Cheaper Isn't Always Better


A good airfare is only so satisfying: InsideTrip is a new website that rates all the factors (aircraft type, security wait time, legroom…) that matter these days.

InsideTrip starts with 12 basic categories to tabulate a flight's TripQuality score. To customize a search, just unclick the factors in the dashboard that aren't important to you and then click Recalculate TripQuality. (If you only have a carry-on bag, for instance, you won't care about the airline's lost-luggage ranking.) The site, unfortunately, doesn't take into account everything that affects a flight experience—you can't select amenities like seat-back TVs or other in-flight entertainment options. Some of the factors used to determine the score, meanwhile, seem less relevant than others, such as the historical load factor (the average percentage of seats occupied on the airline's flights a year before the booking date). Most flights run at near-full capacity these days anyway.

If you want to buy a ticket, InsideTrip directs you to Orbitz. Keep in mind, though, that Orbitz charges a fee of $5 to $13 (InsideTrip factors in the fee), so you may want to buy the ticket on the airline's website instead. Orbitz and InsideTrip search the same airlines, including some (but not all) international carriers. The only major domestic airline the two sites don't search is Southwest.

One of the most user-friendly features of the site is the bar showing exactly how long you'll be sitting in an airport during a layover. (Move your cursor over the bar to make layover details appear in a box.) To eliminate flights with long layovers, adjust the tabs on the Connection Time ruler on the left side of the page, and the site will quickly refine the search results.

A lot of the data on the site isn't available anywhere else. InsideTrip researched gate locations at major airports, for example, because one of the factors it uses to determine a flight's ease is whether you have to take a bus or a train to reach the gate. For connection times, the website considers between 45 and 90 minutes to be ideal; a flight loses TripQuality points if a layover is longer or if it's so brief that you risk missing your connecting flight.

InsideTrip uses statistics from the government and the airlines, as well as its own research on flights, to determine the TripQuality ratings. The best possible TripQuality score is 100, but perfection is nearly impossible. Great flights receive scores from the mid-80s to the 90s. Some factors are weighed more heavily than others in determining the final tally—nonstops, for one, generally score much higher than flights with layovers. The top score on this route was an 85 for a nonstop flight on Northwest. Whether it's worth $357 is your call.

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