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Multi-City Flight Searches

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Where Do You Find the Best Airfares?


Search for Fares Traveling from Boston to Chicago, then to New Orleans for a few nights, and then back to Boston can be a pain. You're not looking for a roundtrip flight, and when you type in your multi-leg itinerary, the prices you find will probably not look like roundtrip prices. Multi-leg flight plans, especially those without flexible dates, often combine a string of high one-way prices into a package of tickets that far exceed roundtrip prices for similar itineraries.

But an experienced flier who knows how and where to search for the best airfares can beat the curse of the multi-city itinerary. On which sites should you look for your open-jaw flight? Fare aggregators like Kayak.com, most airline Web sites and many major booking engines allow users to type in more than two departure and destination cities for a multi-leg flight search. To save you time, we took a look at some of these sites to see how they stack up when it comes to complicated itineraries with numerous destinations.

The following results were found on several of the major booking sites -- Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity.

Los Angeles - Sydney - Auckland - Los Angles
We chose this simple international itinerary as our first test case. We tested each site using the same arrival and departure dates over a two-week period in September and found each Web site to be quite user-friendly. Expedia offered the lowest price overall, while our search on Orbitz yielded the lowest price on nonstop flights.

  • Kayak.com
    Lowest price: $1,365 including taxes and fees on multiple airlines. The fare was offered by CheapTickets and included one stop on two legs. The lowest price not offered by CheapTickets was $1,401 on Air New Zealand and multiple airlines (including taxes and fees) from Orbitz.com.

  • Orbitz.com
    Lowest price: $1,368, including taxes and fees on Air New Zealand and United Airlines. Clearly, one should not rely on fare aggregators alone when booking a flight. In this case, searching directly on Orbitz.com gave us a cheaper flight than the Orbitz fares that were listed on Kayak.

    Air Tickets
  • Expedia.com
    Lowest price: $1,298, including taxes and fees, on Air New Zealand with one layover. The lowest price for nonstop flights was $1,414 on Qantas.

  • Travelocity.com
    Lowest price: $1,303 on an Air New Zealand. The price includes taxes and fees. The Web site was easy to use and we found an itinerary comparable in price to the others.

    New York - London - Paris - Barcelona - New York
    We chose this slightly more complicated itinerary in mid-January to be the subject of our next test and found the lowest price ($1,161.50) on British Airways through Travelocity. Keep in mind that when booking flights within Europe, you might pay less by booking on a European discounter like Ryanair. While the search engines we tested did not give us a point-to-point breakdown in price, we think it would be hard to beat the 23.22 EUR (about $37) price, inclusive of taxes and fees, that we found for a flight on Ryanair from Paris to Barcelona on our choice travel date.

  • Kayak.com
    Flight Information Lowest price: $1,767 on Air France, including taxes and fees. When you connect to the Air France Web site, you must go through the trouble of re-typing your itinerary. When we took the time to do this, we found a flight priced at $1,381.82 -- even lower -- including taxes and fees.

  • Orbitz.com
    Lowest Price: $1,777 including taxes and fees on Air France. In this case, it would be best to pop over to the Air France site and book directly.

  • Expedia.com
    Expedia turned up no flights that matched our requested dates and cities.

  • Travelocity.com
    Lowest Price: $1,161.50 including taxes and fees on British Airways. Two of the legs were nonstop flights.

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