So…. are we still using KAYAK? Sure, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But maybe it’s time to figure out the best tools for the new decade.
In fact, only one flight search engine that we mentioned last time made it back again to on this list. In the past decade, there have been a lot of trendy tools that emerged like Hopper, a fare-predicting service, but in our experience that’s still a voodoo practice that’s fairly unreliable.
(It is this vein that we’d like give thanks and take a moment of silence to remember ITA Matrix, the engine that powered every single flight search engine. ITA Matrix was later acquired by Google Flights, so it does live on in some form and fashion.)
After Google bought ITA Matrix in 2010, it did the next most logical step: They rolled up the software into their burgeoning flights and travel search.
Though the interface is a little less, let’s say, hackable, and brute-forcing certain searches isn’t as possible, it does make that interface and versatility more accessible to the average layperson.
In case you were wondering which flight engine made a reappearance, it is Skyscanner. This Edinburgh-based company continues to have a higher presence and adoption abroad, which is a little bit of a shame because we’d love to see more Americans embrace it.
Though it offers a host of features, our primary reason for our Skyscanner love is centered around its ability to dig through budget airlines, incorporating airlines like Wow Air and AirAsia.
Surprisingly, even in this day and age, this is still a shortcoming for most other flight engines.
Skiplagged is most well known for its United lawsuit for promoting hidden-city ticketing, but after a long legal battle, the site won out. For instance, this means buying a ticket to Reno, NV., with the sole intention of ditching the last leg of the flight and getting off at the connection in Los Angeles, Calif.
(The actual act of skipping the last leg of the flight is still a violation of an airline’s contract of carriage, but since Skiplagged is only a purveyor of information, the site won the lawsuit on a technicality.)
Travelers that pursue this route should be aware that they will only be able to buy individual one-way segments, be limited to a carry-on bag and won’t be able to earn frequent flyer points from these flights. (Plus, the airline might go after you.)
The newest kid on the block, Kiwi.com recently came across our radar about a year ago (despite it being around since 2012). For bottom-barrel travelers travelers that are apt to opt for every cost-cutting measure possible, including traveling 9,000 miles to another airport, though maybe not quite so literally, Kiwi.com is definitely your man.
Kiwi.com is also unique in the fact that it essentially sells what are unprotected connections to passengers, though the company does offer guaranteed flight protection through its policies. Best though, like always, to read the fine print on that.
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