cFares Might be Worth Checking on Your Next Trip

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.

cFares Screenshot

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.


13 Responses to cFares Might be Worth Checking on Your Next Trip

  1. Michael Madison says:

    Here is another one for the tool box – as price is not everything: dohop.com.

    dohop is the only flight search engine, to my knowledge, which efficiently and clearly shows alternative ways to get from A to B, by combining multiple airlines in one itinerary.
    It does this by basing its search on airline schedules and pallying some good logic – and it does fare searches, too.

    This is especially important and useful when traveling in highly competitive markets and on routes, which are served by multiple low cost carriers.

    In Europe I have been able to save thousands by connecting two low cost carriers, for example flying from Nice to Reykjavik (via London Luton) or from Nice to Helsinki via Cologne.

  2. A says:

    Cranky can you please enlighten me as to how these websites make money? I can see the larger (Orbitz, Travelocity, etc.) doing ok with people booking thru them, but I’ve never found ticket prices cheaper through a 3rd party site than going directly through the airlines website. At most I’ll used some of these websites to quickly seach out who is offering the best fares, or who has the non-stop or best flight schedules. Then I always jump back to the airline’s own website to make my final purchase. Years ago I got some backlash from the airlines and poor service because I booked through a 3rd party, Orbitz I believe. Since then have found I always get the best price and service by dealing direct with the airline.

    Additionally, for a somewhat frequent flyer like myself I more or less know the route structure and airline options. Every March I go to Miami and know that my non-stop options are Northwest and American, or a very seasonal Suncountry flight. I don’t even waste my time with the 3rd party websites because I know full well I don’t want to save $$ by going to FLL or PBI and I don’t want to stop in Memphis or Atlanta or Houston or God knows where else. Same goes for my frequent flights to Texas and Canada. The Orbitz of the world are a waste of my time. These “tools” seem like they are geared towards the occasional leisure traveler and nothing more.

    That said, I used to love Hotwire back when it offered cheap fares. With some “flexibility” you could really save some $$$ and fly some interesting routes to your final destination. Also didn’t have to deal with the ridiculous bidding that Priceline was famous for. Not something anyone on a schedule could stick to, but it at least offered something different. “Platinum” gimmicks aside, cFares is just another player in an already crowded field that offeres nothing special. I’ll pass.

  3. CF says:

    A – It’s no surprise that a very well-informed frequent traveler like you would skip some of the third party sites, but they can still make it easier for many people. For those who don’t care which airline they fly, they can store their credit card info and all their personal info so that purchasing is easy. It becomes even easier when you look at multi-carrier flights. Sure, you could go to each individual airline and book the pieces, but it’s often just easier to go to one place and be done. Some people value their time more than saving the booking fee.

    That being said, I almost never book through online travel agents unless I’m flying US Airways. They had started adding fees previously (though I don’t know the status now) that made it more expensive to book on their own website than it did on fee-free Priceline. Otherwise, I’m booking direct.

    But cFares, Kayak, Sidestep, Farecast, and more aren’t like online travel agents in that they don’t do the booking themselves. You can use these “metasearch” sites to see all the lowest fares but then you click through to buy either direct or via a third party. For most people, this is the simplest way to shop around and still book at the site of their choice.

    The reason I mention cFares is because that rebate can save you money, period. I say it “can” save you money, but that won’t always be the case. That’s why I simply mention it as a site to look at. I can understand paying more for certain airlines or classes of service, but if you can get the exact same flight and service for less money, why wouldn’t you?

  4. A says:

    CF – Thanks for the clarifications. Guess I went a bit over the top when I heard of another player in the whole airfare search buiz. As always you’re the best resource around for any air travel related questions and/or gripes.

  5. Tino says:

    Very nice article.

    As you said, there are plenty of places to book tickets.

    I ran into this site the other day (letmebook.com). You send a request and they search for the cheapest airfares for you. It is free. It seems like a good deal because you don’t have to waste time checking lots of sites for the best price.

    My regards,
    Tino

  6. diane says:

    I’m a member of cFares and unless they changed the small print since I last look, EACH passenger has to be a member to qualify for the discounted price. So a family of four, at a total cost of $200, would not cover their membership fees in the above example.

    http://www.travelsnippetsandmore.com/

  7. CF says:

    diane – Yes, but if you buy two tickets for yourself in one year, you do make it back.

  8. cFares is an interesting concept and, if nothing else, might serve as inspiration for others. Great post.

  9. Tried and tested the site and just couldn’t figure it out. If you book with travel agencies or traditional airlines, the prices may turn up to be cheaper for members. In most cases, the cheapest price was available by booking directly with the airline. This was especially true when it comes to budget airlnes. Hence, no particular advantage over the likes of Kayak, Sidestep, etc.

    It is still a great search engine, don’t get me wrong, and as Marcus said it will serve as inspiration for others. However, at http://www.whichbudget.com we still believe that simply directing the client to the airline and letting them benefit from the airline’s best price guarantee.

    P.S. Michael, I tried dohop for a flight from Nice to Copenhagen in January. It is indeed a great tool for connecting flights, but why is it showing me that I have to purchase 3 or 4 separate tickets with Air France, SAS and British Airways, when there are direct flights with Norwegian and Transavia and a connecting flight via Dusseldorf with Air Berlin?

  10. Michael Madison says:

    Martino,

    re dohop, it must depend on what date you search, which filters you use and how you sort the results.
    I looked from Jan 25 to Feb and a non-stop flight comes up.
    Also, when the results display, it seems like it shows prices held in cache, and then goes back to check for updated pricing (most likely depending on how old prices are), and then gives you the option to re-sort.

  11. Jerry Mandel says:

    It seems that not everyone gets the point you made. cFares.com is another addition to the sites that travellers should utilize….not a replacement for the others. Also to be tried are:Lessno, Mobissimo, Momondo, Opodo, Airfarehawk, itasoftware, Cheapoair, Travelfleamarket.

  12. Michael Madison says:

    What makes you think / say that?

    It seems that was clear from the start, and nothing in the other comments made indicates anything to the contrary.

    Just another meandering comment trail….

  13. Jaime says:

    I’ve used cfares for about 4 months now and have been generally happy. Yes, it does take a while to get paid sometimes, and I’m not exactly sure how their business model works, but I’ve gotten some excellent rebates on the cheapest flights in the world– $59 LAX->SFO becomes … $39… it’s utterly amazing.

    The only worrisome thing is there is a litany of threads about people not getting paid, but those were all several years ago when they had some $1 enrollment promo. It seems they are flush with cash from some new investors, and they’re good to go. I’d like to see them succeed!

    -Jaime

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