KICKING THE TIRES

A New Airfare Discounter Enters the Fray

An ambitious new membership-based travel site is taking on airlines, online travel agencies, and travel auctions. CFares (cfares.com) claims to find the lowest prices by searching multiple sources: databases of major airlines, wholesalers, travel aggregators such as Kayak, and booking engines such as Orbitz.

Register for free and you can search for flights on cFares, which will redirect you to the seller's own website to complete the transaction. However, you can get an additional discount if you become a "platinum" member for $50/year. Additionally, platinum members can name their own ticket price through a tool called cAgent, which allows you to see the airline and itinerary before you book your flight, unlike opaque bookings through sites such as Priceline. (If you're not already a platinum member, you can be upgraded at the time of purchase, and the $50 membership fee will be added to your auction purchase price.)

So how does cFares stack up against its competitors? We compared membership rates versus booking directly with a major airline or online travel agency. We requested price quotes for the same dates and itineraries to make sure we were comparing apples to apples. All prices include taxes and fees, unless otherwise noted.

Itinerary 1: A holiday cross-country flight

We searched for flights from New York City to Seattle during the December holidays. A platinum round-trip rate of $463 per person flying nonstop on Delta and returning nonstop on Continental was $126 less than the same itinerary booked through OneTravel.com, an online travel agency. A search of JetBlue's website turned up a round-trip price of $598 per person for the same dates and a slightly different itinerary.

Itinerary 2: A quick weekend getaway

We searched for weekend flights from Baltimore to Miami in January 2007. A platinum round-trip rate of $100 per person flying nonstop on American was $12 less than the same itinerary booked as a gold member through CheapTickets.com. Booking directly through American's website turned up a round-trip price of $109 per person for the same dates.

Itinerary 3: An international vacation

We searched for flights from Denver to London Gatwick in March 2007. A platinum round-trip rate of $297 plus tax per person flying on American with one stop each way was $34 less than the exact same itinerary booked directly through American's website.

The bottom line?

We like cFares' wide selection and transparent pricing. Although cFares doesn't search discount airline Southwest, cFares found lower prices in every instance. There are no special restrictions on airfares, and in most cases you still rack up your frequent-flier miles if you book flights through cFares. The only "gotcha" is that while you can book fares for friends and family members, everyone must be a platinum member to receive the deepest discount. For frequent fliers, the $50 yearly membership fee will easily pay for itself in a few flights. Even if you never buy a platinum membership, you can't lose by checking cFares' prices before booking a flight on another website.

Related links:

  • Which Reward Programs Deserve Your Loyalty?
  • Smaller Airports, Smaller Airfares
  • How to Navigate Online Travel Auctions
  • Simplified Airfares That Aren't
  • Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
     

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