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Purchasing airfares online

August 2000

The Internet seems made for purchasing airline tickets. From the convenience of home you can search for the best fares, study connections and departure times, order tickets--and get great prices. Your local travel agency is still a good choice if you have a lot of questions, but if you know what you need, the Internet can be a quick and efficient way to take care of the transaction.

The Internet's largest travel agency is Travelocity. The site offers not only tickets but also car rentals, hotel reservations, and cruises. I'm dreaming of vacationing in Turkey, and the site quickly gave me the information I was looking for. You are asked to register to use the site, but if you want to do a search, they will let you do it as a "guest." Registration is free. The lowest cost on a round-trip, off-season flight to Ankara was $1,057--a good price but not the lowest I was able to find.

Travelocity also offers travel guides and a wide range of other planning tools, such as weather, currency converters, maps, driving directions, and more. There is also a selection of booking tools. The site has a "Fare watcher" area that alerts you to hot deals.

Expedia is the second largest online travel agency, with a range of services similar to Travelocity: hotels, cars, cruises, etc. Again, I didn't need to register and found a slightly lower price here for my jaunt to Turkey: $1,029. Expedia has a section called Today's Deals that offers daily specials on airfares.

The price winner for my trip to Turkey was Cheap Tickets. Not only did it offer a much larger list of choices for flights, but it came in at a low price of $900. Unlike the others, Cheap Tickets requires that you register first (free) and give them information such as your preferred departure airport and a few other basics. Building a profile saves you time by not having to re-enter the information each time you buy a ticket: you can book your own reservations with as few as four clicks. They also require registration because they only want serious shoppers so that their system doesn't get overloaded. If you're reluctant to register, they offer a Specials section which gives samples of their low fares.

And we should also mention Priceline. As most everyone knows by now, Priceline is different from the rest in that it lets you name the price you want to pay for your ticket. Then airlines with unsold seats can decide if they want to meet your price. People often get spectacular deals--but also often must be flexible in regard to departure time.

© 2000 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

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