Our Secret Shopper takes a look at the websites for the main airline and flight booking websites
Our flight shopper looks at how long much it costs to take a short trip to Europe as well as a long flight to the USA. They look at how easy it is to book the flight, whether the costs are obvious, and how clear the airline website is about its terms and conditions.
Read the reviews of the airline websites after comparing the prices.
1 Adult flying return to Amsterdam from London. Out Thurs 18th May 2006 Back Sun 21st May 2006. Requesting available fares, happy with any time.
|Airline Website||Price of Flight||Notes on Flights|
|KLM||£80.90||To and from LHR inc tax/fees|
|BMI Baby||£79.80||To and from LHR inc tax/fees|
|STA Travel||£79.30||British Airways to and from LGW inc tax/fees|
|Expedia||£75.70||British Airways to and from LGW inc tax/fees|
|EBookers||£75.00||British Airways to and from LGW inc tax/fees|
|Cheapflights||£73.00||BA - site takes you directly into BA's website|
|British Airways||£69.30||To and from LGW inc tax/fees|
|Easyjet||£41.98||To and from Luton to Amsterdam inc tax|
|Ryan Air||no flights to Amsterdam|
1 Adult flying return to New York from London . Out Tue 13th Jun 2006 Back Mon 19th Jun 2006. Requesting available fares, happy with any time.
|Airline Website||Price of Flight||Notes on Flights|
|KLM||£433||To and from LHR/JFK via Amsterdam inc tax/fees|
To and from LHR to either EWR/JFK inc tax/fees
|American Airways||£346||To and from LHR/JFK inc tax/fees|
|Expedia||£339||Continental to and from LGW/EWR inc tax/fees|
|STA Travel||£334||American Airways to and from LHR/JFK inc tax/fees.|
|EBookers||£334||Continental to and from LGW/EWR inc tax/fees|
|Cheapflights||£249||no airline mentioned - phonelink to Mastravels|
A good easy site to use. Uncomplicated quote request page. Do take care if you are not a student to over-ride this as the page automatically defaults to student status. Each quote took approx 2-3 minutes to do and obtain. This site did not offer different dates around my requested ones which could have made my fares cheaper. It did quote the fares including taxes and fees, which you could also check the breakdown of if you so wish. Whilst searching for the fares, this site reminds you that you can also book accommodation, tours, and travel insurance online too. STA Travel specialise in student and youth travel but they do book everyone. They offer flights, accommodation, insurance, tours, rail/coach and discount cards. There are also a lot of hot deals advertised, however the dates for these didn't fit in with what I was looking for.
Another good and easy to use site. Each quote took about 2-3 minutes to do and quoted fares including taxes and booking fee. It did not offer alternative dates which may have been cheaper. The site also gave the opportunity to purchase accommodation and insurance before completing the flight booking. There were a range of specials and hot deals advertised on the home page, which were good if you were flexible with your dates. Terms and conditions were clear. http://www.expedia.co.uk/default.aspx
British Airways Flights
A very good website, simple to use. Each quote took about 4-5 minutes and quoted fares including taxes/fees. This site also gave the option to search for dates 7days before and after the requested date to find a cheaper fare. It then came up giving each day and the cost of the one way fare for that particular date. This made it particularly easy to see which days would cost more than others and book the flight you really wanted. The booking page then gave you the option and costs to upgrade your flight, as well as the opportunity to buy accommodation, cars, sightseeing and transfers. Terms and conditions were clear. The home page offered access to such things as special offers, online checkin and executive club. http://www.britishairways.com/travel/lowfares/public/en_gb
American Airways Flights
At first I thought this was going to be a great website to use, but it just got more complicated the further I went in the quote process! The homepage appears to have a quote box on it, but when you go to edit the preset date it takes you to another quote page. This quote page then had the option to request a search if your dates were flexible which I thought was great, however, I couldn't work out how to get the return date to work once it had selected a choice of dates and fares! So I went back to the original search option and stuck to my requested dates which brought up a quote saying the fare was approximately GBP285. When you continue with the booking the next screen asks for your AA Advantage pin number, I was about to give up when I noticed a box saying to proceed if you did not have a pin (which didn't really stand out!). So I proceeded and the final price then came up including the taxes. To be honest, I would rather go into a travel agency and book my flight than do it via this website! http://www.aa.com/content/uk/index.jhtml
Easyjet Airline Website
A very easy website to use. The process took about 2 minutes. When selecting London as a departure point it gives you the choice of all London airports which is good. Once dates and destinations have been selected the quote page brings up the different fares available on the day and also for 1 day either side for you to compare. When you have selected your flights the next screen gives you the total, but be careful - Easyjet are very cheeky and automatically price in travel insurance! You can remove this to get your flight/tax price only. They then go on to offer you travel insurance and car rental before you finalise your booking. The home page also offers accommodation, insurance, car rental and airport parking. http://www.easyjet.com/en/book/index.asp
BMI Baby Flights
A simple site to use. The quote process took about 2 minutes, bringing up a range of different flight times and prices for my chosen dates. I became really excited when I saw that the cost of my outbound fare was only to be GBP2.00 and the return GBP27.00 !! But once the taxes were added in the next quote page it took my total to be the most expensive so far!!! Even more than BA! This site did clearly state that there would be a credit card fee of GBP4.95 which I found good, as none of the other sites have made their credit card fees known up to the quote stage. The homepage showed a range of cheap specials and also had a tab for hotels, cars etc. http://www.bmibaby.com/bmibaby/en/index.aspx
Ebookers Flight Booking Service
An easy site to use. Quotes can be done from the homepage, and are straightforward to do, however the search does seem to take a bit of time compared to the other sites. The homepage shows current specials and deals of the week, and also the usual hotels, car hire, insurance, holidays etc. Nectar points can be earned if booking through this website. http://www.ebookers.com/?VERSION=uk&SOURCE=goog&KEYWORD=ebookers
A straightforward site to use. Each quote took about 2 minutes. The quote page automatically defaulted to give you the option to search for fares around your requested dates and came up with and easy to use colour key to see the cost of the fare for any particular day. KLM offered the most expensive flight to Amsterdam, even though this is their hub. The hompage offered information on specials, hotels, cars, travel information, frequent flyers and business travel. http://www.klm.com/travel/gb_en/index_default.html
An excellent website which does a lot of the legwork for you! This site does not actually sell the travel, but takes you either into the website or gives you a phone number of a travel company it has found that does a good deal on what you have requested. All that you request are the destination and departure points, you don't specify your dates, so need to make sure when you are looking at the prices displayed that travel is for the period you need. This site will also do comparisons on holidays, short breaks, hotels and more. http://www.cheapflights.co.uk
Flight Booking Summary
As you can see there is not a lot of difference in price between most of these websites. So ease of use should play a big role in choosing which company you are going to book your flights with online. Only one website mentioned it's credit card fees in the quote stage, but I am sure that all of these websites must charge a credit card fee once you get to the final booking stage as credit card fees are a standard charge in the travel industry today. One frustrating thing that happened with all of the websites is when I used my scroller on my mouse to move down in the page it actually changed the information which I had last entered, so do be aware of this.