After extensive research and experimentation of booking flight tickets to India from US, it finally culminated yesterday. Here are some thoughts and experiences.
– It turned out to be my most expensive ticket purchase.
– I searched yatra, kayak, makemytrip(US and India), priceline, airfare, travelocity, expedia, singapore airlines, air india, jet airways, luftansa, kayak, bookingbuddy and several other sites that appear in google contextual ads.
– I was suggested the actual airlines have better tickets than search engines – thought I don’t get it – I tried that too.
– Many recommended me to talk to agents, who usually book in advance, I am told. But I spoke to around 4 agents, and none could give me a quote less than the websites. Also, it is quite tedious to work with an agent – who gives limited options, and I can’t compare various schedules, dates etc
– Almost every person I said that I am looking for better deals, he said (no offense) December is expensive. Yeah, I get that and I can’t help it. When I say better, I am trying to find better deals “within the constraints”. Better is not absolute, but just relative. The comparison is not between non-peak and peak, but between different sites/options. A booking agent even said “Don’t go in 2010, it is the costliest year in this century”. Huh. ( I was so tempted to tell him, world will end in 2012 anyways !! )
– I am astonished how no two search sites come up with same schedule. I get that flight booking is complex, but I am sure there is something else at play. If every flight is available to every search, is it so hard to get a consistent result in two searches ?? It is not as hard as the web search.
– Some sites have only return journeys. I can understand that some prices are reduced for return, but Priceline did not show me the one way for the date I wanted. The return schedule was quite a good deal, but Priceline wanted me to go to Delhi from Bangalore, stay one day, go to Mumbai and then catch the flight to New York. Really ?!
– Kayak.com showed good results but unfortunately, it points to the actual websites (for eg airindia.in) to book the tickets. In those sites, the tickets were unavailable for the very search Kayak showed. Also, due to this or otherwise, the low available price in Priceline was overshadowed by lower price (unavailable) in the search by Kayak. ( Yeah, I went into each sites that Kayak bases its results, and tried to validate Kayak’s results).
– But my most surprising find was – makemytrip suggests US customers to use its US site as against India site. But the searches are not same with respect to price and schedule. Different search engines may have different affiliations, but same company showing two different results ?? makemytrip India showed cheaper flights than US site.
– I was suggested
A good way to get a good deal is to sign up for a reminder on the travel websites. That way, if the price of a particular flight itinerary drops below the price you specify (can be offered by any airlines), then you get an email or maybe an SMS
– tried that.
– Another good suggestion was
Orbitz Price Assurance:
In essence, if you are sure about your dates then don’t bother about the price of the ticket. If someone does the same itinerary as you and gets it for a lower price, Orbitz will refund you the difference.
But the catch is that it will have to be exact same itinerary.
– Even thought with slight flexibility, makemytrip India site had the best possible deal for me, the schedule was not very favorable and I bought from yatra.
– Yatra has meal and seat preference – wonder how seat preference works – but glad they had a meal preference at least. (had not seen this during my earlier bookings)
– While on talking about tickets, I also booked tickets from Boston to SC for 6.5$ which is like 120$ less than what I paid when I came from SC to Boston. Wonder how megabus makes money.