Change Your Altitude

Airline Ticket Search Tools – Which One is the Best?

The first thing either Arun or I will tell you about booking an airline ticket (or making a hotel booking for that matter) is never book on a third party website. Why, you ask? Simply put – if you have issues with your flight, you’ll the third party website can’t help you, and you may be last to get any information from the airline (plus, you’ll probably be the first one bumped on an overbooked flight – unless you have status).


Here’s where travel aggregators come in – they’re search tools that look much like Expedia or Orbitz, but instead of booking with the website, they send you directly to the airline (or to a travel website, if you’re so inclined) to book your ticket. These travel search tools are my absolute favorite – they allow me to compare pricing across airlines, but still book directly with the carrier.

There are quite a few out there – these are some of our favorites.


The Details





  • Clean, simple, straightforward user interface
  • Option to search “everywhere” if you don’t know exactly where you want to go
  • Provides search results where you fly from/return to different airports in your departure city if there are multiple airports in the area (think JFK/EWR/LGA)
  • Option to book hotels and cars through the website as well
  • iPhone app available
  • Website displays ads in a more seamless fashion (less intrusive)  than its counterparts


  • With the “everywhere” search function:
    • You can only search for Economy tickets (no Business Class tickets)
    • Can’t search/filter by airline/alliance until you select a destination (though cheapest price is listed)
  • Does not always provide a link to the airline carrier’s page to book – often lists third party websites first
  • While you can click a link to show flexible dates (to shop for the best date to travel), the link is small and can be easily missed
  • Can’t mix and match across carriers (unless Skyscanner returns it as an option) – can’t book separate departure and return tickets

Great For: Booking on the go, those looking to find the cheapest deal (regardless of where you book)







  • Clear and easy to use search functionality
  • Clearly displays pricing for route across several dates on results page
  • Can search for student fares
  • Option to book hotels and cars through the website as well
  • “Take Me Anywhere” search option for those who don’t know where they’re headed
  • iPhone app available
  • Provides search results where you fly from/return to different airports in your departure city if there are multiple airports in the area (think JFK/EWR/LGA)


  • Website can be slow to load (especially when using the hotel search tool).
  • Returns only the seller with the cheapest price found for the route – which may not always be directly with the airline. Does not show other prices from other sellers
  • Can’t mix and match across carriers (unless Momondo returns it as an option) – can’t book separate departure and return tickets
  • Website is jam packed with ads
  • “Take Me Anywhere” search returns countries with the price of the cheapest ticket – you’ll have to drill down to see how much each city costs

Great For: Looking for the cheapest fares (regardless of where you book), booking student fares, booking on the go, those who prefer a visually appealing interface







  • Option to mix and match departure/return tickets across different carriers/book separate tickets
  • Search flights, hotels, car rentals, vacation packages, and cruises
  • Returns primarily prices directly from airline – website sends consumer to book with airline, not a third party company. Option to filter our third party providers as a search result
  • Provides an “Our Advice” box, recommending users to buy or wait on their ticket purchase
  • Background on homepage changes depending on the destination city you enter
  • Option to create a flight alert
  • Provides search results where you fly from/return to different airports in your departure city if there are multiple airports in the area (think JFK/EWR/LGA)
  • Search destination as “Anywhere” if you’re not sure where to go


  • This page loves pop ups – on the search page, if you don’t immediately un-check “compare prices with…” you’ll get at least 1 pop up comparing Kayak prices with (ie) Orbitz. Expect a pop up of some sort any time you click any button on this website
  • Website looks extremely busy – plenty of ads everywhere
  • “Anywhere” search takes an unusual amount of time to load the map
  • “Anywhere” search only returns Economy class tickets

Great for: Comparing across third party booking websites, finding cheap deals, booking directly with the carrier, people who don’t mind lots of ads and pop ups




Google Flights


  • Very simple to use web page, though less visually appealing
  • Quickly returns results
  • Ability to filter alliance/airline, filter out layover cities (ie no connections in ORD),
  • Option to search for no particular destination – view pricing on a world map
  • Returns results where booking separate tickets is cheaper – provides two separate links so you can book on your own
  • Not a ton of pop ups – results load directly on the page
  • Search by interest, time of year of travel, or length of vacation period
  • Option to check lowest price for flexible dates on the results page – doesn’t require you to leave the page
  • Provides tips on best date to travel for the lowest price for itinerary in +/- 3 days
  • Once itinerary is selected, returns options to book with numerous places, including directly with the airline, a codeshare airline, or a third party. Lists prices across the options to allow you to make the best choice
  • Returns results in foreign currency when more cost effective


  • No App (though others exist that use Google Flights data)
  • Terrible map functionality on smartphone browser
  • Does not show itineraries with a different departure and return city (ie JFK vs LGA) – which can often be much cheaper
  • Pricing can be misleading at times – often lists “Check with Travel Agent” prices which can be half the cost of a ticket booked with the airline (but does not offer any information on which travel agent can book this price)
  • No search function within tool to search for car rentals or hotel prices

Great For: Those who prefer booking directly with airlines, minimal ads




ITA Matrix


  • Option to show results as complete trips or individual flights (to be able to mix and match carriers)
  • View flights in “time bars” to identify when the most flights depart (time bars also reflect layover periods)
  • Lists fare rules
  • Shows “advisory icons” which point out short connections, risky connections, long layovers, etc
  • Lots of pro-level functionality (but requires knowledge to take advantage of this)
  • Option to change “sales city” – booking in a foreign currency can potentially save you a good amount of money (works best with international flights)
  • Tip: If you copy the itinerary you like onto to book your trip


  • Slow – it even suggest you check searching Google Flights for faster results
  • No links to book directly with airline or third party website
  • Google Flights has a lot of the functionality this tool has, but with a much simpler/user friendly interface

Great for: People who have a good idea of what they’d like, people with advance knowledge of how to use the tool




The Takeaway

There’s a lot of options out there when it comes to booking a flight. Each search tool has its strong points and areas we wish were better, but hopefully there’s one that suits your travel search needs. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve found that Google Flights works best for me and my search habits, but everyone has a different search style.



Which travel search tool do you use? Did we miss anything you like using?

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.