advertisement

Kayak now includes Southwest Airlines

This is big news. Kayak.com (www.kayak.com) appears to be referring fare searchers to fare results on Southwest Airline's (www.southwest.com) along with those of other airlines. It's not exactly a side by side comparison: you have to click a link to see what Southwest is offering on the route you searched (assuming that Southwest flies the route, of course). We first learned of this from David Landsel's New York Post travel blog (http://blogs.nypost.com/travel/). The only thing is, Southwest hates this sort of thing. They simply do not want their fares compared with those of other airlines. Just ask Sidestep.com (www.sidestep.com), when they tried it a few years ago. As far as we can make out, Kayak did not reach some sort of detente with Southwest. They're just doing it to see what Southwest's reaction might be. In the past, that reaction has taken the form of a strongly worded cease and desist order. Take a look at their site's terms of use and you'll see that they clearly that that Southwest's "company information" cannot be used for commercial purposes except with permission.

We quote: "You may not use any "deep-link," "page-scrape," "robot," "spider" or other automatic device, program, algorithm or methodology which does the same things, to access, acquire, copy, or monitor any portion of the Southwest web sites or any Company Information."

Perhaps Kayak is hoping that Southwest will look the other way, since technically this is not a side by side comparison.

This should be interesting. If nothing else, it will get Kayak some media attention.

Note: Airfarewatchdog.com reports editorially on Southwest Airlines' fares, but does so without using any "automatic device." Instead, we just use real live human researchers to see what they're offering on any given route on any given day.

Air Canada Sale to Zurich, London, & Shanghai

Air Canada (tel.888/247-2262; www.aircanada.com) is having a sale on May travel to London and Zurich from most major U.S. airports until April 30. In some cases, these fares are at least $100 below what anyone else if offering and many are only available directly from Air Canada, although some can be had for slightly cheaper on Orbitz (www.orbitz.com). No advance purchase is required, but expect a minimum stay of 6 days and a 30-day maximum allowed. Sample round-trip fares, with all taxes, include:

Fares to Shanghai are also reduced on Air Canada in May, from major east coast cities, including Boston, New York, and Washington, for about $780 including taxes. That's at least 25% off the going rate of over $1,050-1,200. From Chicago, the savings are even greater: $710 compared to $1,300 on other carriers.

The Pacific to London on Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand (tel. 800/262-1234; www.airnewzealand.com) is offering seats in Premium Economy for $1,946 round-trip to London, from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu. This sale is good for departures from now until February 29 of next year, and all travel must be booked by February 29.

We checked Air New Zealand's site for Premium Economy seats on travel from Los Angeles to London on July 19 through July 31 and found the $1,946 sale fare with no problems. That ends up being about $2,189 with taxes.

Business class along this route is also on sale, for travel now through February 29, for $3,780 round-trip. We searched Air New Zealand for business class for travel on July 19 through July 31, and found $6,203 round-trip. Since that's such a difference from the advertised sale fare, we tried June 19 through June 27 and got a fare of $5,113 round-trip, which isn't much better.

Back on ITAsoftware (www.iata.org), we tried searching again for our original July 19 through July 31 travel dates and found that American Airlines and United both had the best price for non-stop business class for this route, at $3,088 round-trip. And for just a smidgen more ($3,108 round-trip) you could travel on British Airways.

How are the fares from Honolulu? We wish we knew. Instead we just received this message over and over: "Reservation system internal error -- cannot price this itinerary, please try a different flight." Could that internal error also be the culprit behind our way-off business class fares from L.A. too? Air New Zealand's sale fares are generally easy to book, so we'll chalk this up to some sort of technical glitch.

El Al Early Bird Summer Sale to Israel

El Al Airlines (tel. 800/223-6700; www.elal.com) is having an Early Bird sale from New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, on summer travel to Tel Aviv July 1 through July 24. These fares are available for purchase until May 17, which is where the Early Bird bit comes from. El Al has also beefed up the number of flights to accommodate the summer rush, with 22 weekly non-stops from JFK, 6 from Newark, 3 from Miami, and 4 from Los Angeles.

Sale fares from JFK/Newark are advertised as $1,115 round-trip, with reduced business class fares of $2,626. Sounds great. Only when we went to check it out on El Al's website, we weren't able to select a destination from their site's drop-box. Another technical glitch? Sheesh. Well, we decided to phone El Al directly and spoke to Ingrid, who was very helpful. For a July 17 departure and returning July 24, she quoted us a fare of $1,312 round-trip, including taxes, from Newark to Tel-Aviv. We said yes when asked if we were flexible with our return date, but apparently those sale fares are sold out through July, and $1,312 is as good as it gets. Anything better on another airline? We checked Orbitz for these very same dates and found that Continental had the lowest non-stop flight, at $1,436 round-trip, including taxes. For those willing to consider a layover, British Airways has the lowest fare, but at $1,238, it seems hardly worth the hassle. We'd go with El Al.

SkyBus to Launch in May

After the success of RyanAir (www.ryanair.com) and other budget airlines in Europe, it was just a matter of time before a similar model washed ashore here in the U.S. Enter Skybus ("we don't have a phone number, seriously"; www.skybus.com), a Columbus, OH-based carrier, set to begin service May 22. Destinations include: Boston (actually, Portsmouth NH), Ft. Lauderdale, Greensboro NC, Kansas City, Burbank, Richmond VA, Oakland, and Bellingham WA. How low are the fares? Well, for starters, every flight has a minimum (a minimum) of 10 seats available for $10. Those are readily available on most flights we checked, but on flights from, say, Burbank to Columbus, fares range from $50 one-way to $125 one-way.

Want to book a trip from Burbank to Ft Lauderdale on Skybus? Well, be prepared to buy two separate tickets. One round-trip from Burbank to Columbus, and a second round-trip from Columbus to Boston. That means you'll have to comb over flight schedules and connection times yourself in order to make such a trip work. How hard can that be? Let's see here: Burbank to Columbus, June 13, $50, departing at 8:23 am, arriving at 3:33 pm. Returning from Columbus, June 20, $75, departing at 3:58 pm, arriving 5:26 pm. Next leg: Columbus to Boston, June 13, $10, departs 7:01 pm, arrives at 8:41 pm. Boston to Columbus, June 20, $30, departing at 9:05 am and arriving back in Columbus at 10:54 am, with plenty, plenty, of time to make that 3:58 pm flight back to Burbank. And the entire trip ends up costing us $202, including taxes. Is it worth it? The best price we found for this trip on Orbitz was $323 round-trip, including taxes, and that comes with a layover in Phoenix.

Remember folks, this airline has the word 'bus' in its name, so don't go expecting a lot of frills. Heck, don't expect any frills. At all. If you want a snack, you'll have to buy it from the flight attendant. If you show up with your 300lb Louis Vuitton steamer trunk, expect to pay for the extra baggage weight. Budget airlines are good for fulfilling their most basic obligation, which is getting you from point A to point B, for mere peanuts, without actual peanuts.

--Additional reporting by Tracy W. Stewart and Bo Borre

George Hobica is a syndicated travel journalist and blogger whose website, www.airfarewatchdog.com, tracks unadvertised airfare wars and fare sales, including the most helpful and always updated Top 50 Airfares.

Talk with fellow Frommer's readers on our Air Travel Message Boards today.