Well, hello TripAdvisor. A couple of weeks ago, Fly.com showed us a travel search site that looked a lot like Kayak and didn’t add any real functionality. When I saw that TripAdvisor was also launching a metasearch site, I rolled my eyes and figured, “here we go again.” Boy was I wrong. This could be my new favorite site since it actually includes fees in the comparison, if you ask it to do so.
TripAdvisor has done a lot of things right here. Let’s walk through the process of a search and you’ll see what I mean. I figured I’d do a sample search to visit the in laws in Indianapolis in a couple weeks. (Don’t worry guys, we aren’t really coming yet.) The initial search screen is as you would expect, but there are a couple of things that stand out in the results.
The very first deal is on US Airways, and it looks pretty cheap to me. You may notice that I’ve circled both Expedia and Travelocity in the results. As far as I know, neither of these sites have participated in the flight search for any other metasearch site. Expedia and Hotwire have common ownership with TripAdvisor, so it’s no surprise to see them. I just hope there’s no bias going on here, but I can’t imagine TripAdvisor would be that stupid. I am surprised to see Travelocity showing up in the results.
The only ones left out? Priceline, which doesn’t work with anyone on flights, and Orbitz, which will only work with you if you give them exclusivity (see Kayak). The site also searches some Global Distribution Systems directly to find the lowest fares. By the way, TripAdvisor has also included some pretty cool filters on the left for airline dorks. You can filter by specific aircraft type. Sweet.
The second thing I’ve circled here is the Fee Estimator. This is something that everyone seems to say they’re “working on,” but this is the first time I’ve seen it up and running. It’s also integrated quite nicely. Click the button and it asks you to fill in what might change the total price for the flight.
Let’s say that I want to check a bag, I want a snack and headphones, and I’m an elite member on Northwest. Click the button and guess what? We have a totally different set of results.
That US Airways flight is long gone. With what I want, the fees pushed the price on that flight up to $241. Since I’m an elite member with Northwest, the bag fee doesn’t apply to me, and now Northwest is a better option. (That Midwest flight is actually just a codeshare on Northwest.)
Oh sure, there are glitches. I said that I wanted a headphone but guess what? Northwest doesn’t even have screens on its domestic fleet, so that won’t be happening. It also doesn’t recognize that as a Northwest elite, that applies to Delta flights now as well. But hey, those can easily be fixed.
There’s also plenty more they can do here. They own SeatGuru, and they’ve incorporated those seat maps into the search. But they still need to find a way to take it one step further and overlay the seats which are actually available on each flight on each seat map. I looked at doing this a few years ago and it was not an easy task, but someone will figure it out some day.
I’m just glad to see that there’s finally a search engine that lets you incorporate the total cost of your flight into the decision-making process. Nice work, guys.