google Flights leaves “something to be desired” but is confident that the product team is on its way to improving it.

Currently, Google does not provide as comprehensive of a search as the other airfare sites. International and smaller non-major airports are not included in Google Flights searches as well as not all airlines.

In the end, Gaines said besides not wasting time and comparison shopping, it pays to remain flexible on fly dates, booking three days in advance, and spending more time on looking for cheap hotels.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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