When Brittany Laughlin needed to fly from Chicago to San Francisco last month, she tried something new. Instead of visiting an online travel agency or an airline Web site, she headed over to Google Flight Search, the newest and most controversial travel site to launch since Orbitz opened its doors a decade ago.
Within a few seconds, Google showed her the perfect flight on American Airlines. She clicked on the link, which took her to the airline’s page to book a ticket. “It was really clear and instantly showed results,” says Laughlin, who runs a social media company in Chicago.
Conventional wisdom says most airfare searches start at an online travel agency or airline website.
But the conventional wisdom could be wrong.
Asked where they begin a ticket query, a new survey points to so-called “meta” search sites such as Hipmunk.com, Kayak.com and Mobissimo.com, which cull fares from multiple airlines and online agencies and then display the choices.
A slim plurality of travelers polled in a new Consumer Travel Alliance survey (37 percent) say they click on a meta-search site first. Another 35 percent begin with the airlines’ own websites, such as AA.com and Delta.com.
About 1 in 5 travelers go directly to an online agency, while only 7 percent call a travel agent and 2 percent visit a search engine like Google or Bing.
Just a few days before the busy holiday travel period, the Transportation Security Administration has decided to change the rules of flying – again.
At the beginning of this month, the agency began enforcing its name-matching requirements for airline tickets. Passengers must now provide their full names as they appear on a government-issued ID, their date of birth and their gender when they book a flight.
After a terrorism scare involving explosive devices shipped by cargo, the government banned printer cartridges from luggage.
And the TSA started implementing several new screening measures, including an enhanced “pat-down” protocol for air travelers who opt out of a full-body scan.
The agency appears to be phasing in these new procedures unevenly, leading to frequent confrontations with air travelers. At some airports, passengers are being randomly asked to go through the scanners, while at others, they must all be screened by the machines or by hand. At one airport last week, passengers were both scanned and frisked.
Since the government has been unresponsive to my requests to clarify its new security measures, I thought it would be best to publish the security directive in its entirety.