Shopping around for bargain airfare is one of the least sexy aspects of planning a trip, yet if you do your homework, the money saved can be well worth the effort.
Enter AirNinja, a web site dedicated to increasing the public's awareness of routes traveled by discount airlines.
Given how little time I've spent researching airfare for my upcoming trip around the world, I was excited to learn about this service when they ordered a ReviewMe review to get the word out!
An Idea is Born
John Hostetler, one of AirNinja's cofounders, created the site after traveling through Europe in 2004, finding discount flights for $20, versus the $200 prices listed on popular booking engines such as Orbitz and Kayak.
The service is refreshingly straightforward, and as indicated on the About Us page, represents neither a travel agency nor airline.
Search and Save – A Case Study
To see if AirNinja can really save people money, I looked into the pre-tax cost of a one-way flight from Washington, DC to Los Angeles.
The search interface was super simple. I started typing “Washington” and before I finished, the list of available airports in the Washington, DC area populated in a box below the search field.
I had the option to select a specific airport, however I chose “All Airports” to give myself the most results.
Once the departure area was selected, the arrival options populated. I selected “Los Angeles, CA – All Airports” and the discount airline companies (JetBlue and Southwest) and available routes they flew (between specific airports) appeared.
I clicked the JetBlue link and was transferred to their web site to evaluate pricing for a Thursday, November 1st departure date.
Upon re-entering the search criteria, I found a 1-stop flight from Dulles, VA to Long Beach, CA for $159. Since that does not seem like a good deal, nor does it get me to international gateway airport LAX, I headed to Southwest. There, I found a direct flight from Dulles to LAX, my preferred airports, for $97.67.
Using Orbitz, I found a 1-stop US Airways flight for $137. I tried widening the search net to nearby airports, and found a 1-stop United Airlines flight from Dulles to Burbank, CA for $99.
My search at Kayak duplicated the fares listed at Orbitz, though the United Airlines flight listed at a base cost of $92.
While cost was comparable between the discounters and larger booking engines, AirNinja steered me to the only company I found with a direct flight. As my next leg would be to New Zealand, I would certainly book the direct flight with Southwest.
AirNinja's web site design and search process are utilitarian and easy to use. In addition to discount routes, the option exists to search non-discount flights as listed on Kayak, Expedia, Travelocity, Hotwire, and Priceline.
If the people behind AirNinja are trying to make money off of their service, it is certainly not evident. The only form of advertising I came across was the ubiquitous Google AdSense on the peripheral links for “World Facts” and “World Travel Pictures.”
To further improve upon the service, I would suggest the inclusion of safety information or ratings. While I am generally aware of the safety records of discount airlines in my own country, I am equally unaware of the frequency of crashes amongst foreign carriers.
Safety records aside, everyone agrees discount airlines can save travelers a lot of money.
AirNinja's service can simplify the process of researching the best airfares offered anywhere in the world.