A good aggregator, like Skyscanner.net, goes right to the best deals, even if they're from a non-traditional source like Norwegian or Aeroflot, Airfare aggregators, Italy, Italy (Photo courtesy of Skyscanner.net)
A good aggregator, like Skyscanner.net, goes right to the best deals, even if they're from a non-traditional source like Norwegian or Aeroflot

Aggregators search all the booking engines, airline sites, travel agencies, and airfare discounters in the blink of an eye

Let me be blunt. If I could check only one kind of website before booking an airfare, it would be an aggregator. 

I could quite happily then proceed to book my plane tickets knowing that there is only the smallest chance a better fare is out there. (Well, OK, I would want a chance to check the consolidators as well first.)

When looking into buying plane tickets on the Internet, you probably do what most people do: check one or more of the famous search engines and booking sites—Orbitzshow?id=YZSZVefA1LM&bids=297722.1499&typExpediaimage-1643897-10517730Travelocity (though you should know: Expedia actually owns all three now)image-1643897-10659707—then pick the best price you can find and book the tickets.

Congratulations. Chances are pretty strong that you just overpaid for your airfare.

While the three famous Expedia-owned booking engines often do offer decent fares—occasionally even the best available—there are many other booking engines (both smaller ones and foreign ones that aren't as well marketed to the U.S. audience)—not to mention many consolidators (wholesalers), airfare discounters, and online travel agencies, all of which might very well have even lower fares.

So how do you search not only Orbitzshow?id=YZSZVefA1LM&bids=297722.1499&typExpediaimage-1643897-10517730, and Travelocityimage-1643897-10659707 but also all of those other sites as well?

You use a kind of automated personal shopper called an aggregator.

Enter the aggregators

Price aggregators—also known as "meta–search engines," since they search the search engines for you—are a different breed of web critter. These Web sites are looking to preempt all the big booking engines by batch-searching most of the airfare sales sites for you, directly and all at once (well, it might take 10 or 20 seconds).

Most aggregators will run your itinerary through dozens upon dozens of cheap fare sites, individual airline Web sites (not just the major airlines, but smaller carriers and low-cost airlines ones as well), discounters, consolidators, and traditional travel agencies and come up with their answers.

This saves you the hassle of opening up a dozen browser windows and keep clicking back and forth through them all, sifting for the best prices.

In other words, aggregators will tell you know only the going rates at the Big Three, but also survey the majority of all the other prices available out there.

Meet the Airfare Aggregators

The pros and cons of the best airfare aggregators are all detailed in the "Airfare Links" section below:

Airfares links


Do due diligence on the results

These aggregators are canvassing dozens of smaller OTAs and booking services, and you may not be familiar or comfortable with the agency that claims to have the lowest fare.

(To its credit, Skyscanner shows you not only the prices for each of the OTAs, but also its users' star ratings for each.)

With any unfamiliar company, make sure you vet them.

Do a quick search on "[name of company] complaints," and run the name through BBB.org.

Keep in mind that a few complaints don't mean the outfit is no good—even stellar companies garner grousing). But do look for complaint patterns that might make you wary.

In the end, you might up choosing, say, the third least-expensive OTA to make your booking because it had a better rating.

Reid's shortcut to the best fares

All of the airfare hunting techniques mentioned on this site have merit, but, honestly, if I had to narrow it down to two crucial places to check, they would be:

1) The aggregator Momondo
2) The consolidator AutoEurope

Nine times out of ten, I end up booking my plane tickets to Europe through one of those methods.

Check several aggregators

The bots are always getting smarter about finding great fares—but they're not yet perfect.

For example, when I went to get a screen-grab for the graphic at the top of the verison of this page that appears on our sister ReidsEngland.com site, I put the same dates on a NYC-to-London itinerary into several aggregators.

I was really after the visual—an image that would best illustrate the fact that multiple sites and airlines were being searched—but in the process noticed a serious discrepancy in the fares each were able to find. I stuck all the screenshots in the photo gallery so you can compare, but to sum up: on this particular search, the cheapest overall fare was $440 on a WOW flight with a stopover in Iceland, which both Google and Skyscanner found.

The cheapest nonstop flight the aggregators collectively found was on Norwegian, but here the results got screwy. Skyscanner found that flight for $446, Momondo that same flight for $531 (though it also found a cheaper alternative: $501 on British Airways). Google found $555 for the Norwegian flight, and Hipmunk could only do $569 (though Hipmunk also had a cheaper nonstop on tap: $541 on Air India.)

However, all that was just on that particular search. On another date or route, perhaps Momondo might have come out on top.

In other words, it pays to check them all—and that doesn't take long.

Check the major airlines directly

Another potential drawback to meta-searching—and to the big search engine bookers, for that matter—is that sometimes an individual airline might have a special sale going on, or its Web site features an option that lets you be fuzzier about departure and arrival times and dates.

Either of those situations may generate much lower fares than the sort of straight search most meta-search engines (or booking sites) performs.

Aggregators can be a good way to sort through and compare all the sites with ease, but you may miss that incredibly cheap needle when you're looking at the whole haystack at once.

It can pay to give a quick check on the websites of whatever major airline uses your nearest city as a hub, plus the major airline(s) of the country in question (in this case, Air France) just in case.

Useful Italian phrases

Useful Italian for air travel

English (inglese) Italian  (italiano)   Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is... Dov'é doh-VAY
the airport l'aeroporto LAHW-ro-port-oh
the airplane l'aereo LAIR-reh-oh
terminal terminal TEAR-me-nahl
flight volo VOH-lo
gate uscita d'imbarco oo-SHEE-tah deem-BARK-oh
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
keep going straight sempre diritto SEM-pray dee-REE-toh
departures partenze par-TEN-zay
arrivals arrivi ah-REE-vee
delayed in ritardo een ree-TAR-doh
on time in orario een oh-RAH-ree-yo
early in avanti een ah-VAHN-tee
boarding imbarco eem-BARK-o
connecting flight la coincidenza la ko-een-chee-DEN-za
check-in accettazione ah-chet-ta-zee-YO-nee
immigration controllo passaporti cone-TRO-lo pah-sa-POR-tee
security check controllo di sicurezza kohn-TRO-lo dee see-kur-AY-tzah
customs dogana do-GA-na
shuttle la navetta lah na-VET-tah
boarding pass carta d'imbarco kart-ta deem-BARK-o
baggage claim ritiro bagagli ree-TEER-oh bah-GA-lyee
carry-on luggage bagaglio à mano bah-GA-lyo ah MA_no
checked luggage bagalio bah-GA-lyo

Basic phrases in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you grazie GRAT-tzee-yay
please per favore pair fa-VOHR-ray
yes si see
no no no
Do you speak English? Parla Inglese? PAR-la een-GLAY-zay
I don't understand Non capisco non ka-PEESK-koh
I'm sorry Mi dispiace mee dees-pee-YAT-chay
How much is it? Quanto costa? KWAN-toh COST-ah
That's too much É troppo ay TROH-po
Good day Buon giorno bwohn JOUR-noh
Good evening Buona sera BWOH-nah SAIR-rah
Good night Buona notte BWOH-nah NOTE-tay
Goodbye Arrivederci ah-ree-vah-DAIR-chee
Excuse me (to get attention) Scusi SKOO-zee
Excuse me (to get past someone) Permesso pair-MEH-so
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...the bathroom il bagno eel BHAN-yoh
...train station la ferroviaria lah fair-o-vee-YAR-ree-yah
to the right à destra ah DEH-strah
to the left à sinistra ah see-NEEST-trah
straight ahead avanti [or] diritto ah-VAHN-tee [or] dee-REE-toh
information informazione in-for-ma-tzee-OH-nay

Days, months, and other calendar items in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quando é aperto? KWAN-doh ay ah-PAIR-toh
When does it close? Quando si chiude? KWAN-doh see key-YOU-day
At what time... a che ora a kay O-rah
Yesterday ieri ee-YAIR-ee
Today oggi OH-jee
Tomorrow domani doh-MAHN-nee
Day after tomorrow dopo domani DOH-poh doh-MAHN-nee
a day un giorno oon je-YOR-no
Monday Lunedí loo-nay-DEE
Tuesday Martedí mar-tay-DEE
Wednesday Mercoledí mair-coh-lay-DEE
Thursday Giovedí jo-vay-DEE
Friday Venerdí ven-nair-DEE
Saturday Sabato SAH-baa-toh
Sunday Domenica doh-MEN-nee-ka
Mon-Sat Feriali fair-ee-YAHL-ee
Sun & holidays Festivi feh-STEE-vee
Daily Giornaliere joor-nahl-ee-YAIR-eh
a month una mese oon-ah MAY-zay
January gennaio jen-NAI-yo
February febbraio feh-BRI-yo
March marzo MAR-tzoh
April aprile ah-PREEL-ay
May maggio MAH-jee-oh
June giugno JEW-nyoh
July luglio LOO-lyoh
August agosto ah-GO-sto
September settembre set-TEM-bray
October ottobre oh-TOE-bray
November novembre no-VEM-bray
December dicembre de-CHEM-bray

Numbers in Italian

English (inglese) Italian (italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 uno OO-no
2 due DOO-way
3 tre tray
4 quattro KWAH-troh
5 cinque CHEEN-kway
6 sei say
7 sette SET-tay
8 otto OH-toh
9 nove NO-vay
10 dieci dee-YAY-chee
11 undici OON-dee-chee
12 dodici DOH-dee-chee
13 tredici TRAY-dee-chee
14 quattordici kwa-TOR-dee-chee
15 quindici KWEEN-dee-chee
16 sedici SAY-dee-chee
17 diciasette dee-chee-ya-SET-tay
18 diciotto dee-CHO-toh
19 diciannove dee-chee-ya-NO-vay
20 venti VENT-tee
21* vent'uno* vent-OO-no
22* venti due* VENT-tee DOO-way
23* venti tre* VENT-tee TRAY
30 trenta TRAYN-tah
40 quaranta kwa-RAHN-tah
50 cinquanta cheen-KWAN-tah
60 sessanta say-SAHN-tah
70 settanta seh-TAHN-tah
80 ottanta oh-TAHN-tah
90 novanta no-VAHN-tah
100 cento CHEN-toh
1,000 mille MEEL-lay
5,000 cinque milla CHEEN-kway MEEL-lah
10,000 dieci milla dee-YAY-chee MEEL-lah

* You can use this formula for all Italian ten-place numbers—so 31 is trent'uno, 32 is trenta due, 33 is trenta tre, etc. Note that—like uno (one), otto (eight) also starts with a vowel—all "-8" numbers are also abbreviated (vent'otto, trent'otto, etc.).