The advertisments you see on TV and online for cheap flights are more often than not created by travel price comparison sites these days.
How do travel price comparison sites work?
Price comparison sites take a feed of flights for sale from a number of sources and display them alongside each other. The visitor can choose the cheapest and then go through to the original selling site to buy the ticket. The owner of the comparison site is given a small commission (typically 2.5 to 5%) of the value of the sale by the ticket seller.
It is on the face of it a simple business model. Once up and running the core runs itself and then all that remains is the marketing. This is why it is so attractive as a business modeland this is why there are plenty of companies who are happy to give it a go.
Who are the top price comparison sites?
Kayak, Lastminute, Skyscanner, Budgetair, Momondo and Go Compare. That is the current list but the market will change rapidly. In six months it is almost certain to look totally different. Many others are all trying to get in front of customers before they reach the end seller and cream off a little commission.
Which is the best comparison site for flights?
To be fair, they all do provide a service that makes the job of finding a cheap flight a lot easier, so we shouldn’t complain, although in truth, our tickets would be a few quid cheaper if they didn’t exisit.
As for which offers the best deal? Well it seems to change from day to day, but the top three are generally so close as makes no real difference. On one particular flight (Tuesday’s flight from Dubai to Bombay for example) you would find a small difference in price between the sites as they are taking different feeds, but generally all of them offer the cheapest deals at almost identical prices. Their margins are thin so they have to be competitive. Otherwise one of their competitors will rightly claim to be the best and that is something none of the Price Comparison sites want to hear.
You can’t save money by avoiding the price comparison sites because the ticket seller absorbs the cost into their marketing budget rather than attaching it directly to tickets bought via a price comparison website.