It’s hard to remember how anyone made travel arrangements prior the Internet. Thankfully, today the world is awash in fare aggregators and meta-search engines that can tabulate a seemingly endless number of travel itineraries with only the click of a button.
Two rising stars in the competitive world of travel search are Kayak and Hipmunk. While both offer similar results, each provides its own distinct set of advantages that make it the go-to travel site for their fans and devotees. But who wins as the best airfare flight comparison site?
Kayak Vs Hipmunk — Best User Interface
As soon as one arrives at either site, it is immediately obvious how the two companies differ in their thinking. Both have a fairly spartan landing page with options for things like one-way, round-trip, and multi-city tickets as well as buttons for the number of tickets desired and the class of airfare. However, Kayak has an additional number of boxes and options to check including searches for hotels or car rentals and even searches on competing sites such as Priceline, Travelocity, and Expedia.
Inside, Kayak devotes a large amount of real estate to comparing prices on competing sites like CheapOAir and Hotwire. Below that, they have ads offering even more chances to compare prices on other sites in addition to ads with flashing animation and sometimes even pop-up windows. There are also more ads interspersed throughout the search results making the stack of information a bit of a chore to wade through.
By contrast, Hipmunk devotes the entire screen to their search results. Flight options are displayed in blocks of time making it easy to visualize the length of each route. The blocks are also arranged on the screen according to the time of day, allowing you to quickly discern when flights depart and arrive. Every airline is uniquely color coded to make scanning for favorites quick and painless. And perks such as in-flight Wi-Fi are noted next to the airline name, turning the entire flight search process into a stress-less couple of minutes. Winner: Hipmunk
Kayak Vs Hipmunk — Best Search
One of things that separates Hipmunk from other travel sites is their unique ranking of search results. While most travel sites, Kayak included, rank flights according to price, the folks behind Hipmunk know that your time is often more valuable than a couple of bucks. Hipmunk ranks search results according to their custom “agony” index which takes things like price, duration, number of stops, and the length of layovers into account. However, this mathematical set of equations does appear to take the search engine a bit more time to tabulate, forcing the user to gawk for a few moments at the company’s adorable rodent mascot pretending to fly. Winner: Tie
Kayak Vs Hipmunk — Best Features
Both of the sites allow the user to sort their search results by price, flight duration, departure and arrival times, airlines, airports, and the number of stops. However, the left column on the Kayak site is filled with a host of additional options and filters including esoteric options such as choosing the make of the airplane. With the top price for each option already listed, it is easy to scan all available options without having to reorganize the search results.
Both sites offer tabbed search, allowing the user to switch back and forth between results from multiple queries. They also both have a fare alert email option that will notify you if the price of a flight changes in the future. However, Kayak graphs the price trends over the last 90 days and provides a price prediction tool alerting the customer to possible price increases in the near future. They also have the option of providing search results for up to three days on either side of your chosen date and display the results in a handy matrix at the top of the screen. Hipmunk only allows a flexible date search of plus or minus two days on one side of your travel date.
Hipmunk’s best unique feature is their ‘Pricegraph’ search option which allows you to quickly view price results on flights to your destination over the next 90 days. The easy-to-read graph is tailor-made for open-ended travel itineraries. In addition to all of the filters and features in their regular search, Kayak has a very cool ‘Explore’ tool that allows you to punch in your home airport and see just how far your dollar will take you. Winner: Kayak
All told, both sites are incredibly useful when searching for airline tickets. Much of what makes one better than the other boils down to individual needs. If you only have three minutes to book a trip, Hipmunk is probably the safer choice for the best overall flight experience. However, if you are not pressed for time, checking both sites seems like a no-brainer.