You're paying too much for airfare if you don't use this booking tip

Sep 5, 2014 at 10:14 a.m. ET
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The days of using a travel agent are long gone, and most of us are not strangers to online booking. In fact, booking plane tickets online is universally preferred now that you can choose your seat, check in, print your boarding pass or even use a mobile boarding app, bypassing the need for paper tickets.

If you have flown in the past few years, then it's easy to feel like you have it all figured out. As a frequent flyer, you probably have your preferred booking sites. You have undoubtedly read dozens of "insider" travel articles like this that tell you the precise time of day and year to book to get the best deal.

So what are you missing? makes the bold proclamation that "it's time to rethink how you shop for airfare." Thanks a lot, ever-changing technology. Just when you think you've got everything straight, changes in the airline industry throw you a curveball.

Here's what you need to know: American Airlines and US Airways have pulled their flight listings from booking site Orbitz as of Sept. 1, 2014. The president of American Airlines, Scott Kirby, reveals that the air carrier has struggled with Orbitz to keep ticket costs low amidst competition.

This isn't the first time these "fare wars" have occurred. confirms, "American pulled listings from Orbitz and Expedia in late 2010, reinstating them in 2011 after reaching a new contract with Expedia, and as part of an Illinois court ruling in the case of Orbitz."

There's more going on behind the scenes than you often realize. The rule of thumb when it comes to airfare booking has always been to compare ticket prices with one or more booking sites, like Orbitz and Expedia. Other aggregators have come into the mix to provide search results for hundreds of travel sites at once, like Kayak and Hipmunk.

As stated, airlines make their own contracts with these booking sites. This is why rates will vary from one site to the next. Moreover, air carriers often keep their best prices for their own official sites. Carriers like Southwest Airlines post airfare only on their own website. Some airlines release promo codes for discounts only available on their site.

Travelzoo editorial director Andrew Young cuts to the chase: There is no site that will provide the very best deal on all available airfare within your travel dates. Start by checking your favorite booking sites. Double-check your best fare with a multisite aggregator. Don't forget the last and most critical step in the process — check rates directly on an airline's website before you book. That's where you might find the best deal.

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