When you look for an airfare in one of the convenient travel search engines, such as Kayak.com, Orbitz or Travelocity, you’ll find the lowest airfares for the place and time you wish to travel. Right? Wrong. In a recent post on SmarterTravel.com, Ed Perkins reminds price-conscious travelers that not all airlines are represented on these aggregate travel sites. Some sites charge airlines a booking fee to be represented, and some airlines that strive to keep costs to a minimum, like Jet Blue, feel such fees are an unnecessary expense. Other airlines, notably Southwest Airlines, only take reservations via their own Web site and their own telephone reservationists.

How to Make Sure You Are Getting all of the Information You Need

Travel booking sites are certainly a good place to start searching for an airfare. (We posted an overview of the best travel booking sites in August.) To avoid missing the lowest airfare, however, you need to know all of the airlines that fly to your desired destination. To get this information:

  • Look at the Airport Web sites.  Virtually all airports, even the very small ones, have their own Web sites. Most offer a wealth of information for potential travelers–including the airlines that fly in and out of the airport. If you see an airline that isn’t listed on the travel booking site, visit that airline’s site–or give them a call–to see if they have a better fare.  Yes, it takes some time, but it could really pay off.
  • Call Your Travel Agent. The news of the demise of the travel agent has been greatly exaggerated. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 100,000 travel agents in the United States, and that number is expected to stay about the same for the next decade. What does this mean for your airfare search? Travel agents are in a good position to know about small, less visible airlines that might offer you a lower fare. After all, it’s their job. Most charge a modest fee for handling airline tickets without any other travel arrangements, but most waive these fees if you book a tour package, hotel stay, cruise or other travel component with them.

The explosion of easy-to-access information on the Internet has made it a lot simpler than it used to be to book your own travel arrangements. However, Krazy cost-conscious travelers know not to just blindly accept the first airfare they find.

 What Travel Search Engines Aren't Telling You