Consumers have an increasing number of ways to shop for airline tickets online that take them beyond the long-standing fare, schedule and availability grid.
Three websites have added a new way to search for an airline ticket or have added ancillary products to the booking path.
CheapOAir has become the first online agency to sell US Airways’ Choice seats in the booking path. The Choice product offers customers window or aisle seats toward the front of the economy cabin and early boarding.
It is the second online agency to sell such ancillaries in the booking path; last summer Priceline began selling American Airlines’ Preferred seats, window and aisle seats at the front of the economy cabin.
Expedia lets travelers purchase US Airways’ Choice seats, but not in the booking path.
Another online agency, CheapAir, has quietly introduced a search function called “Cheap Travel Deals.” Site visitors type in their home airport and a map pops up displaying fares on routes originating from that home airport to points all over the world.
Consumers can refine that search by trip, trip length and maximum fare. It is using Amadeus’ Extreme Search technology for this functionality. Consumers can search just four months out, but CheapAir is working with Amadeus to expand that search to 11 months.
GetGoing has introduced FlightFinder, which allows travelers to search for airfares by activity (for example, scuba diving) and other criteria.
FlightFinder builds on GetGoing’s Pick Two, Get One platform, an opaque product that gives customers discounts of up to 40% off airfares. Customers pick two destinations — Maui and Honolulu, for example — and then are assigned one of the destinations. Customers can’t see the name airline they’re assigned but can see flight details such as the time.
“There are substantial discounts for people who want to play that game,” said Alek Vernitsky, co-founder and CEO of GetGoing.
GetGoing’s FlightFinder takes this one step further, letting travelers search for airfares by activity, region (Europe, for example) or destination, and then shows them when they can get the lowest airfare.
Flight Finder is currently a consumer platform but GetGoing is planning to introduce an agent-only portal.
What these websites are not offering is not new. Travelocity’s discontinued Experience Finder enabled users to shop by categories such as “experience-romance,” “self-indulgence,” “culture” or “history,” to name a few.
Hotwire has a Flexible Date Search, while its Shop by Theme enables customers to filter their searches through categories like “Sunny” or “Family.”
Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.