THE world's largest travel website, TripAdvisor, is about to launch a powerful new flight search engine on its Australian site.
The metasearch engine, already released in the US and several European countries, will display and compare the best economy fares on international and domestic routes as well as hidden costs that may be incurred, such as inflight meals and baggage charges.
It will show fares in Australian dollars and will also have a link to a colour-coded seat map with the best and worst seats on selected flights. Travellers will also be able to compare the cost of flights in Europe with rail options.
The Australian version of TripAdvisor Flights will trawl through the fares available from local online travel sites Expedia, Jetabroad, Zuji and BYOJet, which carry wide-ranging airline fares as well as special fares they have negotiated. It will aggregate all the fares into one display so users can compare costs and make bookings.
TripAdvisor's London-based manager of flights, Andrew Wong, said: "When people select a route they will find the airlines they expect to see, but more importantly they will also find the fares for airlines they don't expect to see."
Features include passengers' airline ratings and the colour-coded seat maps on sister site SeatGuru.
Mr Wong said the air-rail comparison tool had been well utilised on TripAdvisor's metasearch engines that have been rolled out in other countries.
"Rail is very big in Europe and sometimes a better option than flying. Our search engine compares air and train prices, travel times and schedules."
He said there is a growing awareness of metasearch engines in Australia but they are more popular in the US where they have been in use longer.
TripAdvisor Flights with a metasearch engine first launched in the US in February 2009 and in the UK in October 2009. It was released in France, Italy, Ireland, Spain and Canada last May.
Mr Wong said metasearch engines send request to other search engines and then aggregate the results in one display.
TripAdvisor's main competition in this field in Australia is UK-based Skyscanner which last Friday announced a new design, and Singapore-based Wego.
The new flight search engine can be found at tripadvisor.com.au/flights from tomorrow morning.