Cheapest Flights? Expedia vs Orbitz vs Travelocity vs Cheaptickets.com

You should always get multiple quotations from different airlines and online travel agents in your quest to find the cheapest flight. There can often be considerable variation in airfares between travel service providers and agents such as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz.

Let's run a quick test and compare flight prices for various routes for a 2 week economy class return in 2010. We will check fares on Expedia, Orbitz, Cheaptickets.com, Travelocity, Priceline and also double check the aggregators Kayak and Bing. All prices are in US dollars unless stated otherwise.

1. New York City to London

Expedia$536 (American / Delta / Continental)
Orbitz $536 (American / Delta / Continental)
Travelocity$536 (American / Delta / Continental)
Cheaptickets$536 (American / Delta / Continental)
CommentsFares similar across the board. Priceline came back with a $531 fare on US Airways via Charlotte.

2. Los Angeles to Hong Kong

Expedia$661 (Air Canada)
Orbitz $648 (China Airlines)
Travelocity$648 (United)
Cheaptickets$648 (China Airlines)
CommentsBing, Priceline and Kayak all came back with the $648 fare.

3. Amsterdam to Cape Town

Expedia$1,149 (KLM)
Orbitz $988 (Air France / British Airways)
Travelocity$1,404 (South African coded, operated by BD, VS and LH)
Cheaptickets$988 (Air France / British Airways)
Comments Travelocity significantly more expensive. Kayak via Vayama found a $941 fare with Air France and South African; Priceline could not quote a non US fare.

4. London to Cairo

Expedia$442 (Egyptair)
Orbitz $430 (Swiss)
Travelocity$2,593 (United operated by Egyptair)
Cheaptickets$430 (Swiss)
CommentsKayak found a $420 fare direct from Swiss.com. Travelocity comes back with a very high price although using their local UK site results in a £260 fare with bmi.

The aggregators are always useful but many times it can be slightly cheaper to book directly on the airline website. Also by booking directly it will be easier to manage your booking and make any changes. Don't forget to check the rules and restrictions on your airfare tariffs as agents can sell more restricted fares.

5. Miami to San Francisco

Expedia$219 (Northwest)
Orbitz $241 (Northwest)
Travelocity$219 (Northwest))
Cheaptickets$241 (Northwest)
Comments$219 fare also available direct with Northwest.

6. New York City to Buenos Aires

Expedia$1,047 (United)
Orbitz $780 (Aeromexico / Mexicana)
Travelocity$741 (Aeromexico / Mexicana)
Cheaptickets$823 (LAN)
CommentsInteresting that Orbitz and Cheaptickets differ here, as they are owned by the same group. Expedia is quite a bit more expensive.

7. Sydney to Singapore

Expedia$613 (Malaysian)
Orbitz $623 (Malaysian)
Travelocity$624 (Malaysian)
Cheaptickets$623 (Malaysian) )
CommentsBy going direct with Malaysian would cost $590.

8. Paris to Bangkok

Expedia$961 (Swiss)
Orbitz $1,003 (Etihad)
Travelocity$971 (Swiss)
Cheaptickets$1,003 (Etihad)
Comments---

This is by no means a complete test - you would need to check a huge amount of flight price data to get a statistically significant result. Note also that American Airlines has recently pulled its flight prices from Expedia and Orbitz.

This short experiment does illustrate that there can still be differences of hundreds of dollars in airfares amongst agents. This is primarily due to the above agents using different mainframe systems - each will be biased towards various airlines and alliances.

So the golden rule is always do your homework and shop around to get the cheapest flight. Don't just get quotes from the major agents. Also always check the airlines directly and some flight consolidators. The more legwork you put into your flight search, the more likely you will find a lower fare.

 

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