New v. Old - Travel Search Tools

By jadwinjadwin (1261524024|%a, %b %e at %I:%M%p)

This blog will answer this question by comparing the top standard travel search tools —Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz, to the new entrant, Kayak.

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Do all travel searches return the same results?

The chart to the right, shows the "Daily Unique Visitors" for each search engine. As you can see, Expedia used to have significantly more viewers than the rest, but that this has been steadily declining. In addition, since July 2007, Kayak has not had a change in its visitor volume. Overall, there have been less vistors to these travel search sites.

The Standard: Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz

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These firms still have a larger volume than Kayak, because everyone knows these names and they have good reputations. So what features do they have that led to this reputation? In addition to offering just flights, each of these sites also offers search for hotels, cars, activites and cruises. Which means that you can book all your traveling needs from just one site. In addition, Expedia and Orbitz both boast that they have no booking fees, but Travelocity has a cute dwarf as their spokesperson, so I guess they don't need to boast about this (see picture to the right).

Are the results different?

When I'm booking a flight I definitley like to shop around, so I go to each of these sites to find the best deal, but is this necessary? To find out, I did a query of a flight from DTW (Detroit airport) to LAX (Los Angeles) leaving anytime on Friday December 18th and returning on Sunday December 27th. Below are my results.

Search Tool Cheapest Flight Most Expensive Flight # of Airlines in Results
Expedia $395 $1400 9
Orbitz $385 $950 9
Travelocity $383 $800 9

They all show results from the same airlines, but as you can see from the cheapest flight and the most expensive flight, they do not offer the same prices. In addition, while the cheapest airline for Expedia and Orbitz was Delta, for Travelocity it was Continental.

The Newbie: Kayak

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Kayak is different because it is a "travel aggregator," that is, it searches 140+ travel sites with one search. In addition, you can specifically choose between comparing the following sites specifically, in a new window: Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Hotwire and Airfare.com. So, instead of opening each of these websites seperately, Kayak will do it for you. You also don't lose any features by using Kayak, you can still search for hotels, cars, activites and cruises.

The Results:

Since Kayak looks at over 140 sites, it will be interesting to see if using Kayak will give you the best results. Again, to find out, I did a query of a flight from DTW (Detroit airport) to LAX (Los Angeles) leaving anytime on Friday December 18th and returning on Sunday December 27th. Below are my results.

Search Tool Cheapest Flight Most Expensive Flight # of Airlines in Results
Kayak $383 $1400 9

As you can see, Kayak had the cheapest Continental flight, that only Travelocity had as well as the most expensive Expedia flight, which means that it most likely has all of the inbetween flights from the three standard flights combined.

The Best:

I really like Orbitz's delivery form, but from these results it looks like Kayak is the best. It is sort of like an integrated user interface metasearch engine for flight searches. In addition, Kayak allows you to look at 2 of the 3 standard sites; by just typing once in Kayak's form, and then each of the selected search engines will pop up with results from their own website. Lastly, as a student I love that Kayak has the feature to look at Student Travel through STA, which is often cheaper. The geography-based class was the first time I have heard of Kayak, but it truly is a great tool and I have been using it to look for Spring Break flights since.

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