Monday, March 06, 2006

Leveraging Travel Search Engines (BOTS) to Get the Cheapest Rates

There is some disparity in the rates each of us pays for airline tickets or rental cars. Some of us are not sure if we're getting the best deal for the money. I compare, and for three hypothetical trips. I then list airline ticket and rental car rates to help determine which travel bot(s) finds the cheapest rates.

Quick Summary:
1. Rental Cars: Sidestep pulled the best rates for a full size rental car in all three cases.
2. Airline Tickets: Kayak pulled the best rates for airline reservations in 2 of 3 tests, but edged out others by less than two percent. In 1 of 3 cases, farechaser significantly beat out the others by fourteen percent.
3. Farechaser did not have the option to search rental car databases.
4. Farechaser's adds flashed in an annoying manner for prolonged periods of time during page loading.
5. Kayak has an auto complete feature for entering airport locations that seems useful.

Airline Fare Test (All trips roundtrips, 3/31/2006 - 4/2/2006):
1. San Jose (SJC) to Memphis (MEM)
a.) Kayak: $342 (2% less than sidestep)
b.) Farechaser: $347
c.) Sidestep: $349

2. Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (LGA)
a.) Farechaser: $304 (14.4% cheaper than Kayak)
b.) Sidestep: $339
c.) Kayak: $355

3. Seattle (Tacoma) to Miami Int'l
a.) Kayak: $483 (0.2% cheaper than other two)
b.) Farechaser: $484
c.) Sidestep: $484

Rental Car Test (Full Size Rental, 3/31/2006 - 4/2/2006):
1. Memphis (MEM)
a.) Kayak: $78.69
b.) Farechaser: N/A
c.) Sidestep: $75.38 (4.2% cheaper)

2. New York (LGA)
a.) Farechaser: N/A
b.) Sidestep: $163 (6.9% cheaper)
c.) Kayak: $175

3. Miami Int'l
a.) Kayak: $99
b.) Farechaser: N/A
c.) Sidestep: $61 (38.4% cheaper)

I did not test Priceline or Hotwire since these sites tend to be stricter in locking you into your purchase, and their reservations are typically non-refundable or tough to change once they are made. Aggressive shoppers might get better deals on these sites but would sacrifice some flexibility.

Note: Individual results may vary

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