By George Hobica of Airfarewatchdog
And they keep on coming! More and more airfare search sites and tools. They're all great, don't get me wrong, but they're all quite similar, and use the same airfare data. Hopper, Adioso, Hipmunk, Google Flights, and all the ones that came before. What's ironic is that they're all piling on just when the game is sort of over. There are only four "major" U.S.-based airlines left standing. Gone are the days when airlines would knock each other over the head with crazy nationwide fare sales. If you've been following Airfarewatchdog since our start, or before that when we did this for AOL, you'll remember the $88 RT nationwide, system-wide fare wars, back when there was an ATA, a Northwest, a Continental, an Independence Air, America West, Skybus and all the rest. RIP, my friends.
So the new sites are fine, but none of them are true "disrupters" (I hate that word, but it will do for now).
To truly change the game, an airfare search site would have to do the following:
You tell it when are where you want to go, your specific dates, how many people, and so on, and if a fare goes way, way down for your dates and place, it automatically books you on a 24-hour hold. If they don't hear from you that you want to book the trip, it cancels. Fares plummet all the time, but you need to act fast to get the best deals. What if you don't open the alert email, or see the fare, before it's too late. This would solve that problem.
You tell it when you can travel, and you get alerts by email or tweet or SMS showing the 10, 20, or however many cheapest destinations. For example, I can only take vacation July 4-10. Where can I go cheap during those exact days? Show me a list.
Provide a truly flexible date search calendar over almost an entire year, like Travelocity (and Easy Sabre) used to do back in the infancy of online airfare search. But unlike those days, all dates showing a valid fare would truly be available. No hunting and pecking.
And how about a search engine that will tell me that although Houston to Honolulu is $800 RT, Dallas to Honolulu is $340 RT and Houston-Dallas is $128 RT? Now, that would be a game-changer.
Google.com/flights will let you choose a departure and return date and show you a map of some low fares, but it's not exactly "curated"… as in just show me the lowest fares. Or just to the cities I want to visit.
Adioso is pretty cool since you can ask it to send you alerts based on a query as plain-English as "New York to anywhere in June for a trip of about 2 weeks." And Google.com/flights/explore is a cool tool.
Hipmunk is, well, cute.
Hopper is inspirational. And also has a cute logo, although our Wheaten Terrier logo is the cutest of the cute. Actually, he's fierce.
But until something really different comes along in the airfare search sphere, I'm not going to get all excited.
Other stories you might like:
Miss Your Connection? Here's $500 For Your Pain
Confessions of an Airline Revenue Manager
Ten reasons why first or business class is (and isn't really) "worth it"
To learn more about George Hobica, visit his profile on Google+
Follow us on Twitter @airfarewatchdog
Above image via Shutterstock