Not all flight search engines are created equal! I actually use different sites for different types of searches. Each have their strengths and weaknesses. Here are my four favourite sites for searching for flights:
ITA Matrix is my first port of call whenever I’m searching for flights. You can’t book flights on this site but you can send the exact details of the fare to a travel agent and have them book it for you or just book direct with the airline. The reason I like using ITA Matrix is that it displays a wide range of flights, connections and airlines. It’s a great starting point if you’re trying to narrow down options. You can display flights by date over a 30 day period allowing you to search for the best price.
What it’s best for: ITA Matrix is the best place to start looking for flights because of the range of flights it brings up. Travel hackers love this site because you can do a lot to control the search results and force results that might not normally be displayed.
Tips: You can search for specific fare classes – use this list to help you. You can add lots of advanced routing info into your search. For example, if you’re booking a connecting flight but want a bit more control over the length of time or place you stopover, the airlines you search, only searching for code share flights etc. Click on “Advanced Routing” and the question mark icon for help with this.
Skyscanner is also a great place to start your flight search. It brings up a huge range of flight options and always includes budget airlines. You can’t book with Skyscanner but it will send you to book either direct with the airline or with another flight search engine offering the best price.
What it’s best for: Skyscanner is fantastic for searching flights over a large range of dates – you can select a sate, search for the whole month or even find the cheapest flight over the course of a year. It will make some DIY connecting flights but doesn’t always show them.
Tips: Use Skyscanner to search for the cheapest flights out from your airport of choice. Enter your departure airport and then choose a country or select Everywhere to see where the cheapest flight onward flight is to.
Kayak is a pretty standard flight search engine but you can do a lot more with it on closer inspection. I don’t usually use it for searching for flights but I do love their additional functions.
What it’s best for: Kayak is best for searching flights when you have a set budget and a bit of time up your sleeve to wait and book at the right time. You can wait for a fare to reach the price you want to pay or you can see how fare you money can get you from your home airport.
Tips: If you’re thinking about taking a trip in the future, the first thing you should do is set up a fare alert on Kayak. It’ll let you know when the fare goes down or up and let you know if it’s the right time to buy. Use the Explore function to get prices on return trips from your home airport within your price range.
Adioso is currently my favourite flight search engine because it’s a little different. You simply type in what kind of flight you’re looking for, like – “Sydney to Christchurch one way at the start of January”. No plugging dates into calendars or annoying drop down menus. You can be as vague or as specific as you like. It’s new so it’s still a little buggy but they are getting there with it.
What it’s best for: Adioso is great because it pulls together interesting combined fares that other websites might not show and DIY connecting flights. Adioso will piece together flights on different budget airlines for you (some of the time) which other flight search engines won’t produce. It always shows results over a range of dates which allows you to pick a flight based on the best price – great if you have flexible travel dates.
Tips: Use Adioso to check for flights to a certain region to see if it’s cheaper to get to a hub airport rather than the searching specifically. For example, you can search Bangkok to Western Europe and work out the cheapest way to a continent or region.