I’ve been traveling a lot more lately, at least more often than I am used to. Outside of work I typically book maybe one or two flights a year, but in the past year and a half I have probably book about a dozen flights. Between weddings, bachelor parties, trips with the in-laws, etc., I have spent a healthy sum of money on flights for my wife and I. We don’t typically spend and splurge much so it’s not a big deal, but when I ran my year end spending summary for my Amex card I was pretty surprised on how much we had actually spent this year. I’ve always spent time searching out the best airfares and the best sites to book them on, but I spent a little more time than usual this year.
In previous years I had used just about every major travel site you can think of. I’ve found Orbitz and Travelocity to be less than reliable in recent years. I’ve been bumped from flights or had mix-up in hotel and car reservations, and their customer service is difficult to reach at best. The good ole sites like Yahoo Farechase don’t really live up to the hype that they used to, as they are less reliable and provide less functionality than sites like Kayak. This is precisely why Kayak is my usual go to site whenever I travel now. They provide airfare quotes to all locations from every major airline, and the probability that you are getting the best price that will be available going forward. Not to mention they provide package deals just like all the other booking sites, so you can still get those discounts for booking air, hotel, and car together.
I still found myself with a sour taste in my mouth regarding the exorbitant rates I’ve been paying for airfare lately. It actually cost my wife and I $1,300 to fly to Florida for 4 days back in October. We aren’t exactly talking peak travel season, and we live in Michigan, which had about 1,000 flights a day to Florida. This is precisely when I started to get serious about ways I can save on airfare, and when I discovered Skiplagged. I’m actually amazed it’s taken this many years to come up with this concept. The idea is based around “hidden city” fares. For example, say you do a travel search on the typical sites like Orbitz, and you want to find the cheapest flight from Detroit to Boston. It may find a United flight that costs $400 one way. What Skiplagged does is to look for the cheapest flight pattern that exists. So maybe booking a trip from Detroit to Newark with a one-stop layover in Boston only costs $200, and you simply throw away your connecting flight ticket and stay in Boston as planned. It turns that these fare differences are a reality and exist on a daily basis. I found that I could’ve saved about $400 on those tickets to Florida this past year had I simply said I was traveling to the Bahamas with a connecting flight in Tampa Bay, and then just stayed in Tampa. Of course I booked non-refundable tickets and was unable to do so at that point, but it was an eye opener. I subsequently used the service to find cheaper airfare on a flight to Las Vegas by booking a connecting ticket to San Francisco. Who would’ve thought it would be less expensive to book airfare to another connecting location, but apparently it happens all the time. Prices are based on flight demand and seat availability, and the airlines are crying and whining about the service that Skiplagged is offering.
As it turns out both Orbitz and United Airlines have filed a lawsuit against Skiplagged. Apparently their argument is that they have contracts with these 3rd party booking companies that prevent them from offering up these “hidden city” flights as a booking option. Users have been redirected from Skiplagged to Orbitz and then book their airfare. If Orbitz hadn’t jumped on the legal bandwagon they would’ve risked being sued as well. Even if the lawsuit proves successful I don’t see this business model going away, rather just being altered a bit. The algorithm and service they offer is unique and very valuable, so rather than taking a cut of the profits from the airline I can imagine that users themselves would pay a monthly or annual fee for this service instead. Then they wouldn’t be bound by the contracts with the airlines and 3rd party booking companies.
After the success I’ve already seen with my own eyes I am totally sold on this site. Granted, you may not always find a better deal than a direct flight to your destination, but the site will still tell you the best deal available. The only other caveat you need to watch out for is your baggage. I often pack a carry on to avoid unnecessary baggage fees by checking them in, so this service works well for me. However, if you absolutely must check your baggage then keep in mind that it will be routed to the final destination city rather than the one you actual stay at. Other than packing all of your belongings into a carry on I can’t imagine how to avoid this. Though my wife and I are able to pack two carry-ons when we travel together so it works out well for us.
The next time you are even considering booking a flight give this site a shot. It’s free and might turn out to be more than worth it.