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Airline information on-line on the Internet FAQ



 
 
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Old February 22nd, 2009, 04:04 PM posted to rec.travel.air
Yasar
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Default Airline information on-line on the Internet FAQ

what abou the http://www.luton-airportspecialist.com.
On Feb 8, 11:00*am, (John R. Levine) wrote:
Archive-name: travel/air/online-info
Last-modified: 2009/02/08
Changes from last week are indicated by the usual marks in the right margin.

Please look through this entire document, particularly the PLEASE NOTE at the
end, before e-mailing me a question or comment, since most of the questions I
get are already answered in it.

* What's in this document?

There's an enormous amount of information available on the Web about airlines
and aviation. This FAQ concentrates on two things: schedules, fares,
reservations, and tickets for commercial airlines, and on-line travel agents.
We list both airline-sponsored and independent information.

The first parts of this FAQ discuss on-line sources of airline schedules and
fares, of which there are several general-purpose services.

After that it lists airlines that have any of online schedules, fares,
reservations, ticket sales, and flight status.

Next comes a listing of on-line specials, sources of special fares and other
deals available over the net. Many airlines have short-notice specials which
are worth checking out.

The rest of the FAQ lists travel agents that offer service over the net and
have indicated that they'd like to be listed. I am not a travel agent (I
consult and write computer books which you can find out about in my web site
athttp://www.johnlevine.com, and the agent listings are provided free to any
agent that asks and sends in a short description of what he or she offers..

* Where is this FAQ available?

It's on the Web athttp://airinfo.travelorhttp://airinfo.aero. There are,
unfortunately, a certain number of out of date copies of this site floating
around the net; the only one that's up to date is the one athttp://airinfo.travelorhttp://airinfo.aero.

You can also get it by e-mail every Sunday. To get on the mailing list, send a
message to containing the line "subscribe airline".
(Don't type the quotes, nor any other punctuation.)

* How do on-line reservations work?

Four giant airline computer systems in the United States handle nearly all the
airline reservations in the country. (They're known as CRSs, for computer
reservations systems, or more often now GDS for global distribution systems.)
Although each airline has a ``home'' CRS, the systems are all interlinked so
that you can, with few exceptions, buy tickets for any airline from any CRS.
The dominant systems in the U.S. are Sabre (home to American and US Airways),
Galileo (home to United), Worldspan (home to Delta, Northwest), and Amadeus
(Continental and many European lines.) The company that owned Galileo and
Orbitz recently bought Worldspan, so the two GDS will presumably be merged.
Many of the low-price start-up airlines don't participate in any of these
systems but have their own Web sites where you can check flights and buy
tickets. Southwest, the largest and oldest of the low-price airlines, doesn't
participate, either. Southwest's web site gets car and hotel info from
Galileo, but the info seems not to flow the other way. Orbitz, one of the big
three online travel agencies, runs its own system which is "direct connect"
linked directly to many of the airlines.

In theory, all the systems show the same data; in practice, however, they get
a little out of sync with each other. If you're looking for seats on a
sold-out flight, an airline's home system is most likely to have that last,
elusive seat. If you're looking for the lowest fare to somewhere, check all
four systems because a fare that's marked as sold out on one system often
mysteriously reappears on another system. Some airlines have rules about
flight segments that are not supposed to be sold together even though they're
all available, and at least once I got a cheap US Airways ticket on Expedia,
which didn't know about all the US Airways rules even though I couldn't get it
on their own site or Travelocity which did know about them. On the other hand,
many airlines have available some special deals that are only on their own Web
sites and maybe a few of the online agencies. Confused? You should be. We are.

The confusion is even worse if you want to fly internationally. Official fares
to most countries are set via a treaty organization called the IATA, so most
computer systems list only IATA fares for international flights. It's easy to
find entirely legal ``consolidator'' tickets sold for considerably less than
the official price, however, so an online or offline agent is extremely useful
for getting the best price. The airlines also can have some impressive online
offers on their web sites.

Here's our distilled wisdom about buying tickets online:

* Check the online systems to see what flights are available and for an idea
of the price ranges. Check more than one CRS. For tickets within the U.S. and
Canada, the prices in the CRS are for the most part the real prices that
people are paying. See the Big Online Agencies later in this FAQ for some good
places to start.
* After you have found a likely airline, check that airline's site to see
whether it has any special Web-only deals. If a low-fare airline has the
route, be sure to check that one too, since most low-fare airlines don't
appear in CRS listings.
* If your schedule is flexible, check ticket bidding sites including Hotwire
(http://www.hotwire.com) and Priceline (http://www.priceline.com) and ticket
auctions such as SkyAuction (http://www.skyauction.com/).
* You can also talk to travel agents, particularly if it's a route where you
aren't eligible for the lowest CRS fares, but remember that agents get no
commission on fares visible on the CRS, so you can expect an agent to charge
you for ticking them.
* For international tickets, do all the steps above in this list, and then
check both online and with your agent for consolidator tickets. This is
particularly important if you don't qualify for the lowest published fare.. See
Edward Hasbrouck's Consolidators and Bucket Shops FAQ
(http://hasbrouck.org/faq) for much more detailed information on consolidator
tickets.

* February 2009 industry update * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *|

The U.S. airline industry is still in dreadful shape, with Aloha, ATA, Skybus,
Eos, Silverjet, Maxjet, and now Zoom having shut down unexpectedly in recent
months. Midwest is on death watch, Frontier and now Sun Country are bankrupt
but still flying, and the remaining airlines are hanging on with to a
combination of somewhat higher fares and very full planes. In Europe,
Lufthansa is buying and probably absorbing bmi, which will give them a
substantial Heathrow hub, and French all-business carrier l'Avion is being
absorbed into British Airways' Openskies subsidiary, which is looking kind of *+
iffy itself. The plunge in fuel prices helps, but doesn't address basic issues +
of cost structure and overcapacity in the face of falling demand. * * * * * * *|

Airlines have been cutting back schedules for fall and winter flying, so there
will be fewer seats on more crowded planes. In some cases small several
regional jet flights have been replaced by one larger jet, but the overall
trend is down.

Airlines are scrambling for revenue anywhere they can find it. Fuel surcharges
are now common across the industry, and can be several hundred dollars on
overseas flights. Most lines now only let you check one bag for free, some
charge for all checked bags, many now charge for picking your own seat, and
charge more if you pick a decent seat by an exit row or bulkhead. (The kindest
way to think of it is that the prices have increased, but you get a discount
if you're willing to fly with no checked bag, sit in a lousy seat, and bring
your own lunch.) With the exception of Continental, nobody includes meals on
domestic flights any more, although I have to say that the $5 salads and
sandwiches are often a lot better than the former free gray-green glop.

The airlines that aren't bankrupt have shrunk themselves and raised fares but
after a brief profitable period are all deeply back in the red, due to fuel
prices. Beyond the ones that have shut down, Mesa Air is on death watch, due
to the end of its commuter agreement with Delta and losses at its go!
subsidiary in Hawaii, Midwest will shut down if they don't get more investors
soon, and Sun Country's options to emerge from bankruptcy are not promising.

A major effect of all of the bankruptcies and downsizing is that airlines are
much more thinly staffed than they used to be. That means that problems tend
to have worse effects and last longer than they used to be. Northwest and
Delta finally agreed to tie the knot, although they are still operating mostly
separately.

United, chronically left at the altar, was talking to Continental, who then
publicly stated that they're not interested in a merger, but agreed to
code-share and for CO to join Star Alliance, replacing what CO has now with
Northwest and Delta.

US Airways slogged through its second bankruptcy, and merged with America
West, with the combined company to be called US Airways but run by the
management of profitable America West, which hasn't been bankrupt for a couple
of years. Their operations still aren't entirely integrated. The staffs of the
two airlines never liked each other, causing continuing labor problems. They
might yet merge with United, although in their current shape they're not a
terribly attractive merger partner.

Hawaiian and and Aloha emerged from bankruptcy last year. Hawaiian is hanging
on, but Aloha died in March.

ATA unexpectedly shut down on April 2, citing a lost military contract. Since
they had a deal with Southwest to provide codeshare service between Midway and
places Southwest doesn't go, this also affected some Southwest passengers..

Air Canada emerged from bankruptcy last year in OK but not great shape, and
has been modestly profitable, making it look like a survivor, particularly
since low-cost competitor JetsGo turned out to be so low cost that it ran out
of cash and died, Canjet retreated back to charters, and surviving low cost
competitor Westjet isn't competing very hard, although they recently announced
a modest alliance with Southwest.

Since the UK bomb plot a few years ago, the rules about what you can take with
you on the plane rather than check, particularly what amounts of what kind of
liquid, and what electronic equipment, have been changing unpredictably from
day to day and place to place, despite the fact that the authorities have
known for at least a decade that bad guys might try to use liquid bombs
detonated by consumer electronic equipment.

Passengers are subject to much more extensive screening than in the past,
including screening of checked baggage at check-in time, and, according to
news reports pat downs that approach groping. Airlines recommend arriving at
least an hour earlier than before. In my experience the extra delay is rarely
more than 15 minutes, even with the extra baggage screening, although I
usually fly out of smaller airports, not big hubs where you can get the killer
two hour lines. The TSA has taken over screening at most airports but the
inconsistency in procedures from oneairportto another, particularly with
respect to your shoes, is worse than ever. I've gone through the metal
detector, it beeped, I went back and took my shoes off, walked through again,
it beeped again, and they didn't notice (so neither did I, since I'm pretty
sure I have no plans to blow up any planes.) A variety of extra cost "trusted
traveller" may allow people to get through the screening faster, or may just
involve waiting in a different line. The TSA makes no promises. They have a
web site with estimated wait times (http://waittime.tsa.dhs.gov) based on
averages in previous months, not real time numbers.

Other changes include: some airports have stopped curb-side baggage check,
anything vaguely resembling a knife or lighter may or may not be confiscated
(although lighters suddenly stopped being dangerous the first week in August),
you're sometimes only allowed one carry-on plus a purse, briefcase, diaper bag
or the like, non-passengers aren't allowed past security without a gate pass
from an airline, all passengers must have a document that looks like a
boarding pass at most airports to get past security, you may have to put your
toothpaste and shampoo in a baggie that may have to be a one quart size, some
parking areas close to terminals are closed. But check-in clerks no longer ask
you whether you packed your own suitcase.

* Wow, there's a lot of places to look for plane tickets

The original version of this FAQ described only one online source of plane
reservations (the late, lamented Easy Sabre) because that's all there was.. Now
there are approximately fifteen gazillion web sites selling plane tickets.. But
setting up a system to sell tickets is a lot of work, so in reality most of
those web sites funnel into a much smaller number of underlying systems. This
means that you aren't likely to find a lot more from visiting a hundred sites
than from visiting four or five. Good sites to start at are ITA Software
(http://www.itasoftware.com), which uses its own search engine but doesn't
sell tickets, and a couple of the comparison sites such as Kayak
(http://www.kayak.com). For more detailed suggestions, see How do on-line
reservations workearlier in this FAQ.

Airlines' own web sites are a notable exception. Even though they are all
backed by one of the standard search systems (increasingly a customized
version of Orbitz), they each provide access to their own flights without any
booking fee. No matter where you find a ticket, it's worth checking the
airline's own site to see if it's a few dollars less there. Buying on the
airline's own site frequently also makes it easier to pick seats or change
tickets later.

Most sites are intended for relatively casual travellers, not road warriors
who need to know the exact fare class of a ticket, so they can optimize
frequent flyer miles and upgrades. For access to detailed fare and class
availability information, see Expert Flyer, described later. It costs money,
but if you care about that kind of stuff, it's well worth it.

* The big online agencies

For domestic US tickets and simple international tickets (e.g., a round trip
from the US to somewhere else, bought at least a month ahead) the big three
are as good a place to start as any.

Travelocity: Travelocity (http://www.travelocity.com) is an online agent owned |
by Sabre. Tickets can be issued as e-tickets or, at extra cost, by mail. There
is also a great deal of travel destination information of variable usefulness.
Unlike most other web-based systems, it sometimes lets you hold a reservation
without buying it. Also handles hotels and rental cars. A nice fare watcher
feature lets you list a few routes you're interested in, and it sends you
e-mail when an interesting fare becomes available. They have a Vacation Deals
page that often has private fares, two-for-one deals, and the like. Their
flexible search option provides a fare calendar, table of what fares are
available on what dates, that's better than any other site I know.
Unfortunately, just because a fare is available on a date doesn't mean that
any actual seats are available at that fare, so a certain number of the fares
are cruel jokes, great bargains if only the airline would sell you a seat at
that fare which they won't.

Some fares are marked "good buy" which means that they're only available on
Travelocity. But that doesn't mean that they're any cheaper than other fares.
All fares now include a $5/ticket service fee.

Travelocity includes a "last minute deals" feature which is a rebranded
version of Site59 (http://www.site59.com), which Travelocity owns.

Expedia: Expedia (http://www.expedia.com) was Microsoft's flashy entrant into *|
the web travel biz. In July 2001 they sold a controlling interest to USA
Networks, owner of Home Shopping Network and other great cultural monuments.
In August 2003, the two companies were merged under the extremely trendy name
of IAC/InterActive Corp, along with hotels.com, Match.com and LendingTree.. In
2005 they admitted that synergy is just a buzzword and spun it off as a
separate company. It still has that Microsoft feel. The site is a bit noisy,
but it's reasonably easy to negotiate and to find schedules and fares. You
have to provide a credit card number to make a reservation, even if you don't
want to buy immediately. Early on, when I tried to reserve, it said it the
credit card link was down, no reservations possible, call a number in Florida
if it's urgent. Yeah, right. (At Microsoft, quality is job 1.1.) It seems to
work better now. There's also lots of promos and tie-ins, with Expedia-only
special fares. You can sign up for weekly e-mail about best fares on routes
you select. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *|

Orbitz: Orbitz (http://www.orbitz.com), was intended to be the "killer" * * * *|
airline ticket web site. Founded by United, Northwest, Continental, Delta, and
American, it was sold in October 2004 to Cendant, a large travel company that
owns Avis rent-a-car and Ramada Inns and dozens of other familiar chains, then
in July 2007 was spun off as a standalone company along with some smaller
travel companies that Cendant bought along the way. At least 30 airlines
including the founders are Orbitz charter affiliates, which means they give
all of their web fares to Orbitz. It has a very nice lowest fare search
engine. You can tell it to add alternateairportwithin 70 miles, and it gives
you the possible routings, cheapest first. It now lets you give a range of
dates, or say that you want to take a weekend trip in a particular month, and
it gives you a grid showing the lowest available fare for each combination of
departure and return dates. They promise unbiased fare and schedule listings,
and have agreements with affiliate airlines to include all publicly available
fares (a term that is harder to define than it looks) such as web specials.
Their search engine does a more thorough job than others (it runs on racks of
cheap PCs rather than on expensive mainframe computers) so it'll often find
fares and connections that are entirely valid but not shown on other systems.
For domestic US tickets on the airlines they include, they're hard to beat,
although like other online agencies, they don't include Southwest. For
international tickets, particularly on anything more complex than a
round-trip, they can be very hit and miss. Try building your trip one leg at a
time and watch the price zoom up and down. They also have some spiffy customer
service, e.g., they can call you or send a text message to your mobile phone
or PDA a few hours before flight time to tell you your gate and whether there
are delays. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *|

Opodo: Opodo (http://www.opodo.co.uk) is owned by nine European airlines and * |
the Amadeus GDS. Its coverage of the European majors is good, but keep in mind
that on many European routes you can find something cheaper on a low-cost
airline that doesn't participate with Amadeus. (See Fare Searches below to
find services link to the airlines that Opodo doesn't.) It's intended for
European audiences although anyone can use it, so tickets are priced in pounds
or euros.

Opodo's user registration is, ah, challenging; no matter what I do, it insists
I have entered an unknown user or password or the e-mail address for password
recovery doesn't match the user name, even though I copied them from
confirmation messages that Opodo just sent. So buy tickets without
registering. * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * |

Apollo systems:

Internet Travel Network (http://www.itn.net) is now part of American Express.
It's a WWW-based flight booking system. You make reservations, using Apollo,
which are then ticketed by American Express, unless you entered via another
agency's web site. Several other sites on the net including several airlines
have ``private label'' connections to ITN, but it's the same system, usually
just with slightly different screen backgrounds and titles. The base ITN
system uses data from Apollo, but apparently some of the private label
versions use other CRS.

Worldspan (http://www.worldspan.com) is another large international CRS. They
provide a Web availability and pricing system, which underlies the web sites
of participating agents as well as the Delta and Northwest web sites, only
available via customer sites, not on their own site. It's the system that
underlies Expedia and Orbitz (described above). Galileo's owner Travelport is
in the process of buying Worldspan and will presumably merge the two.

Cheap Tickets (http://www.cheaptickets.com) originally sold mostly cheap
tickets to Hawaii, but is now a general purpose online agent. I gather that
unlike most other web sites, the live agents at their 800 number have access
to fares not on the web site and often not available through other sites.
Owned by Cendant, being spun off in the same travel company as Orbitz,
although the sites remain separate.

Amadeus:

AmadeusLink (http://www.amadeus.net/), was started in 1987 by four European
airlines and in 1995 absorbed System One which started a long time ago as
Eastern Airlines' reservation system. They offer extensive schedule and
availability info, along with rental car, hotel, and destination info. For
bookings, you need to use a subscribing travel agency, such as Opodo, or a
site built on their AmadeusLink system. The AmadeusLink booking systems all
link into the same site, so other than some of the graphics, the function they
provide is identical.

* Meta-searches

A meta-search looks at lots of other sites and gives you a combined result
that is supposed to have the lowest fare. All of these work, but in each case
it appears that they only search sites that will pay them a commission. The
commission doesn't affect your fare, but it does mean that there are other
sites that might have lower fares that they don't search. In particular,
you'll never find low-price airlines like Southwest and Ryanair.

Mobissimo (http://www.mobissimo.com/) is a meta-search that searches lots of
other web sites for a pair of cities and dates and shows you what fares it
found.

Kayak (http://www.kayak.com) and Sidestep are meta-searches, systems that
search multiple airline web sites to make a combined listing with links you
can click through to the various sites to buy. They work well, but as with all
combo sites, there are usually interesting sites they don't search so you
still have to look for yourself. They were originally separate competing sites
but the companies merged.

Pricegrabber (http://www.pricegrabber.com/home_travel.php) offers price
comparisons of everything from computer parts to hotels, now including plane
tickets. It's pretty slick, but the list of places they search seems limited.

Yahoo's Farechase (http://farechase.yahoo.com/) is yet another meta-search. It
has the slick interface you'd expect from Yahoo, results similar to but
perhaps not quite as complete as Kayak.

Fare compare (http://www.farecompare.com) isn't really a meta-search; it takes
fare information directly from the airlines to let you find the cheapest dates
on routes of interest.

Yapta (http://www.yapta.com) checks airline web sites to see if the fare for
trips of interest has dropped since the last time you checked. Much of the
functionality is bundled into a very intrusive browser plugin that I haven't
tried.

* Other general sites

OneTravel (http://www.onetravel.com) offers booking and ticketing. They used
to have a "fare beater" feature with negotiated and "white label" fares, but
it's gone. Too bad. It's a competent but ordinary online agent now. Cheapseats
(http://www.cheapseats.com) is another portal into the same system.

Travelweb (http://www.travelweb.com), also known as Lowestfare
(http://www.lowestfare.com), is a subsidiary of Priceline. It offers the usual
array of tickets, with lots of links to Priceline.

* Fare searches and comparisons

ITA Software (http://matrix.itasoftware.com/cvg/dispatch) builds the search
engine used by Orbitz and an increasing number of airline sites, and you can
use a copy of the latest version of their search system. No booking, you have
to take what you find and book elsewhere. It's by far my favorite tool to
explore what's available when, keeping in mind that it can't see low fare
airlines not in the GDS that provide its data.

Qixo (http://www.qixo.com) searches two dozen airline sites and returns a
combined list of the lowest fares found for route. If you book through them,
there's a $20 booking fee, but of course once you know the airline and times,
there's nothing keeping you from booking up the same flights on another site.

Cheap Flights USA (http://www.CheapFlights.com) and Cheap Flights UK
(http://www.CheapFlights.co.uk) offers a nice search engine for low cost
tickets from the US and UK, many of which don't appear in the major search
engines. Not a travel agency, they link to other agents and airlines where
they presumably collect a referral fee (which is fine, it doesn't affect the
price of the ticket.)

Foundem (http://www.foundem.com/search/flightsUK.jsp) searches multiple sites
in the UK. Supposed to include both regular agent sites and low-fare airlines,
but it missed a lot of the low-fare ones when I looked.

Sky Scanner (http://www.skyscanner.net) offers an excellent search engine for
cheap flights within the UK and Europe. Don't miss their month views with
little bar charts of daily fares.

Flight Atlas (http://www.flightatlas.com/) offers cute animated maps showing
what routes are available among European airports, with links to the airlines
serving them. (To me it looks like of like a game of Battleship.)

Cheapo (http://www.flycheapo.com) has comprehensive info on European discount
airlines including a map that shows where they all go, and frequent blog style
news items on new and changed service.

* Discounted international tickets

AirTreks (http://www.airtreks.com) has a spiffy web site that helps construct
and price multi-stop and round-the-world international travel. They're a
travel agency, the site estimates the price, exact prices and tickets come
from live agents at the agency. (That's what you want, no computer can
navigate the swamp of international routes and fares very well.)

Farepoint (http://www.farepoint.co.uk/) provides a large database of fares via
UK travel agents. The site links to some of the agents who offer their
service.

Flights.com (http://www.flights.com) (formerly called TISS) is an online
database in Germany with current airfares provided by a group of
consolidators. They offer departures from a lot of different countries, now
including the U.S. They claim the prices they offer are the best available.
For routes within the US they act as a front end to flifo. One reader reports
a bad experience with their US agent, rebooking his reservation in a way that
lost the discount fare he'd reserved, although he'd had good results with
their UK agent.

Air Fare (http://www.air-fare.com) tracks lowest fares among major U.S.
cities, with daily updates of significantly lower fares. Worldspan-based Res
and ticketing also available.

Deal Checker (http://www.dealchecker.co.uk) compares fares and hotel prices
from major UK web sites.

* Prognostication

Farecast (http://www.farecast.com/) attempts to predict future airfares so you
can pick the best time to buy your tickets. Their list of cities, originally
only Boston and Seattle, has expanded to a modest list of domestic airports,
so if they happen to cover your favorite route, it's an interesting idea.

* Checkin snipers

Sniping is geek-speak for an automated system that visits a web site on your
behalf just in time to meet a deadline. Now that airlines offer on-line
checkin, a checkin sniper allows you to register with it ahead of time, so it
can check you in the moment the airline allows it, thereby getting the best
available seat or upgrade.

Checkin Sooner (http://checkinsooner.com/) offers checkin on Southwest, * * * *-
American, Delta, Continental, and United. Limited service is free, extra
goodies for $79/yr.

Board First (http://boardfirst.com) offered checkin on Southwest for $5 each,
but shut down due to legal objections from Southwest.

* Detailed fares and availability

Expert Flyer (http://www.expertflyer.com) provides detailed seat and fare
availability information, similar to what a travel agent sees. Five day free
trial, then limited access for $5/mo, full access for $10/mo. If you fly a
lot, it's invaluable for finding which flights have seat upgrades available,
which ones have seats at particular fares, and other detailed info for finding
the exact flights one wants.

* Real-time flight status and information

Flightstats (http://www.flightstats.com) provides realtime flight departure
and arrival information along with related goodies likeairportdelays,
historical lateness stats and more. With free registration, get alerts by
email or SMS.

Expedia (http://www.expedia.com/pub/agent.dll?qscr=flin) now has real-time
flight ops including times and gates for major US airlines.

The Track A Flight (http://www.trackaflight.com/) service (formerly Flyte
Trax, same organization as flytecomm.com) also provides real-time position map
and ETA for most domestic flights, by flight number, or departing or arriving
airports. It's as nice as TheTrip.

Flight Arrivals (http://www.flightarrivals.com/) offers impressively complete
arrival info for most US airports. (It even has info for the teensy Ithaca NYairport.) No maps, but lots of data.

* Itinerary Lookup

Each of the GDS has a web site where you can look up the details of the record
for a reservation if you have the locator code, generally a sequence of six
letters or digits, and the passenger's last name. A single trip can have
information on more than one system. For example, if you make a United
Airlines reservation on Travelocity, the main Travelocity record is on Sabre,
but there's a copy on United's home system Galileo, as well. Each system has a
different locator code, and it can be hard to find the codes for other than
the original system. Virtually There sometimes shows the locator for other
system records as the Confirmation field, although you have to figure out or
guess which system it's on.

Every travel agent except Orbitz uses one of the GDS to make its reservations
so the master record for each trip is available through one of the systems.
The online systems usually show the locator code on one of the confirmation
screens, and any airline or local travel agent will tell your the locator for
your reservation if you ask. Since Orbitz uses its direct connect technology
to make reservations directly with many airlines, the master record is on
Orbitz itself and as far as I can tell you can't tell the airline's locator
until you get your boarding pass.

Virtually There (https://www.virtuallythere.com) can show records from Sabre
inclding reservations on Travelocity, American Airlines, and US Airways.

Check My Trip (https://www.checkmytrip.com) can show records from Amadeus,
including reservations on Continental and many European airlines.

My Trip and More (http://www.mytripandmore.com/) can show records from
Worldspan, including reservations on Delta and Northwest.

View Trip (https://www.viewtrip.com/en-us/ViewTrip.asp) can show records from
Galileo, including reservations on United.

Some of these systems will also show rental car and hotel info if they're
included in the same records.

Airlines often offer special fares or promotions to Internet users, and there
are some other specialist outfits selling tickets on-line.

* Special fare newsletters and sites

Smarter Travel (http://www.smartertravel.com/) collects weekly specials from
selected major cities and both puts them on their web site and e-mails them to
mailing lists. You can sign up for the cities you're interested in flying
from, as well as general newsletters about travel deals.

Also see their companion site Airfare Watchdog
(http://www.airfarewatchdog.com) which has a fine compendium of low fares by
city, with useful suggestions for nearby cities that might have lower fares.

Travelzoo (http://www.travelzoo.com/) offers a gazillion different services
including a weekly Top 20 Deals newsletter and a meta-meta-search in which you
tell it the cities and dates, and they offer links to sites you might want to
search. (Selection surely not affected by how much commission they pay.)

The Wednesday Airfares webring (http://www.bomis.com/rings/airline) has links
to many sites with. on-line specials, although they should really update it to
take out the link to TWA.

Travelocity has a Travel Deals page that often has private fares, two-for-one
deals, and the like. Click Flights on the home page, then Deals on the blue
bar.

* Ticket auctions and the like

Priceline (http://www.priceline.com) sells tickets over the web using a
peculiar system sort of like an auction. You tell them where and when you want
to go and how much you're willing to pay. You have to be prepared to go at any
time of day, on any major domestic airline or one of a list of international
ones, and to accept a stop or change of plane. You tell them what you're
willing to pay, along with credit card info. If they find a ticket at that
price, you've bought it and can't change or refund it (like most any low-price
ticket.) Flights must originate in the U.S., or via an affiliate, in the U.K.

If they have a ticket available at or below your bid, they'll sell it to you,
but you don't know if you're getting the best price. They'll charge what you
offered even if the carrier would have accepted less, and they make it
difficult to offer increasing bids. They now offer seats on many the major US
airlines and international airlines. except A lot of reports, including
articles in the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, and the Wall Street Journal,
say that in practice bids for lower than published prices are rarely accepted,
and they admit that they accept less than 10% of the bids people make,
although they do sell 15,000 tickets a day. They now also offer normal tickets
where you know the price and the flights ahead of time. I don't see any reason
to buy from them rather than anyone else, but this does at least tell you what
the list price is so you don't bid any higher than that.

I haven't ever bought a ticket through Priceline, but would welcome more
reports from people who have. (I tried to get a NYC hotel room one time, they
turned down all my offers, but I've heard from at least one person who got a
room at a nice Boston hotel for about half the normal price.) The idea of
auctioning left-over tickets is a good one, and it's a shame if it can't be
put into practice. If you're planning to travel on a route well-served by one
of the airlines listed above, and can fly at any time of day, try bidding
slightly less than the best fare you can find on one of the regular
reservation sites or Hotwire and see if they take it. Otherwise, you're better
off with a agent who knows about unpublished fares, many of whom are listed in
subsequent sections of this FAQ.

Hotwire (http://www.hotwire.com) is a sort of competitor to Priceline now
owned by InterActive Corp which owns Expedia and Hotels.com. You tell them
where you want to go, what dates, and a few conditions such as no red-eye, and
they offer you a price. Unlike Priceline they tell you what price you'll pay
and have an hour to decide before you buy it. Like Priceline, you don't get to
know the times and airline until you buy the tickets. Hotwire is another good
place to check for last minute tickets. It hasn't yet ever offered me a ticket
I wanted to buy, but considering that I fly from Ithaca NY, not exactly a
hotbed of airline competition, I can't say I'm surprised. Flights must
originate in the U.S., but you can fly internationally. They also sell hotels
and rental cars on the same basis; I've gotten some good rental car deals all
of which have turned out to be from Budget.

SkyAuction (http://www.skyauction.com/), in contrast to Priceline and Hotwire,
auctions off tickets and travel packages using a "second bid" scheme similar
to what eBay and other online auctioneers use. (The best strategy is to bid
the maximum you're willing to pay, since if you win you'll pay just enough to
beat the runner up regardless of what your maximum was.) The descriptions of
what they're selling are quite concrete, and you can see what the competing
bids are. Tickets are offered in small lots, you can end up with fewer tickets
than you asked for unless you make a bid "all or nothing". Be sure to add in
the often large service charge for each ticket, and be sure you know what
normal fares are since tickets are often bid up above published fares. I've
bought tickets to London through them, their service was prompt and efficient,
but I've seen reports that it is very difficult to get a refund if there's a
problem with the flights.

General auction sites often have airline tickets available. You can find them
in "Miscellaneous:Travel" at eBay
(http://listings.ebay.com/aw/listings...10/index.html). Many of
the tickets offered appear either to be frequent flyer tickets, which the
airline will confiscate if they can tell that you bought them, or dubious
deals where the air tickets are "free" if you buy an expensive vacation
package. There do seem to be a few transferrable bump certificates, and quite
a few ancillary items like drink coupons.

Site 59 (http://www.site59.com/) offers last minute weekend travel packages.
They all include air and hotel, but the price is often lower than what you'd
otherwise pay for air only (Travelocity's "last minute deals" are really
Site59.)

* Individual airlines

Air Canada (http://www.aircanada.ca/schedules/) has weekly Websaver special
fares.

Airtran (http://www.airtran.com) has weekend specials. Double frequent flyer
credit for specials purchased on-line. (Actually worth something, since six
round trips earn a free ticket.) Also an e-mail newsletter you can sign up for
on the site that announces weekly specials.

Alaska Airlines (http://www.alaskaair.com/Webspecials/start.asp) has web
special fares.

American Airlines has weekly mailing lists for ``Net SAAver fares'', otherwise
unadvertised specials from Chicago or Dallas, as well as some hotel packages.
Visit their web page (http://www.aa.com) and click on specials on the toolbar
at the top.

American Trans Air (http://www.ata.com) has ``net fares'', special fares
available only on their web site.

America West (http://www.americawest.com) has Surf'n'Go weekly specials and
Quick Trips air/land package specials.

Austrian Airlines (http://www.aua.com) has weekly lists of specials, with
occasional web-only last minute specials.

Cathay Pacific Airlines (www.cathay-usa.com/dotm) has regular web specials.
The currently offer $200 off their all-Asia pass, 21 days with round trip to
Hong Kong and 18 other places they fly for $1299. You have to register in
their free ``Cybertraveller'' at the web site. If you like knick-knacks they
have a 60th anniversary stuffed bear in the online duty-free for about US$20
plus (quite a lot of) shipping.

Continental (http://www.coticket.com/) has a mailing list and web site for
net-only specials. You buy tickets on-line, but you have to subscribe to the
mailing list to get access. (Site requires cookies.)

Finnair (http://www.us.finnair.com/) has occasional seat auctions.

Lufthansa's US site (http://www.lufthansa-usa.com/) has occasional Web
specials and live seat auctions. Sign up for mailing list to find out when
they are.

Malaysia Airlines (http://www.malaysiaairlines.com) offers RT from the USA
west coast to Kuala Lumpur and 30 days of travel within Asia for $747 plus
tax, a very attractive deal. (East coast residents should look at the similar
Cathay Pacific offer.)

Northwest (http://www.nwa.com/nwa/flight/promos/index.shtml) has promotions
including a few web-only fares which they put on their site on Wednesdays..

South African Airways (http://www.saa.co.za/saahas) occasional seat auctions.

Southwest (http://www.iflyswa.com/emailhas a mailing list) with weekly
specials. Also there's a package specials list
(http://www.swavacations.com/guest/guest.htm) with special deals if you sign
their guest book and answer a bunch of nosy questions.

Sun Country (http://www.suncountry.com/) has weekly on-line ``Cy-Fly''
specials.

United (http://www.ual.com) has E-Fares specials for members of their Milage
Plus program posted every Wednesday, also by e-mail. (Signup info on their web
site.) Choose E-Fares from the menu on the home page. You have to sign in but
it's free.

US Airways (http://www.usair.com/travel/fares/esavers.htm) has an "e-savers"
mailing list with weekly special fares from (and occasionally to) their hub
cities. Web site also has Internet-only special fares to and from Baltimore
and Washington, with extra frequent flyer miles.

* What about the airlines' own web sites??

Many airlines are on the World Wide Web. Five good directories of them a

http://dir.yahoo.com/Business_and_Ec...://flyaow.com/

This list contains only airlines sites that have schedule or booking
information available; see the pages mentioned above for lots of other airline
web pages with other info.

In the discussions below, flight ops means flight operations, that is, delays,
gates, cancellations, and the like. Ticketless ticketing means that rather
than issuing a real ticket, the airline sends you a receipt with a ticket
number. You cite that number and show ID when you check in. They send the
receipt via e-mail, fax, or (if there's time) snail mail. You pay with a
credit card.

This list is for airlines in the United States, Mexico and Caribbean airlines.
The next section lists Canadian airlines, the section after that airlines
elsewhere in the world.

Air Aruba (http://www.interknowledge.com/air-aruba/) has a rather dusty page
with limited route and contact info, on which the most useful item is that
they don't fly any more.

Airtran (http://www.airtran.com), a low-fare airline in the eastern U.S., has
schedules, reservations, ticketless ticketing, special offers, and an e-mail
specials newsletter.

Alaska Airlines (http://www.alaska-air.com) has a web site with flight info,
reservations, ticketless ticketing, and special offers. Get 500 bonus miles
just for signing up for the weekly newsletter. The reservation system finally
seems to be working reliably, new design is pretty, fare grid is quite usable
but not as cute as the old retro design. Downloadable PDF schedule, too.

Allegiant Air (https://www.allegiantair.com) is a low-fare carrier that flies
MD80s from cities around the country to Las Vegas and vacation destinations in
Florida, as well as Gulfport MI and Phoenix. Reservations, lots of packages,
free tee-shirts with most packages. Assigned seats cost $10 extra. Elvis
glasses available for purchase on many flights. Unlike pretty much every other
airline in the country, they're profitable so book with confidence.

ALM (http://www.airalm.com/) flies to and from the Netherlands Antilles.
Routes, schedules, destination info, and occasional specials.

Aloha (http://www.alohaairlines.com/) ended its passenger service as of the
end of March. With luck, passengers will be reticketed on United or Hawaiian.

America West (http://www.americawest.com) has schedule info, reservations, and
ticketless ticketing in a site that is quite attractive now that the images
hold still. Weekly web specials for both air and air/land packages. They've
merged with US Airways, but for now the two airlines are operating sort of
separately.

American Airlines (http://www.aa.com/) has a newly redesigned very blue web
site with schedules, fares, and flight ops. Reservations and ticketing
available, using the Orbitz booking and search engine. (So much for the
company that built Sabre in the first place, 40 years ago.) They also offer
timetables (http://www.aatimetable.com) in various online and printable
formats.

American Trans Air (http://www.ata.com) shut down unexpectedly on April 2..
They're bankrupt, no reaccomodation, no refunds other than via credit cards,
no nothing.

Amtrak (http://www.amtrak.com) isn't an airline, but they're competitive on
many routes in urban parts of the U.S., and have scenic long distance routes.
Schedule info and reservations available, although the reservation system can
be awfully slow.

BWIA (http://www.bwee.com/) used to fly to, from, and around the Caribbean.

  #2  
Old February 23rd, 2009, 11:31 AM
Madeline Madeline is offline
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Hi. I'm going to Sydney from London can you tell me of the cheapest fair.
 




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