Flight comparison websites: Comparative advantage

IF YOU frequently shop for flights online, you will almost certainly be familiar with flight comparison websites like Skyscanner and Kayak. These so-called metasearch engines invite you to key in your desired travel itinerary, before pulling data from other websites—mostly airlines, travel agents and rival search engines—and aggregating the results into a list of available airfares. You can then orbit to the cheapest ticket and click through to the booking website. It’s not rocket science, and with a little flexibility you can usually find a bargain. But metasearch engines are not perfect. They are only as powerful as the data that feed into them, and some airlines refuse to cooperate. Without scheduling and airfare data from low-cost carriers like Ryanair and Southwest, metasearch engines will not always find the best deals. Last week, after ten years out in the cold, Ryanair suddenly started sharing its data. Worryingly for Skyscanner and Kayak, it teamed up with  a virtual unknown in the flight comparison market. Google Flight Search launched in the US in 2011 and in Europe in 2013. Its market share is virtually non-existent, but these are early days for a venture that only traces its history back to 2010, when Google acquired ITA, a flight information software company.Google’s platform is noteworthy for two reasons. First, its website has a more visual …

Link to article: www.economist.com/blogs/gulliver/2014/01/flight-comparison-websites?fsrc=rss

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