Great fares, or farewell to online booking? You decide.
The recent launches of three new Web sites promising to find you the lowest air fare are giving business travelers new hope of cutting travel expenses. But is it only hope? The three projects, AirlineGuides.com, FareChase.com and QIXO.com, belong to a new breed of search sites that query multiple booking engines at the same time, helping travelers compare prices more easily.
AirlineGuides.com, which modestly describes itself as "The Internet Travelers' Best Friend," searches sites such as Expedia.comand OneTravel.comto find low prices. However, response times are sluggish, and, once you find a fare, you have to repeat the search on the particular site where the fare was found.
QIXO.comsays that it's many travel sites in one and tries to prove it by culling from a number of airline Web sites, Travelocity, Cheap Tickets and others. It's only slightly faster than AirlineGuides, and it also forces you to run two searches--one on QIXO, and another on the airline or travel agency site--unless you register and fork over a service fee of 1 percent of the purchase price (with a $10 maximum).
FareChasebills itself as the "Internet's First Real-Time Travel Comparison-Shopping Search Engine." (It reportedly launched within a day of QIXO.) In addition to airfares, it searches for hotel rooms and rental cars. Finding a fare is painfully slow for the moment, but FareChase takes you directly to the site and lets you book from the supplier in question without any additional charges. Pay attention, though, to the unusually large number of disclaimers.
To be fair, these sites were in their start-up phases at press time and should improve with age. But until they do, it's a good idea to check with a variety of sources, including a real travel agent, if you're looking for competitive fares.