Flight comparison sites are essential for the modern traveller, but which one is best?
Finding the cheapest flight is a good way to start off your budget holiday by saving a few pennies. Like insurance, there has been a huge growth in these flight search engines and finding the best flight comparison site is a question of taste for many.
With the right choice, finding the best flight deal is essential, it can be the difference between paying £100 more or less. Here at Gone Travelling, we’ve racked up a few airline bookings in our time and have used a fair few flight booking comparison sites.
So for your information, we have road tested the most popular (and some more obscure) flight booking sites to see which one works best.
Using a city break from London to Berlin on 5th to 8th December 2019 (y’know… for a Christmas markets break) as the yardstick for short haul.
And a flight from London to Sydney, Australia in January 2020 for long haul.
The update to this article in October 2019 changes the format slightly.
- We’ll look at the same deal from London to Berlin and explain any changes or issues with finding the same deal on a different site.
- For the long haul, we looked at the ‘find the cheapest flight price’ option on all the platforms.
- We also take a look at any options to find last minute cheap flights…
The ‘Google’ of flight booking sites, Skyscanner is one of the original and still one of the best flight comparison sites. They have tweaked the site a few times over the years, with a recent branding change, and you can also browse a map to choose your destination.
One of the things Skyscanner is best for is just browsing those super cheap deals. If you choose a departure airport, leave the destination blank and in the dates choose ‘whole month’ then ‘cheapest’ you can find when the absolute bargain flights are. Ideal if you’re just looking for inspiration.
Another thing that makes SkyScanner one of the best flight comparison sites is that it also lets you book hotels, hire cars and browse their blog for inspiration.
A recent addition is that when you search your destination, it also shows the estimated hotel prices below the flight price. Very handy!
Berlin: Despite showing an estimated flight price of around £80, the best price on the chosen dates shows as £129, with a departure from Stansted to Schoenfeld with Ryanair, but returning to Gatwick with EasyJet.
Sydney: Using the ‘whole month’ feature, I find the best cheap flight prices are £649 with China Eastern. This is a 35 hour trip from Gatwick, with a 12 hour wait in Shanghai departing on the 6th January 2020 and returning on the 30th.
The return is even longer, at 44 hours with a 20 hour wait in Shangai. This might not be ideal, but you could use the stopover to explore Shanghai for a day…
The ‘best’ flight option is an £889 Etihad flight from Heathrow, with just three hours in Abu Dhabi. The return includes a short switch in Melbourne (1hr 40) then another 2hr wait in Abu Dhabi.
Cheap flight search: By using the ‘everywhere’ option from London, there are a selection of flights for £18 in Europe, including in Czechia, France, Denmark, Norway, Slovenia, Poland and Bulgaria. Many of these will be Ryanair flights (of course) – but it’s a good way to get some inspiration for random destinations.
Check it out yourself on our handy widget:
Our other best flight booking site here is Momondo – or at least one of our preferred. Many people swear by this over Skyscanner, with lots of people saying they have saved hundreds on long haul flights.
It’s nicely laid out, with a graph above your results with the best prices on either side of your dates (so you can see at a glance that flights are cheaper on another day) and is packed full of at a glance features.
Momondo also allows you to book hotels, car hire and package holiday trips. But how does it stack up in our battle of the best flight comparison sites?
Berlin: On our chosen dates, Momondo actually finds a Ryanair flight (return) for £126. £3 cheaper than SkyScanner. Other than that, the results are pretty similar.
Sydney: Despite the at a glance graph, I can’t quite get the London to Sydney price as low as it is on SkyScanner. In fact, the best price is £792 on that China Eastern flight with the same stop off in Shanghai.
One of the original flight search engines, Kayak has an excellent reputation among travellers as often one of the best for flight deals. Their map feature is great for browsing prices across a geographical area which may find you a steal to a different city. They also have a nifty little side bar feature where they offer inspiration like ‘Amazing Beaches’ or ‘Romantic Getaways’ with some tempting prices.
However, I don’t really use it. The first time I did this review in 2017, I found Kayak an absolute headache to use. This time, it looks like they’ve polished their UX a little bit. The layout is similar to the previous two examples. There isn’t really much in it now…
Berlin: Hmmm, it’s showing a Ryanair flight for £114. That’s £12 cheaper than SkyScanner… I check it out and yes, it’s valid.
Sydney: Browsing for the best flights to Sydney comes up with an amusing 45 hour, 3 change flight for £803. Starting with Ryanair from Stansted (already a no for long haul) with an 11 hour wait in Athens, then a flight to Shanghai with a 17 hour wait… I’d go mad on that.
For only £848 though there is a 27 hour flight via Hong Kong. That’s actually not a bad deal, and well worth the extra £45.
Cheap flight search: Browsing the map is quite handy. And with tags displaying the cheapest tickets to those destinations, you might be like a kid in a sweetshop…
As if Google don’t make enough money already! The flight booking engine from the search giants is exactly as slick as you’d expect it to be. And, of course, they know what you’ve been searching for so there are a few sneaky suggestions there.
Click on the calendar for your dates gives you a live preview of the cheapest flights. You can bring up a graph or date grid, which both show you when the best prices are.
Results are also super quick unlike the other sites where they run a (sometimes very slow) search.
Berlin: On a par with SkyScanner.
Sydney: The best flight price to Sydney with Google is a £810 flight from Heathrow with Lufthansa. It includes a 2 hr wait in Frankfurt, and an 8 hour wait in Seoul. The return is just one stop over in San Francisco for 6 hours. There’s three airlines involved with this: Lufthansa, Asiana and United.
Cheap flight search: One of the cool things about Google’s flight comparison site is that it can show flights based on your recent browsing activity. And if you use your Gmail for your tickets and reservation, they can send you notifications to remind you to check in, etc.
In my case, the Google ‘trips’ suggestions kept showing me all the places I’ve been to.
Since the last time I looked at this site, it’s changed, and not for the better. Now, when I enter ‘London’, where most flight comparison sites suggest ‘all airports’, instead it prompts me to choose. Not ideal, considering London has about 6 airports.
And then, despite my location being set to United Kingdom, prices are shown in US Dollars. OK, whatever…
Berlin: That Ryanair flight shows as $173… Thats £134. Much more expensive than the other options.
Sydney: With no option to browse a calendar, I just pop in my dates (6th Jan – 30th Jan 2020). Again the results are in Dollars. And, they’re way out, with the best being around $1230 (about £955). That’s a no for Fly.com then…
Cheap flight search: There is a ‘todays best fares’ tab at the top, and a ‘fare calendar’ tab too. But, its clunky and I’m not in the mood to look after that cumbersome flight checking experience. Bye bye…
The front page is simple and easy to navigate, but when I pop my search in it insists on using another site to compare against. OK. I choose CheapOAir and JustFly.com.
It then displays the results from two different flight booking engines in a Cheap Flights window. This is weird. Can’t they do the flight comparison themselves? Is this just an engine for affiliate deals from other sites?
Berlin: The Cheap O Air finds that cheap Ryanair flight. Just Fly doesn’t.
Sydney: Neither of my choices find the best prices. Also it’s a UX nightmare. Don’t bother.
Cheap flight search: There isn’t a browse option, although there are lots of banner below. This is kind of like the sort of flight comparison site you would have dealt with in the early 00s. We’ve come a long way, baby. You can avoid CheapFlights.com.
Ooh… This is one of the best looking flight comparison sites. It’s simple but with cartoony style graphics. Even gives you a countdown to when your results will be available (nice touch).
Everything is displayed nicely, but it looks like my results are going to be in dollars again.
Update – the currency options display after the search, above the results. Fine. Also… Results are very quick!
Berlin: Jet Radar finds an EasyJet flight for £121. Weirdly it doesn’t show any Ryanair flights at all… So far, that’s the second cheapest flight. And not being Ryanair is an instant bonus.
Sydney: It does display the price preview in dollars, but once I search its in GBP. And….
This might be one of the cheapest (and longest) flights I’ve found. A 47 hour flight with Capital Air (never heard of em), leaving from Heathrow. You get a whole day in Quingdao… 23 hours. That’s definite layover territory. However it’s a 19 hour layover on the way back. Owch.
But Jet Radar comes up with another option which is the same flight that Google found. Only for less. £782, makes it just under £30 cheaper than Google’s flights.
Cheap flight search: There isn’t really an option to browse a calendar or deals. But, it found some nice prices. I might start using Jet Radar for a second opinion in future…
One of the travel search giants offering all sorts from flights, holiday packages, car hire and even train tickets. Very popular and you can see why.
Price previews are displayed in the calendar and
The search is a little slow, but then they pretty much all are, except Google.
Berlin: Hmm… Lots of results, but that Easyjet flight that Jet Radar found is about £12 more expensive.
Sydney: Expedia finds more of the 1 stop to Australia flights. No silly 2 day layovers in the results here. However, flights are all starting from around £900 and up. This isn’t the cheapest by any means.
Cheap flight search: On the homepage, Expedia does lots to get your attention. Options for long weekends from your nearest airport. Current flight or holiday package deals, and other goodies. It’s worth a browse to see what you can find…
I’ve heard of this site, mainly thanks to the fact that they got sued by United. Their USP is that they will also search for flights to nearby cities which could save you lots of money.
The layout is nice and modern, not too cluttered and very user friendly. Actually, it’s improved since the last time we reviewed it and the UX now is super cool.
Berlin: Wow. We have a winner… Somehow, SkipLagged finds easily the cheapest flight by miles. £103, out with EasyJet from Luton and back to Stansted with Ryanair. How? Well, they beat the competition by a tenner.
Sydney: The big test comes on the long haul option. And…
Yup, SkipLagged might just have become our best flight comparison website at the final furlong… OK, it doesn’t beat the SkyScanner long haul price, but its a very nice second place.
First up, as you can see from the screen grab below, it shows the flight time and stops in nice bold text next to a clear image of the journey. The price is also clear and, in the top right hand corner, you can browse when the flights are cheapest.
Finding cheap flights: Pop in your destination airport, leave blank and select your dates to find some inspiring prices. If you know roughly when you want to go, it’s great…
So What Is The Best Flight Comparison Site?
Based on this test.
- Cheapest result: Skip Lagged wins the cheapest flight for Berlin. Kudos to Jet Radar too… However, SkyScanner found our cheapest long haul ticket.
- Most user friendly: Momondo, Skyscanner, Skip Lagged and Google all win in my books.
- Most confusing: CheapFlights – no. Sorry.
- Don’t bother: Fly.com and Cheap Flights. Both meh.
What’s your experience of looking for the best flights? Are there flight comparison sites that we should include in this list but haven’t? Feel free to get in touch with your suggestions…