Website tip: cFares promises cheaper air fares
In a market saturated with cheap flight search engines and online air travel consolidators, cFares promises a different proposal: Get access to the super cheap tickets normally not available to the average traveler.
cFares at a glance
When you visit the cFares website, you'll see it looks much like other air travel consolidators such as Kayak or Expedia, with a search box on the left and some explanatory text. But cFares does have an angle, and that's the ability to find air fares at a lower price than even the meta search engines can. Basically, the company offers two services unavailable elsewhere:
- cFares gives you access to the 20 percent of airfares, especially international flights, that are offered at a significant discount by wholesalers
- The company's cAgent service will set up a persistent search on a particular flight (international only, which is a shame) and put a 24-hour hold on it if it meets your price
These in combination can give cFares a definite edge in finding an air fare that is perfect (in other words, very cheap) on your international flights. Here's how each works in turn.
Wholesalers' discount air fares
Like any other industry, airlines will sell tickets in bulk to their distributors and very large retailers (the 'channel')for a reduced price. The airlines get the benefit of knowing those seats will already be paid for once the plane takes off, and the channel will make a profit from the markup when they re-sell the tickets.
cFares on the other hand, will give you access to these fares without a markup. This will save up to $30-$50 on a ticket and this rate has only been available to travel agents and large in-house corporate travel departments before. Occasionally, these tickets will also come with better conditions than normal, or 'retail', air fares. You will however need to be a Platinum member (at a cost of $50 / year) to get access to these tickets. For a frequent traveler, this membership fee is quickly recovered.
cAgent ticket service explained
Similarly to PriceLine, the cAgent service lets you bid how much you want to pay for a plane ticket to a specific destination and will then go and buy it for you if it meets your requirements. This service is unfortunately only for international flights at the moment. Where cAgent becomes so very much better is because:
- You bid on a specific itinerary so you'll roughly know times and connections
- cAgent will hold any matching fare for you for 24 hours after the ticket is located, giving you full visibility of what you're buying. In other words, no surprise midnight flights out of JFK, connecting in Dallas before Los Angeles and then to Tokyo... You'll go straight from JFK to Tokyo if that's what you require
- The tickets have the same rights and restrictions as normal tickets. Yes, you will get your airmiles
As far as I know, this service is unique and well worth trying out. You'll have to be a member at cFares to bid, but basic membership is free and once you buy a cAgent ticket, you'll get upgraded to a free Platinum membership at cFares.
cFares benefits and drawbacks
cFares can definitely find you good fares. I have made a large number of searches and compared with some of the other consolidators on my list, and they come up quite competitively. I've not yet tried the cAgent service, but will shortly, it looks very promising and Money Magazine and Travel + Leisure both rate the site well, so I'm not alone.
There is that $50 / year fee for Platinum membership... I'll see once I have used the cAgent service and get a free membership how that works out. I'm always a little wary of the CostCo model of discount retailers. cFares has thought of this though, and will give you a 30-day free trial and your money back if you aren't happy.
Final thoughts on cFares
This is a good site. It's earned a place in my own shortlist already and I'm hoping the cAgent service will be really helpful for my next trip to America. I wish they didn't have the membership fee, but I can work around that.
I like cFares and will keep coming back to search for a deal on it. Best of luck in bargain hunting - and if you have any comments or tips on searching for cheap tickets, please leave a comment below and let us know how you did it!
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