Better flights in just three steps
Looking to get away? A new breed of email alert services can save you money, time and aggravation with up-to-the-minute information on airfare sales, forecasted flight delays and newly opened seat assignments, helping you to book – or re-book – a better flight.
To spare your inbox from getting slammed, we recommend creating a separate email account for these alerts. Then you can check it when you’re ready to start planning.
Nab flash airfare sales
TripWatcher, a website that launched in May, searches online travel agency Hotwire for significant sales on major routes around the world. Tell the site to track specific routes, travel dates or timeframes, and the service will search for fare drops several times a day. If it spots a sale price, TripWatcher will alert you for free via email, Facebook or Twitter. The site also has optional weekly email updates to illustrate how much, if at all, prices have changed on your preferred route.
Anticipate flight delays
You usually find out about a flight delay or cancellation at the last minute, which is very short notice for re-booking various aspects of your trip. But KnowDelay, a free service that came out of beta testing this year, calculates the likelihood that a flight will be cancelled or delayed days in advance. The site uses advanced forecasting analytics to predict the chances that a specific flight will face storms or air traffic control problems, alerting you within 72 hours of departure. It also suggests alternative flights to consider. Type in your itinerary, including airline and flight number, and the site will make a prediction, taking into account the flight’s on-time track record and the airport’s meteorological history for that time of year. Sign up to receive a free email alert whenever there’s a change in the flight’s predicted status. One drawback: KnowDelay currently only works for US domestic flights.
Receive the best seat assignments
Sometimes the worst part about a flight is your seat. Solving that problem is ExpertFlyer, which notifies you when your ideal seat, such as “any window seat”, “any two seats together” or a specific seat, like “27H”, opens up for assignment. Then it’s up to you to contact the airline and request the seat assignment.
To help you formulate a plan, the site provides a seat map for each flight and pulls in individual seat ratings from user-generated review site SeatGuru. ExpertFlyer covers 140 airlines worldwide and sends free alerts via email or its app (Android or Apple). For $10 a month, you can receive alerts about seats that qualify for frequent flyer awards and upgrades.
Sean O’Neill is the travel tech columnist for BBC Travel