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Best Websites to Purchase Airline Tickets


Just this last week, I discovered that sometimes certain flights (airlines?) are not listed on consolidator websites, like Orbitz, Travelocity, etc.

We missed our flight in Puerto Rico home, Connecticut. When I went on Orbitz, I couldn't find a satisfactory flight; but I found one at the Southwest counter that was better than the one missed (less lay-over time).

Does anyone have suggestions about booking flights online, especially a way to capture ALL flights?


Posted by
11678 posts

Marc, last I knew, Southwest doesn't allow its flights to be searchable on 3rd-party sites, only on its own. Double-checking my info, this Frommer's article seems to confirm that's still the case.

"You must search on your own. Southwest annoyingly does not allow its results to be aggregated or sold through third party OTAs. However, given Southwest’s competitive fares and free luggage, it's well worth the additional step of searching it directly."

Posted by
17020 posts

That has been my experience as well. And I'm not sure I've seen Icelandair or Norwegian Air Shuttle flights pop up on Google Flights (my usual online resource), either. I could be wrong about those; perhaps I just haven't been searching appropriate routes to find their flights.

Posted by
2070 posts

Icelandair does in fact show on Google Flights, I believe Norwegian did in the past although currently do not see it. Other US budget carriers, e.g. Sprint and Frontier will also not be picked up by Google Flights

As for then best website to purchase tickets, this is almost always going to be the website of the airline selling the ticket.

Posted by
1564 posts

I second the above post stating that your best choice is to book directly with the airline website.

There is no harm in checking other search engines or third-party sites to see what deals are going on.

But if something goes wrong with a third party booking or there might be delays or some other flukey thing, you may have a harder time getting a resolve with a positive result.

I always book with the airline direct and the same goes for hotels.

I've been pretty fortunate with my trips to Italy with British airways that I keep looking and looking and stumbled upon great round trip fares from Boston Logan to Rome.

In the past years British airways had great flash sales which would cut the airfare more than half at times.

American airlines partners with them but they can be on the high side.

I also peeked at Iberia once or twice but their schedules don't always coincide with when I want to go.

British airways always comes through for me.

Posted by
454 posts

Just my personal experience on a small number of international flights and connection in and out of Boise, Idaho: I use a travel agent. Friend of mine, she's been in the business for decades and knows how to game the system. She also knows stuff I don't including the fact that the lowest cost flight may not be a bargain at all. She has my interests and comfort at heart, not necessarily my credit card balance. I have found that her knowledge and experience are chump change in the bigger picture considering the entire trip's operating budget. When she retires I'll still use her firm.

Posted by
8715 posts

The best place to buy your ticket is directly with the airline.

I use google flights to see what flights are available. It will also give you the current airfare for those flights. Spirit and Frontier do show up. So does Southwest but only times of flights. No prices.

Posted by
130 posts

Learned from a Rick Steves guidebook: the site is a source to learn of many flights from discount airlines (and other airlines as well). I just did a few searches and found flights from discount airlines Southwest Airlines, easyjet, Ryanair, Norwegian Air, etc..

Posted by
3452 posts

For information I will look at on-line agencies, starting with It's owned by Google and serves the travel industry but commoners can look too. It's my entirely unscientific impression that it lists more flights than other sites, even its Google sibling, maybe because it does not sell tickets so doesn't need as much access to the vendor. Bu no, there is no site that lists everything, and prices can vary between the commercial outlets. So buy from the airline if you can; no other place will be cheaper and it's easier if there are complications. I only use the agencies for a complicated itinerary where the originating airline does not sell tickets for one or another branch of the trip.

Posted by
174 posts

Good advice to buy directly from the airline, but my question was more to how to find out which airlines has the best price/best flight. Thanks for the information about the skyscanner and matrix. This looks like the best way to find the flights - then I'll go to the airlines and buy the tix directly from the airlines.

Thanks all.

Posted by
5126 posts

marctshark, maybe its a function of the airport you're flying from, but I've rarely seen the price of a flight differ by more than a few dollars between the various third party websites and the airlines themselves. But it does change day to day. Its not like the old days when "consolidators" were buying batches of discount tickets and reselling them. Now they're just a go-between and subject to the same fare fluctuations by the airlines as any individual. Some sites appear to play fast and loose with taxes and fees to make prices seem lower.

For those of us whose overseas choices are only the major US airlines - Delta, United & American - the choice is more often based on connecting airports and convenient schedules than price. So we use the third party sites to get a general idea of costs and connections, then book at the airline. We always check Southwest first for domestic travel.

Posted by
11678 posts

Agreeing with all of the above: while we might search 3rd party sites for potential deals (Skyscanner is a fave), we almost always book directly with the airline.

Posted by
14 posts

I always use Momondo. I would also suggest that anyone who flies internationally sign up for alerts from ScottsCheapFlights. You can sign up for the free service that sends weekly alerts or pay 35.00/year for unlimited daily alerts. I have saved several thousand dollars by using Scotts. Example: OMA to Milan for 431.00USD, OMA to London 514.00. Chicago to Edinburg 289.00. I usually check the alerts from Scotts and then book my flights through Momondo. Check out there App which has a great search feature.

Posted by
1841 posts

Search anywhere on the net... but book DIRECTLY with the Airline! I use Scotts Cheap Flights, Jack's Flight Club, Hopper, Hipmunk, and Skyscanner to search and follow flight prices, but once I do find a deal, I reach out to the airline.

One thing that became very clear during the initial COVID cancellations was that 3rd-party vendors sell tickets, they don't provide full ticketing services. Getting them to answer their 800# was impossible in March & April. Often, If you called the airline to try and get a refund/voucher, attempting to bypass the 3rd-party vendor, the airlines would say, "You will need to speak with the purchasing authority regarding this ticket." In light of the current shaky situation, I'd recommend booking direct.

One exception would be the relationship bogiesan has with a travel agent. Some agents, especially those who specialize in air, ARE experts in this field. And they're worth their weight in gold when something goes bump - like a canceled COVID flight and getting a refund. Many travel agencies have an Air Team that supports the agents, and that's a good option also. Granted, if you're buying economy class tickets, you'll probably pay the same cost as the web price + their fee.... but if you're flying business class, they're often able to get some lower-than-web prices (airlines have more margin on the Business Class, so they're willing to discount to bulk purchasers - like an Air Team or an Air Specialist).

These agents will coordinate flights, seats, apply FF#'s, handle special food requirements, make the special assistance arrangements, luggage issues, apply TSA and GE #s, etc. That's what the fee is for. But the real value of the fee is if something goes bump because they have contacts and phone numbers the average traveler cannot access.