I have a bipolar relationship with flight comparison sites. On the one hand, it’s really easy to find bargain flights on these sites, which compare airline prices for given dates. On the other hand, such sites might not include all the airlines that fly a given route, so you might not get the best price. Their information may be outdated, or they may charge hidden booking fees.
In other words, while flight comparison sites are helpful, they’re not perfect. But they keep trying. Fly.com, a new comparison site, wants to up the industry ante. Fly.com offers real-time pricing to help you avoid those annoying expired fares. It also gives you business class and first-class pricing, as well as letting you in on the amenities (DirectTV, etc.) that your flight might offer. I chatted with Aaron Ritoper, Fly.com’s President of Business Development, to learn more about how the company is upping the ante on flight comparison sites.
BP: First, I’d like to talk about your industry. Can you give me a little bit of background on why airline prices fluctuate like crazy?
Sure, I can understand that everyone is frustrated by fluctuating airline prices. The main reason for price fluctuation is that airlines adjust prices based on the number of seats they need to fill and when the flight is scheduled to depart. No airline wants to fly an empty plane and the same time filling a plane with prices that are too low is not going to work either. So to solve this problem, the airlines use sophisticated revenue management computer systems and teams of specialized analysts to constantly adjust and publish new prices, which they hope will allow the airline to sell their tickets profitably. This results in the very dynamic market pricing situation that we all know. To ensure Fly.com has the latest available prices, we make new data requests for every user search. This is a more expensive way to operate, yet we feel people will appreciate the improved data accuracy we derive from this process.
BP: How quickly can an airline price expire?
When prices expire really depends. Generally prices move most during the peak travel booking periods. For example, those trying to book tickets recently to go to Rome for the Champions League would have noticed fast rising flight prices as demand surged. If you’re planning to travel for a major event or during a peak vacation period then expect prices to expire quickly.
BP: I’ve seen some travel sites that list certain airlines, but not all the available airlines. For example, I was recently looking up a flight from Portland, OR to Denver on one site, and they didn’t include Jetblue or Southwest (Southwest actually had the best deal). Why is that?
The situation really depends on the market and the support from such large budget airlines. From a European Fly.com perspective, we have managed to integrate the major budget airline carriers like Ryanair and easyJet. Such suppliers may be selective in terms of which websites they work with to facilitate flight data access.
BP: What makes fly.com different from the many other travel sites out there?
Fly.com is the only flight comparison site to include prices for First Class, Business Class and Economy seats – not just the standard charter seats. It is also the only flight comparison site to have a ‘why me?’ function, which shows consumers what features each airline includes (e.g. free drinks, Wi-Fi, leather chairs, interactive TV etc.) Users can sort results by what’s important to them; price, airline, stops and airports.
Official bio: For the last ten years, Aaron has been recognised for his pioneering work within the online travel industry. Aaron is now managing the Fly.com business in the UK and Europe for Travelzoo with the goal to establish Fly.com clearly among the top meta-search players in the market.