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Debunking myths: Buying flight tickets on the airline website is NOT always cheaper

19 August 2015

debunking-mythsOne of the false “myths” we have heard more and that seems to be more consolidated between travellers is the one that says that flight tickets are cheaper when purchased on the airlines website.

We know that some users do searches through search metasearch engines like ours, and then, when they are going to buy the ticket, they go to the airline website assuming that the ticket will be cheaper if they buy it there.

Because… in principle, it is logical to think that the more intermediaries in the purchase process, the more fees will be charged, and therefore, the higher the final price will be… right?

Debunking the myth step by step

1. Trabber does not charge extra fees

One of the reasons why we believe that this myth is so widespread is because, for some users, it is reasonable to believe that any website that is not the airline’s will charge a fee for acting as an intermediary, making the final price greater.

This is true in the case of travel agencies, which do add an extra fee to the ticket price for taking care of the booking, but not all websites used to book flights are travel agencies.

Trabber, for example, is not an agency but a metasearch engine that searches all the available options, both on the agencies and airlines websites. Using Trabber is completely free and does not involve any additional cost over the ticket price.

And why is it so important for us to include both airlines and agencies in our web search results pages ? Because contrary to popular belief, some times buying the ticket on the airline website is cheapest, and others, it’s more expensive.

2. The data show it clear

We wanted to figure out to what extent that is the case, and that’s why we analyzed the flight prices of a random sample of 20.000 searches.

These are the resulting data:


And now you will probably be wondering… how is this possible? How can it be that the final price can be lower even when an intermediary is added to the purchase process? To understand why this happens, we should take into account how the global system that manages the flight data works.

One factor that explains many of these cases is that most airlines charge their rates on the GDS (Global Distribution Systems), and then, when they sell tickets from their own websites, they apply issuance expenses according to their policies.

Agencies, meanwhile, also apply the issuance expenses they find appropriate, and it can happen (and it happens) that in some cases, these are lower than those applied by the airline, which results in cheaper tickets for the consumer.

Check it for yourself

The next time you buy a ticket on Trabber, pay attention to the best price offered by the airline, and to the best offered by the other websites. If you want to compare the data, you can also search directly from the airline or from the agency.

According to our statistics, 1 in 4 times the ticket price will be cheaper on a website that is not the airline’s.

The importance of comparing

With this article we hope to have contributed to clarify some of the more widespread assumptions about flight searches websites, and also, to highlight the importance of comparing.

The good news is that you don’t have to do a manual search on every page of each type every time you book a flight, because we will do it for you.

Trabber currently crawls the websites of 35 low-cost carriers + 30 traditional airline’s websites + 5 online travel agencies (check out the updated list here), and so, wherever the best deal is, we will make it available just one click away.


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