I’m sure you’re familiar with Kayak, Sidestep, Farecast, etc in addition to the Expedias, Orbitzes, and Travelocitys of the world. There are obviously plenty of places to book tickets, but there’s another one you probably haven’t heard of that might be worth a look . . . cFares. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.
These guys have a different model than most. Yes, they are a metasearch site, so you can go on like anywhere else and search for flights. The sorting and filtering functions are fine, and the interface is relatively clean. The only problem with their basic metasearch functionality is that they don’t show you where you’ll buy your ticket until after you click and they send you there. That’s enough for me not to use them were they simply competing with Sidestep directly.
But on top of this, they have their Platinum fares. In short, if you become a Platinum member by paying $50 a year, you can get a rebate to help bring the cost down of your trip. For example, we’re not heading back to see my wife’s family for the holidays this year, but what if we wanted to change our minds? Here’s what cFares shows me.
As you can see, the regular fares are on the right, but Platinum members could save $29 via a rebate. Two of these tickets and you could easily pay for your $50 annual fee.
So how do they do it? It’s pretty interesting actually. Some of the rebate comes from the membership fees, advertising revenue, etc. But they’re also starting to work with airlines and online travel agents who are interested in dynamically changing prices when the search happens.
For example, US Airways (I don’t know if they actually participate, but theoretically) might say that if anyone beats their price by $20, they’ll rebate the difference. cFares can handle that. You would book your ticket on whatever site they send you, and then you enter your confirmation number and they’ll give you the rebate on your credit card.
This makes it worth a look, but it’s definitely not the place to go as your only booking site. On this particular example, I actually found something on Orbitz (via Kayak) for less than even the Platinum rate. On other searches, however, I’ve seen these guys beat everyone else.
Another thing to consider is that they might be sending you to an online travel agent. You might be able to get your own “rebate” by just going to the airline site directly on some occasions.
The rebates also change often. I spoke with the President of the company last week and we both did the same search. For whatever reason, my search showed a rebate of $2 more than his search.
This site isn’t going to replace your existing booking sites, but it’s a good one to add into your toolkit.