As airlines slam passengers with à la carte fees, overfill the busiest routes, and generally make flying a big ole headache, one booking site is trying to give flyers a little more control over their travels – and redefine what it really means to snag a great deal on a flight.
Instead of just listing the cheapest itineraries, InsideTrip – which officially launched in May after operating as a beta site since 2008 – gives tickets an overall quality score out of 100 based on 12 make-or-break travel factors: The number of stops, overall travel time, average number of delays, expected security wait time, how much legroom the plane offers, aircraft type, aircraft age, historical capacity, connection time, quality of an airline’s routing, how often bags are lost, and even the gate location.
Don’t care if someone’s sitting next to you or do you plan to carry on your bags? Uncheck those boxes, and InsideTrip recalculates each of the quality rankings based on your personal preferences. To figure out whether it’s really worth it – after all, sometimes it’s simpler to just pick the cheapest flight and jet – we combed through three round-trip itineraries for July 16–18, a summer weekend when flights will be at some of their priciest.
NYC – San Francisco, CA
The cheapest ticket here costs just $425 round-trip on AirTran, but the overall quality rating clocks in at a weak 72, plus there’s a layover on each leg of the trip. A better choice: The $448 nonstop Virgin America flight ranks a solid 92 and cuts overall travel time by almost 4 hours total.
NYC – Seattle, WA
When all trip quality settings are counted, the cheapest flight to Seattle costs $520, has one layover, and earns a mediocre 83 while one of the top-ranked itineraries (with a 94 score) costs a staggering $1,269. But what if a quick, easy, nonstop flight is your highest priority? Readjust the settings to account only for speed: The highest ranking itinerary scores 100, flies nonstop, and costs $596 on Delta.
NYC – Houston, TX
This is one search that pulls up a no-brainer decision. The cheapest flight ($331 nonstop on JetBlue) is also the second-highest rated, at 93 points. The only flight that scored higher: Another nonstop JetBlue option taking off later that night.
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