I’ve used Airfarewatchdog.com for years but really became a fan last summer when I was looking for cheap fares from New York to New Orleans. Sometimes booking a trip can get overwhelming as you want to pay the least amount and not feel ripped off. Just as there are 300 different types of cereal at the supermarket, it seems there are that many airfare comparison websites.
What I like about “the dog” is that you can enter a To and From city then get email alerts whenever new, lower prices come in for those two places. You can stop this alert or put a hold on it if you are not thinking about travel for a certain period of time. They also have a flexible dates option which is helpful if you are not tied down to a particular day or week for your flight.
Airfarewatchdog is a bit different from the other popular booking sites. They compare airline pricing, up to three times a day, and search for fares that have been reduced significantly then list them in an easy-to-read format. There is also an informative newsletter. Other travel sites such as Travelocity and Orbitz are just airfare search sites. Airfarewatchdog is much more than that.
How is Airfarewatchdog different from other travel comparison websites?
- Their fares are found by real people, not computers.
- They’re the only site on the Web that compares Southwest Airlines’ fares with those sold by other airlines.
- They also list other fares that don’t appear in third-party sites or searches, such as those on Allegiant Airlines and the increasingly large number of airline-site-only fares.
- They include taxes on the international fares they list.
- They search for seat availability for the fares they list (no other fare listing/alert site does).
- They search for value, not simply lowest price (other sites would flag a connecting flight that’s $1 less than a nonstop on the same route; to airfarewatchdog, that’s computer-generated silliness).
- They only alert users to fares that have gone down a significant amount; some sites will send you an alert on a $500 domestic fare that’s gone down (literally) just $10. The dog would never. It is different from a fare search engine, such as Travelocity or Orbitz, in that the site has already done the searching for users and simply lists “cherry picked” low fares that the search has generated.
I asked a few questions as to how this works and what time and day the new airfares come out. Airfarewatchdog founder George Hobica responded,
“Actually, we update fares every day, 365 days a year, even on holidays. Airlines have sneak, unadvertised sales every day of the week–that’s why we launched the site many years ago. We are also the only site that promotes and lists promo code fares, such as the recent 35% off promocode sale on Southwest Airlines, and also fares that are only available on the airlines’ own websites. It’s interesting to note that in doing so, we forgo revenue, because while we make money promoting the advertised sales that come out on Tue/Wed, we make no money at all when we send business to airline sites directly (with a few exceptions) and we don’t make money sending business to Southwest, Allegiant, and some other airlines. We do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
12 Ways Airfarewatchdog.com Watches Out for Consumers
1. SEAT AVAILABILITY – They check seat availability for the fares they list. They try booking seats just as the consumer would, and if seats are scarce they say so, or if they’re virtually nonexistent, they don’t list that fare.
2. ALL AIRLINES – They list Southwest and JetBlue fares, as well as those of smaller airlines like Allegiant and USA3000. No other fare listing site lists Southwest’s or Allegiant’s fares, and few include JetBlue.
3. ONE WAY FARES – They indicate when fares are sold one way for half of the lowest roundtrip fare without requiring a roundtrip purchase. Many travelers are simply going one-way (especially for business) or traveling from City A to B to C and back to A.
4. INTERNATIONAL INCLUDING TAX – They list most international fares including all taxes. Since many of these fares carry $200-$300 in extra taxes and fees, they are deceptively low unless all taxes are shown.
5. WEB SITE ONLY FARES – Increasingly, airlines reserve their very best fares for their own Web sites, and these do not appear in computer-generated third-party fare databases. Airfarewatchdog hunts down these fares.
6. NON STOPS NOTED – They specify when a flight is nonstop, because given a choice, that’s what most consumers want. A $129 one-way nonstop from Newark to Los Angeles may seem higher than a $211 RT with a connection in Detroit, but we list both fares because some people value convenience over a slightly lower fare.
7. WEEKEND DEALS – They include all weekend fares and note them separately so users can quickly find weekend getaways. In general, other fare listing sites do not.
8. VALUE AND TRAVEL FLEXIBILITY – They shop for value, not just the lowest fare. For example, if a New York/London fare is being sold for $400 RT including taxes for winter travel only and the very next day the fare on this route is $400 RT, but it’s valid for summer travel as well, they’ll alert users to this very important distinction; other fare alert services will not.
9. DEEP LINKS DIRECT TO YOUR FARE – They provide deep links to fare calendars for every domestic fare that can be purchased on Travelocity.com or Cheapair.com. These links, which no other fare listing service provides, bring you directly to the flexible date fare booking calendar for the specific fare to make finding seats easier.
10. NEARBY AIRPORTS – They show fares from every conceivable airport within a reasonable drive from the original search airport, all on one easy to navigate page. For example, our New York page has fares from LaGuardia, JFK, Newark, White Plains, and Islip, NY.
11. REAL DEALS – They only list fares they think are reasonable. If a fare on a particular route is – in their opinion – abnormally high, even if it’s gone down $10 or $20 from the previous day, the Dog won’t list it if they believe it’s still too much to pay. Other sites list all lowered fares without regard to actual value.
12. BETTER ORGANIZATION – They categorize fares by domestic or international, weekend or non-weekend. Seems logical, but other sites don’t do this.
George Hobica’s Five Tips for Saving on Airfare
1. Be flexible in your travel dates – Orbitz currently has the best flexible date search because it includes international and domestic fares over any 30 day window, whereas Expedia only checks between major US cities. Travelocity’s Asian affiliate, Zuji.com, is the only search engine that lists international fares over a 330 day range, and also includes business and first class fares on a flexible date basis.
2. Search individual airline sites – Many airlines, including JetBlue, Southwest, Allegiant Air, SAS, Aloha, Aer Lingus, Qantas, Alaska, Air New Zealand, Air Canada and others often post their lowest fares only on their own web sites. These deals won’t appear on most fare listing sites or fare search sites, but they will appear on airfarewatchdog.com.
3. Buy packages – Site59.com (recently re-named lastminute.com) will often sell you a hotel + air package for less than the price of airfare alone. It’s especially valuable for last minute trips. Travelocity, with their “TotalTrip” option, partners with Site59 and often offers the same deals.
4. Check fares every day, even on weekends – Airfares go up and down like the stock market, and the best fares are often unadvertised. Domestic fares can change three times a day during the week, and once a day on weekends, so it pays to check often. Some of the best deals pop up on Saturdays, which is also when most “fat finger fares” appear.
5. If the fare goes down, ask for a refund – It’s a little known fact, but if you buy a non-refundable fare and the price goes down after purchase, some airlines will refund the difference in the form of a voucher good for future travel as long as you don’t change your travel dates or times. Delta, American and Continental generally deduct a $100-$200 fee from any refund due; United, US Airways, and Southwest refund without a fee. Northwest deducts just $25. And even those airlines with more restrictive policies can sometimes be cajoled into refunding the entire difference between the original and new, lower fare so it doesn’t hurt to ask.
This quote from George Hobica is also another reason I love to use Airfarewatchdog:
“Part of the satisfaction of this work is the positive feedback we get from users every day. I get a kick out of saving people money, and they love us for it.”