Flight Search beyond the ticket price – baggage fees, amenities, award miles!

Most people purchase their flight tickets based no the flight times and price. Frequent travelers might have loyalty to a specific airline, but few fliers make the effort to compare service quality, seat comfort, safety, the end-to-end experience and many still get tripped up by surprising baggage fees at the end of the booking process. That’s about to get better with more web sites making additional information available to fliers when comparing tickets, giving you a chance to get just the flight experience you want!

My favorite flight meta-search engine, Kayak.com, is taking baby-steps and is now offering a “Fee Assistant” that’s taking the fees for checked and increasingly for carry-on bags into account, letting you add just how much luggage you plan to bring and show the total price for it:

This works reasonably well for domestic flights, but doesn’t take into account different bag sizes (is that bag going to count as “personal item” or as “carry-on”?) or extra luggage allowance elite members of the airline loyalty programs or credit card holders have. 

The first search engine to offer additional information and the most of it, is Hipmunk! They made headlines by allowing you to sort your flight search by “Agony Factor”, putting that red-eye flight with two long stop-overs on turbo-prop planes at the bottom at the list! They will provide information about not only the aircraft used and amenities, but also WiFi, the baggage fees and even the reward miles you’ll earn on your flights:

This works surprisingly well for US domestic flights and even international flights operated by the US carriers. It usually would take several web sites to find all that information or requiring you to go to the end of the booking process to find out the real price. So, this overview provides a significant amount of information in a single search!
It still falls short on extra luggage allowance for elite members and credit card holders or mileage calculations for partner operated or code-share flights. 

The largest OTA in china, cTrip, is now introducing a similar feature for mileage earnings on their Chinese language webstie: You’ll be able to see the mileage for your flight in the search results, so you can determine whether being loyal to your favorite airline is worth it or not! The information is provided through a tool offered by 30K, who also works with Hipmunk, so you can expect the performance of this tool to become better over time and more widely available – which is great news for mileage lovers! (See ctrip / 30K press release for details). HT: Skift

A bad flight experience, whether from an old plane, bad connection, poor service or unexpected fees can ruin your trip. So far, it took a lot of effort to find out all the details and avoid the issues before you booked your trip. With these new tools, it’s becoming much easier to evaluate what you are really getting for that bargain basement fare. Check it out and have better trips going forward!

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