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When looking for the lowest airfare and best routes, searching individually for each airline is time-consuming and tedious. Likewise, quickly comparing multiple results across several websites can be a significant challenge. That’s why online travel agencies, like Kayak, are so popular: OTAs provide booking options for numerous airlines in one spot, saving you time and minimizing tab fatigue.
In this Kayak.com review, we’ll look at booking on Kayak versus airline websites to help you decide if it’s the best place to search for flights.
» Learn more: The best travel credit cards right now
The pros of booking flights with Kayak
Flights from multiple airlines can be viewed in one spot
Searching for flights on various airline websites is annoying. Kayak makes it easy to compare prices between numerous airlines with a straightforward search.
Provides price trends for cities
Once you enter which cities you want to travel between, Kayak shows the price trends between those cities. The trends are based on how many days you want to travel, and the easy-to-read graphs highlight which dates are cheapest — or cost the most. This is a significant advantage when booking on Kayak versus airline websites.
Suggests possible destination options to consider
Based on your travel dates and departure city, Kayak offers a map-based search that suggests different cities that you can travel to based on price. Travelers can find possible destinations within the U.S. and across the globe using this feature. This is an ideal solution when you know you want to travel (and which dates) but aren't sure where to go.
Hacker Fares can save you money
Some airlines offer excellent prices one-way, but the return flight can be expensive. By booking on Kayak, you can take advantage of "Hacker Fares," which use different airlines to service departure and return flights. These split-airline fares can often lead to the lowest price available, which is not readily apparent when booking directly with the airlines.
» Learn more: How to shop for flights
Price alerts when fares change
While searching for options between two cities, you can click to receive email alerts when prices change for that route. In addition, travelers who aren't yet ready to book can be notified as prices change so that they can secure the flight when the tickets meet their budget.
Offers 'fee assistant' for carry-on or checked bags
When you fly on some airlines, you may be surprised by checked bag fees at the airport. Kayak offers a "fee assistant" that incorporates checked bag fees into your search results so that you're not hit with an unexpected cost. The downside is that you cannot add your elite status or credit card benefits when comparing. Either of these might eliminate baggage fees, which would keep the price down.
» Learn more: The airlines with the best (and worst) fees
Search by airline alliance
For travelers who prefer to stick with one airline alliance, you can filter results by your preferred alliance. This makes it easier to use alliance benefits when flying with a participating airline and enables you to pick a flight you can credit towards earning elite status.
Filter searches by aircraft type
For true aviation geeks searching for specific planes to fly on, Kayak search results allow you to filter by the type of aircraft. By choosing this filter, you can ensure a particular seat configuration, in-flight experience, and other features.
Southwest is included in search results
For many years, flights on Southwest Airlines were not available in OTA search results. Kayak is one of the few OTAs that includes Southwest flights for you to compare against other airlines. However, this feature is only available with a Kayak business account — which is free and easy to sign up for.
The cons of booking with Kayak
Flights aren't booked on Kayak.com
When you've chosen your ideal flight and are ready to book, you won't book your flight directly on Kayak.com. Instead, Kayak takes you to the airline's website (or another OTA) to book the flight. This can confuse travelers and make it hard to know who to contact when something goes wrong. Plus, if you're sent to a website you don't recognize, you may be fearful of having your credit card and personal information hacked.
No loyalty program
Other OTAs, including Expedia and Priceline, offer loyalty programs recognizing their most valuable members. Kayak does not. As a result, users can't earn points towards discounts, complimentary rooms, or other benefits. This reduces the incentive for booking on Kayak versus airlines or other OTAs offering loyalty programs.
Sponsored flights appear first in search results
As you review your flight options, keep in mind that the first flight in the search results is a sponsored ad. While this flight's route and pricing may be appealing, it isn't always the best deal.
Might not qualify for credit card bonus categories
Savvy travelers use credit cards that offer bonus categories for airline purchases when booking flights. However, some travel credit cards don't offer bonus points when booking through third parties, such as Kayak.
Some cards require you to book your travel directly with the airlines or through its own portal. For example, The Platinum Card® from American Express requires you to book through the AmEx Travel portal in order to receive 5x points on your flight. However, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® does include flights purchased through OTAs in its bonus category. If Kayak sends you to the airline's website to book your flight, you are in the clear. But, if it sends you to another OTA, like Priceline or JustFly, you may not be. Terms apply.
The bottom line
Kayak provides numerous benefits and makes it easy to compare the cost of airfares across multiple airlines. However, you cannot book directly with Kayak. Instead, you are sent to the airline's website or another online travel agency to complete your reservation. In addition, depending on which credit card you use to pay for your flight, you may or may not receive bonus rewards or qualify for elite status credit.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2022, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card