Photo credit: Yuichi Kosio

We all know that flight prices are incredibly shifty, but I didn’t realize quite how shifty until I was trying to book a ticket to Leh. It’s the start of the high season now, and temperatures in the plains are soaring, so it’s a bit tough to get a decent ticket. When I first started checking prices, I went to Cleartrip.com. They have a really useful feature that you can pull up a calendar with the lowest flights for any given month. Yatra.com has something similar. But wait! It would be a great feature, BUT . . . they don’t always show the lowest prices. That’s a problem, and it’s one that kept me from booking through either of those sites. Still, it is useful in that you can usually get some idea which airline sites to go to. In this case, it was clear that GoAir had the best deals, although it only showed the actual price on two days from the day I was searching. I wanted to go a couple of days later, but it was showing around Rs23,000 rather than something in the neighborhood of Rs9,000, which is almost reasonable. So I went to the GoAir site and found that they had the lower fare on the day I wanted to go. None of the search engines I tried showed the lower fare for that date except Goibibo, but I couldn’t get their discount code to work, so I gave up booking through them since they charge a booking fee. Goibibo guarantees the lowest prices, as does Expedia, which I didn’t check until afterwards. So I went to book the flight on the GoAir site, but as I was booking, the fare jumped about Rs2,000, and then it jumped another couple hundred rupees. This all happened within a matter of minutes.¬†Anyway, I finally got the Rs11,000 fare, as I didn’t feel it was worth an extra day in Delhi to get the lower fare. I found similar discrepancies in attempting to book the return flight, not quite as big, but still quite significant. Goibibo doesn’t have the calendar, but it does have a little fare trend chart at the bottom of the left column that is useful. Expedia has a feature that lets you search two days before and after. Of the major search engines, these two seem to be the most up-to-the-minute. Cleartrip, Makemytrip and Yatra, on the other hand, all had significant differences from what the airline’s site gave. Now, I’m not saying that these sites are dishonest, but it seems that they are slower to update the prices to match what’s on the airline’s website. As I already mentioned, airline prices are extremely shifty. In India, at least, it seems that once a flight starts to have a certain percentage of booked seats (or whatever), every booking immediately affects the price that will come up for the next person. My advice is when you are looking at big fare differences from day to day or even on the same day, look at fares for several days and then check the websites of the ones that look like they are offering the best fares even if you plan to book through the other site. There are reasons you might want to do that, such as easier booking with an international credit card. If you call them and tell them that the airline’s site is showing a different fare, they will usually honor it. I’d love to hear from readers on this. What has your experience been with these sites? Which one do you like best?

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