Saving money on airfare when booking flights online is a combination of consumer empowerment via the internet, and potentially a real time sink. It’s great not having to rely on travel agents to find the best deals for flight tickets, as one had do 15 or 20 years ago. If you’re not careful though, you can spend hours perusing different online ticket sites like Priceline, Travelocity, Expedia, Hotwire and many others in an effort to get the best price on airplane tickets. Save money tips have to be weighed against the time and effort needed to use them.
Complicating matters further is the issue of trying to predict the timing of your purchase. Often, buying far in advance (if you can) is the best way to lock in a cheap airfare. But as frequent fliers know, this is not always the case. Sophisticated ticket pricing algorithms today have seat prices changing almost continuously. If for some reason you don’t shop tickets until a week or less before departure, you will sometimes find that the airline was forced to radically reduce prices in an effort to fill seats on a half-empty airplane. Taking advantage of this phenomenon has serious practical limitations however, whether for business or holiday travel, as you run the risk of seat prices for a given destination simply increasing until the flight date, or worse, finding no seat availability at all.
What if there was a way to take a lot of the guesswork out of timing your purchase of airplane tickets in an effort to get the best price? What if there was a website that presented you with search results from several of the major online travel booking websites as well as a recommendation to buy immediately or to wait, based on its prediction of the direction prices would move? It might sound like science fiction, but the technology exists today. It is the best single way that I am aware of to save money on airfare.
Farecast.com was a website with a revolutionary way for a person to determine the best time to buy airplane tickets. The company was acquired by Microsoft in April, 2008, and thankfully Microsoft kept the ‘know when to buy’ feature when it blended it into Bing Travel.
Here’s how it works: you enter your departure and destination cities and your desired dates, with an option to include nearby airports in your search. There are also options to look at fares over many different dates as well as the option to check prices for multiple routes to a given destination. In this way, whatever flexibility you have in your itinerary can be incorporated into your search results, and can potentially save you money by showing you a larger range of flights (including hopefully, flights with surprisingly low fares) based on the filter you construct initially. As the search for lowest fares over multiple sites is being performed, you’ll notice the price predictor functionality “building your prediction”. Amazingly, when the search returns the lowest fares there will also be a suggestion to buy now or wait, along with a specific dollar amount prediction as to how much higher or lower the fares will change between now and your flight date. If the software tells you to wait, it also tells you specifically why; that there is a high likelihood of a major price drop in the next seven days for instance. Incredibly, the site actually quantifies just how much confidence it has, expressed as a percentage, that fares will rise, fall or stay in a given range around the current price, between now and the flight date. For added context you’re presented with a graph of price fluctuations for this route over the last 50 days. It is all based on Farecast/Bing Travel’s past track record for predictions within the market you are searching, and similar markets. One small shortcoming is that the Farecast technology does not cover international flights as comprehensively as it does domestic (US) flights. One wonders however, if the number of covered routes will increase as flight sample sizes increase, as well as leading to even better predictions in the future across the board.
If being informed helps one to save money on travel (or anything for that matter), it doesn’t get much better than Bing Travel with its ‘price predictor’ technology.
The technology is consumer empowerment on steroids. While I find myself normally gravitating towards Google for search and a lot of other things, this is one area where Microsoft still has a lock on a state-of-the-art internet application. Try it the next time you are booking tickets online and looking to save money on airfare. It’s one of the best save money tips I know.