Travel website Roadtest – Meta search

Kayak


Usability
As the pioneer in the field, Kayak has it all – simple search screen, fast interactivity, outstanding filtering options, intuitive icons and matrix and calendar displays. One confusing item is a homepage option to ‘compare results in a new window’ from sponsors… which could mislead first-time users, and the counterpart to so much richness. No simplicity bonus.
Score: 20/25


Reach
Fantastic coverage. Almost all low-cost carriers, airlines and online agencies are searched – it took us a while to find one site that was not included. Nothing else to say – if there is one comprehensive site to check out first, this is the one.
Score: 23/25


Quality of results
The results are fast and accurate, and it is easy to view details for connecting flights. All the fares we have checked were accurate and up to date. It also de-duplicates identical itineraries found on several websites, by simply listing them once with the fare offered by the different merchants. It does not allow combining separate one-way tickets.
Score: 19/25


Product Range
Hotels and rental cars are the two other mainstream categories offered on Kayak. The comparators are quite good. Other more complex categories could benefit from the usability expertise of this site.
Score: 8/15


Cool factor
Small innovations can make the difference. Firstly, we liked the ability to select an itinerary as ‘favourite’ – it will be firmly displayed on top of the window to be easily referred to while the search continues. Secondly, we liked the option to select one flight we like, and see all itineraries including that specific flight. Very useful when we have a time constraint. Thirdly, we liked the 90-day fare calendar – easy to spot trends and days to find the best fares.
Score: 8/10

Overall score: 78/100



Travelsupermarket


Usability 
Here is a site that uses drop-down lists, with only UK cities listed for departures. Fine. The results are simply displayed (bonus) and ranked by fare, but there aren’t many options to drill and filter so it’s difficult to find the best schedule option. Cannot always see details for connecting flights. Room for improvement.
Score: 15/25


Reach 
Good list of sites searched – across low-cost carriers, flagship airlines and online agencies. However, the results from some LCCs are not always displayed on each route. Technical issue? On our Bristol-Dublin test, Ryanair was apparently searched but didn’t return anything, although we knew it had the lowest fare.
Score: 19/25


Quality of results
The fares reported are mostly accurate, but unfortunately not all fares were found (see Reach). There seems to be an initial step towards combining one-way tickets, but in most cases it didn’t return any options, or the fares were identical to the return fares.
Score: 14/25


Product range
TravelSupermarket has it all… hotels, cars, activities, packages… as the name suggests. Some services are provided by white-label partners and overall it is a convenient place to go when planning a trip with many different components.
Score: 12/15


Cool factor
A good idea: it provides booking tips for every airline or website, such as fare inclusions/exclusions, hidden surcharges, accepted cards or details about the booking process. This can help avoiding surprises such as ‘your credit card is not accepted’.
Score: 3/10


Overall score: 63/100



Skyscanner


Usability    
This site is different. It’s not bad, just different. The layout is simple and clean and despite drop-downs everywhere, it’s quite intuitive to use. Results are strictly ranked by schedule, which makes it great for business travellers, but a couple of basic filters are badly needed to easily eliminate unsuitable flight times, airports, or carriers. Moreover, it is entirely focused on combining outbound fares with inbound fares, which is also different, but it makes it less immediate to see the total price to pay. A bit complex for beginners, but probably the way to go to give maximum choice.
Score: 14/25


Reach   
Skyscanner focuses on airline sites and therefore compares legacy carriers and low-cost carriers, without going through online agencies. If this eliminates part of the problem, it also eliminates potentially good fares that online agencies negotiate with carriers on specific routes and times of the year.
Score: 16/25


Quality of results  
The fares are mostly accurate and up to date, and they make it transparent by showing when the fare has last been checked. The site is able to combine one-way tickets to give you the best overall cost, and it also builds new connections where they don’t exist – this seems new and is not available on worldwide destinations.
Score: 17/25


Product Range
Skyscanner only does flights… a specialised focus. It does support multiple languages, but the lack of other categories could be a strategic handicap in the long run to become a reference-only gateway.
Score: 3/15


Cool factor
We like the interactive map to pick and choose departure and destinations. It is very interactive and smartly done. We also like the fact that you don’t have to choose a specific destination or a specific date to see fares: you can ask for ‘flights to Italy in May’ to see fares to all cities, and a nice calendar display with day-by-day fares to pick and choose. Excellent if your dates are not set.
Score: 4/10

Overall score: 51/100



Sprice


Usability  
A nice design, simple search criteria, however the interaction is slow (pre-fills and calendars). The calendars do not check the coherence of your dates… and needs to be improved. The results are easy to read and there is a basic choice of filters available. A nice matrix display on top gives a good overview of the choices available. Pain point: the filters are not applied in real time, you have to click (and wait) to update the results. Pain point: no details for connecting flights.
Score: 14/25


Reach  
Not many sites are included in the search. If a few online travel agents are included, there are almost no low-cost carriers – LCC results are, in fact, included from another meta-search engine.
Score: 11/25


Quality of results 
Well, the basics are covered… both direct and connecting flights options are supported. Fares do not always include all charges, and it does not build one-way combinations or new connections.
Score: 11/25


Product Range
Due to its history, Sprice is developing sites for the Southeast Asian countries and supports a few languages. Hotels and car-rental comparison engines are available.
Score: 7/15


Cool factor
We like the design style.
Score: 1/10


Overall score: 44/100



Mobissimo


Usability   
Mobissimo is easy to use. It’s simple and it gets a bonus for that, but it can improve. The calendars are not smart; there is no matrix results overview, and it doesn’t show the details for connecting flights. The filtering options are basic but efficient.
Score: 15/25


Reach  
A good choice of sites is searched across the web. It does not match Kayaks’ reach, but Mobissimo does go a long way to get itineraries from all three categories.
Score: 21/25


Quality of results
Fares are all-inclusive but not always up to date, especially for short-term flights. It doesn’t venture in the one-way fares combinations world, or try to build connections. The same flight itinerary is repeated several times if provided by several sites.
Score: 12/25


Product Range
Flights, hotels and cars are there, plus a neat activity functionality (but not a real engine) that we will discuss further in the Cool Factor section.
Score: 7/15


Cool factor
Mobissimo offers the possibility to find a travel destination based on what people like to do… we love this! It has built a reference of major areas of interest in each destination so that it is possible to search ‘From Edinburgh to Wine Tasting’ or ‘London to Beach’. A real differentiator if you are looking to enjoy a specific activity.
Score: 4/10


Overall score: 59/100



Dohop


Usability    
Dohop is simple and clean and provides smart pre-fills and calendars. The results are also simply displayed and the interactivity is very fast. Now filters… they exist, but they are difficult to find and use. Connection details are available although in a new page. Something complex is going on here, the browser crashed twice.
Score: 15/25


Reach   
This site puts a very heavy focus on airlines, and also looks at many online travel agencies. Upon selecting an itinerary the site shows a list of OTAs offering the same itinerary and all the different fares so that you can decide to book on your favourite one.
Score: 22/25


Quality of results  
A fare-comparison site should be successful when it manages to compare fares. Well, in our test scenarios, we happened to completely miss fares. This is the main issue on this site – fares are often missing or not up to date. It’s a pity because it seems to go a long way into combining different airline options and building new connections. But not always with a fare.
Score: 14/25


Product Range 
Beyond flights, Dohop has launched a hotel search functionality, which is just a sponsored list so far. A wide choice of languages is available.
Score: 3/15


Cool factor  
The user-interface is very fast. So fast that we sometimes didn’t even noticed something had actually happened. There is definitely an interesting technology powering this site but we hope the quality of the results will be improved.
Score: 1/10


Overall score: 55/100



Liligo


Usability    
Liligo has a neat and simple user-interface with all the basics in place – prefilling, smart calendars, simple results, fast filters. A couple of areas of improvement will be a matrix overview and better details for connecting flights (not always available).
Score: 19/25


Reach   
Liligo is able to get results from many low-cost carriers and online travel agencies but it does not get legacy airlines directly. Although the itineraries will be certainly found on online travel agencies, the fares can be different – hence a big area of improvement for this site.
Score: 15/25


Quality of results  
Liligo has up-to-date fares, supports connecting flights and has started to combine one-way options into what it calls ‘low-cost combinations’. Unfortunately, it does not de-duplicate identical flights from different websites, but overall the quality is up to standard.
Score: 16/25


Product Range  
A good choice of languages and a hotel booking functionality for the UK site. The French region already has ski packages, we expect the UK site to evolve soon.
Score: 4/15


Cool factor  
Liligo is building a fun list of user widgets that you can configure on your ‘My Liligo’ space. These can include not only the classic fare alerts departing from your home town or to a specific destination, but also relevant images or videos from Flikr, YouTube or Dailymotion, or any RSS travel news feed.
Score: 3/10


Overall score: 57/100



Wegolo


Usability   
We should mention upfront that this site is new and just starting up, so our ratings should be viewed in that light. The design is simple and so is the functionality. It lacks modern interactive user-interface tricks and the interactivity is slow. The result list is simple – way too simple, there is no overview matrix, and there are no filters apart from basic sorting criteria by price or schedule.
Score: 10/25


Reach   
The site sticks to its promise to search for low-cost fares, by only searching across LCC websites. Given the aggressive response of legacy airlines to LCCs, we believe a large chunk of good fare options are left out of this site.
Score: 9/25


Quality of results 
The fares are not up to date, and in most cases the fares reported are actually higher than the actual fares. Our Bristol-Dublin £97 flight was listed at £117, plus a £12 fee that Wegolo keeps for itself, making a total of £129. It also adds its own travel insurance. The credit-card payment also happens on Wegolo’s website directly so we wonder what happens with the fare difference. By design, the site does offer combination of one-way tickets but it does not support connecting flights.
Score: 8/25


Product Range
The site is offered in a number of languages, and there are car and hotel booking areas although they’re powered by white-label partners.
Score: 4/15


Cool factor 
We took this with sense of humour and enjoyed the ‘Last-minute hot & cold’ flight search. In a nutshell, you can select your departure city and then pick a destination based on weather conditions. Take a break from London to a place ‘mostly cloudy with showers’ in Europe, anyone?
Score: 2/10


Overall score: 33/100



Testing criteria:


Usability
We have checked how simple it is to enter request parameters, how the results are displayed, which filtering options are provided, what level of detailed information is offered, with a bonus for those who keep it simple.


Reach
The whole idea of a meta-search engine is to save time when searching for travel options. We checked if the engines are able to scan online travel agencies, low-cost carriers and also traditional airline sites.


Quality of results
We have checked if the fares are up to date; if the engines are able to report the full fares; if they are able to combine one-way tickets to create cheaper return journeys; if they can manage connections; if they redirect users to the right booking page.


Product range
Although our analysis has focused on flight searches, most engines also provide search functions for hotels, rental cars, packages or ski trips. We have also looked into the quality of the wider product offering.


Cool factor
Beyond the core search and compare functionality, we have found creative ideas and tools on (almost) each meta-search site.



Overview:


With the flurry of meta-search sites popping up every other month, we thought this niche segment wouldn’t have much to offer anymore. But scratching beyond the surface, we have discovered it’s not so easy to do it right.


Search algorithms have always been a key part of technology, but we don’t feel like the problem has been cracked yet by any of the existing players. Kayak is the most advanced in terms of usability and reach, but there is still progress to be made to allow us to easily find the rock bottom fares.


Within the tested sites, Skyscanner and Dohop are the most advanced on combining one-way tickets and putting together flight options.


Liligo and Mobissimo are innovative on user-personalisation, by providing customisable modules and interest-based searches.


One thing is clear – to make it a sustainable business, meta-search sites have to provide a valuable service to their sponsors (the airlines and online agencies) while also being their enemy by bringing differentiation down to price only. A big meta-search engine will be an unavoidable marketing channel for any airline. Just how close we are to this situation is not clear – there still seems to be room for improvement.



About the authors:


Ranjan Singh is co-founder and CEO of Isango!, the global travel experiences website.


Previously with Expedia and Ebookers, he understands online travel inside out and has been recently named in the Observer Future 500 business leaders.


Singh has taken the Isango! idea from his living room to the masses, including partnerships with Ryanair, Kelkoo and WAYN.


Daniele Beccari is the European vice-president for Isango! and is also in charge of technology partnerships.


Previously global head of e-commerce product management for Amadeus, he has worked with customers and partners worldwide in a large variety of projects touching all fields of online travel.



NB: Wegolo asked to point out the following since the article was first published:


“We provide 100% ‘real-time’ data from the LCC’s in spite of their fluid pricing models and I invite anyone to challenge this in the whole on-line ticket business who can do the same.


“We take pride in being the only flight engine offering our customers the all-in-fares( which includes all taxes, all miscellaneous fees and we even include the credit card fees charged by the airlines for the payment at the very end of their booking process ! since one of our USP’s is to offer the consumer, unbiased price comparison between the LCC’s.


“The (LCCs) flight data in the other sites who were surveyed (Liligo, Kayak, Mobissimo & Sprice) are all generated from Wegolo’s flight engine.”

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience. Learn more