Do you book your airline tickets through travel aggregators like makemytrip (MMT), Ezeego1,Yatra, Flightraja, cleartrip etc? All of them claim they give you lowest airfare. Some of them offer an “upto 50% cash back offer” when paid through a ICICI platinum and other specific credit cards. Because these websites book several tickets everyday they must be getting some discount from airlines and ideally should pass on a part of it to end users (customers who buy tickets from them). But truth seems to be otherwise.
After preliminary inspection I found that booking direct on airline website is cheapest option, as most of the travel sites quoted slightly higher than airline website.
Some random sample data for your quick information:
One way trip- Origin: Chennai , Destination: Mumbai, Date 23rd May 2008 Indigo flight 6E-422
Fare at airline website: Rs 3174 MMT- Rs 3249 Cleartrip-Rs 3276 Ezeego1-Rs 3301 Yatra- Rs.2,959 (Rs 99 + Rs 2,860 taxes & fees)
One way, Origin: Mumbai, Destination: Kolkata, Date 31st May 2008 Jet Airways 9W-211
Fare at airline website: Rs 6800 (4075+2350+225+150) MMT- Rs 6855(4050+2805)Cleartrip-Rs 6855 Ezeego1-Rs 7025 Yatra Rs.6,835 (Rs 4,075 + Rs 2,760 taxes & fees)
One way, Origin: Delhi, Destination: Chennai, Date 26st May 2008 Kingfisher IT 234
Fare at airline website: Rs 5200 MMT- Rs 6325 (Rs 3525+2800) Cleartrip-Rs 6352- Ezeego1 Rs. 6472-Yatra-Rs 6335 (Rs 3,575 + Rs 2,760)Flightraja
Feel free to explore on your own to see if they really offer lowest fare.
So, in conclusion, none of the travel sites give you lowest fares. So why are all these site claiming of cheapest offers? The 50% cash back is even bigger joke. Cash back is on base fare only-you’ll get 49 Rs back on Rs 99 base fare, after few months. Even after cash back the fare is expensive than airline direct quote.
My advice: Refer to any of the travel site, select the flight you find convenient, then go to website of that airline and do the booking. (you may also use ixigo.com or yahoo fairchase)
Most of us won’t have patience to check price at multiple sites and chose lowest one. We blindly select one of the above sites and book the ticket. The only advantage, if any is that these travel aggregators may save some time (which otherwise might have been spent typing credit card number and other details at multiple places) as you can do multiple tasks at one place. If you don’t mind paying a small premium for that then go for it.
Also note: If you had to reschedule/cancel the flight, getting a refund from these travel sites will be a nightmare. Those who have used IRCTC for online railway ticket reservation know that IRCTC has an extremely efficient cancellation mechanism. Amount will be promptly credited back within days if you cancel the ticket. If IRCTC can offer such a smooth technology enabled reservation cancellation facility why can’t these travel sites (including most of the airline websites) give the same? Why customer is expected to make several phone calls (STD calls in many cases) to travel sites customer care? Why the advanced technology (like online payment) is used only to take your money and when it comes to refund your money why should you use age old idea of calling through telephone?
Same with hotel rooms- Call the hotel directly and insist on a corporate discount-you are very much likely to get it at a rate far cheaper than what is offered on the travel sites.
March 2009 update: I made an attempt to communicate with cleartrip through their twitter account. But didn't get any reply to my question in which I asked why cleartrip rates are 5-10% expensive than airline fares... Ixigo.com and Yahoo Fairchase (http://in.farechase.yahoo.com/) seem to give exact fares from airline websites.