Flight comparison sites are essential for the modern traveller, but which one is best?
There are now so many flight comparison sites that you could spend all day flicking between each one looking for the best option. If you’re booking a big flight, i.e; long haul, then finding the best flight deal is essential. It can be the difference between paying £100 more or less.
We’ve racked up a few airline bookings in our time and have used a fair few flight booking apps.
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 Rome at the end of the summer season (Friday 1st – Monday 4th September 2017) as the yardstick for short haul.
And a flight from London to Melbourne, Australia (2nd November – 30th November 2017) for long haul.
The ‘Google’ of flight booking sites, Skyscanner is one of the original sites and still one of the best. They have tweaked the site a few times over the years and you can now browse a map to choose your destination, but generally it has all bases covered. For me this is my first stop when researching flights.
One of the things Skyscanner is best for is just having a look at the 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 don’t really know where to go or when…
You can also book hotels, hire cars and browse their blog for inspiration.
Rome: The best priced flight is £169 using a mixture of airlines, flying out on Ryanair from Stansted to Ciampino (CIA) with the return on Vueling from Fiumicino (FCO) to Gatwick.
Easyjet offer flights going out of Luton to FCO for £170, going back from the same airport to Gatwick.
Melbourne: The best price is with China Southern with a 3hr stop off in Guangzhou (both directions) for £541.
There are also flights with Qantas for £739, Etihad for £671 and British Airways for £865.
One of the other essential flight booking sites is Momondo. 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, has a kind of flow chart of the best prices (so you can see at a glance that flights are cheaper on another day) and is packed full of at a glance features.
Also hotels, car hire and an inspirational blog.
Rome: Best price is a round trip with Ryanair from Stansted to Ciampino and back for £156. There is one cheaper option that includes waiting in Munich for 6 hours for £146.
Melbourne: The China Southern flight is there for £540, but includes a very lengthy stopover both ways. 15 hours in Guangzhou on the way out and 20 on the way back?
The exact same flight as Skyscanner found (3 hr stop each way) shows up as £585 (£43 more) .
However the other flights are all cheaper: Qantas for £745, Etihad for £669 and British Airways for £711.
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, having not used it before, I found it very annoying that it opens a new tab when you search and it’s not actually that straightforward to spot the flight details. You then have to click on the city on a map and then fiddle with your dates. More swearing and looking confused than is necessary for something so simple on the other sites.
Rome: Cheapest is out with Monarch from Luton to FCO, then back from CIA to Stansted with Ryanair for £155. There is the same Ryanair roundtrip as above for £156.
Melbourne: I’ll be honest, I couldn’t work out how to find a flight from London to Melbourne on the dates above via the desktop site.
Each time I ran the search another tab was opened with no obvious search results, but the route map showing Europe. I had to scroll across to Australia and even then the only fare prices it showed were to Sydney.
Maybe it’s me but after several attempts I gave up trying to use the site as it just wasn’t user friendly.
However doing a quick search on the mobile site bought up £541 for the China Southern flight with the single stops in Guangzhou. I skipped finding the other prices and I won’t be using Kayak again.
The search engine giants have come into the flight search game and to be fair, it’s quite a nice user friendly experience.
Running a search brings up suggestions that you could save money flying on alternative dates. Results with a single airline will bring up all the available timings so you can choose at a glance, which is slightly easier than fiddling with slider bars as you need to do on Skyscanner and Momondo.
Results are also quick unlike the other sites where they run a (sometimes very slow) search.
Rome: Prices show as between £156 and £166 for Ryanair flights from Stansted to Ciampino on the day in question. There is a Monarch round trip from Luton to FCO for £190.
Melbourne: The China Southern flight is there for £566 with 3 hr stop on the way out and 15 on the way back. Qantas shows as £792, Emirates £793, Singapore Airlines for £878.
One of the outsiders, Fly.com is still a decent site and reasonably user friendly. Results are returned with a nice at a glance window at the top which shows you how many stops and which airlines.
Unlike some of the other sites, the take off and land times are also shown at a glance as is the full flight time.
Rome: Ryanair is there for £156. Monarch is £191 and the cheaper deal for £144 with that 6 hour Munich stop off.
Melbourne: The China Southern flight is £543 (layover 3hrs out, 15hrs back).
Qantas is £756, Etihad £694 and BA £868 (cheaper than Google).
Hopefully this will do what it says on the tin. The front page is simple and easy to navigate (take note Kayak!) and results are returned clearly with nice blocks of information. The search is quite slow though.
Rome: Same deal, £156 with Ryanair.
Melbourne: The cheapest flight is the option I’ve been trying to avoid with 2 stops on the way out, still China Southern for £531. That one stop flight is £538 still, although there seems to be a few different options including the 3 hr layover on the way back and the longer 20 hour one (same price). Not bad.
Qantas £868, Etihad £669 and BA £847.
Nice looking site, cartoony style graphics. Even gives you a countdown to when your results will be available (nice touch).
Everything is displayed nicely and results are clear.
Rome: The £156 Ryanair is at the top and the silly stopoffs are there too although at £159 for the cheapest, it hasn’t found that Eurowings stop in Munich.
Melbourne: It’s £571 for the China Southern with 15 hr stop off on the return.Qantas £742 (direct), Etihad £718 and BA £880.
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.
The search is a little slow, but then they pretty much all are, except Google.
Rome: The same Ryanair flight actually shows as £150.86 with a disclaimer that it might cost a bit more. Looking into it, that long Munich stop over is the cheaper option. Straight back to STN is an additional £5.12 – making it the same price as the others roughly.
Melbourne: China Southern flights start at £575. Qantas £785, Etihad £739, BA £908.
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. However looking on our Rome search it didn’t find Ciampino airport (CIA) which is the bigger of Rome’s two airports.
Rome: Shows £140 return with Monarch, but when you go to get the return it gives you the option of Vueling direct for £167 or stopoffs in Munich etc for that £140 return. No Ryanair (the cheapest option elsewhere).
Melbourne: The China Southern flight shows as £565 here, both the 14hr and 20hr stop off. The 3hr stop on the return comes up as £657 return.
I’m not convinced.
So What Is The Best Flight Comparison Site?
Based on this test.
- Cheapest result: Momondo, Fly and Google came up with the best deals. Jet Radar gets an honourable mention for being a nice site with some of the cheaper options long haul.
- Most user friendly: Momondo, Skyscanner, Fly, Jet Radar and Google all win in my books.
- Most confusing: Sorry Kayak. Not impressed.
- Try Again: Skip Lagged hasn’t lived up to the hype yet…
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…