Can You Get Cheap Flights for the Holidays without Lifting a Finger?
NEW YORK ( MainStreet) Here's something I try not to think about very often: flying home for the holidays is really, really expensive.
It's not that I'm unaware, or that the money means nothing to me. It's just that holiday flights are one of those universal constants like death or taxes. I'm not going to skip Thanksgiving with my family, ScrewYou Air knows this, so I'm just going to pay what I have to pay.
Or, as the lovely Jan Levinson once said, " It costs what it costs ."
Enter the CheapAir app by CheapAir.com. Another in the increasingly crowded field of mobile airfare finders, CheapAir stands out for its simplicity of design. The home screen offers four features in a row of buttons along the bottom of your screen. Contact Us and Recent Searches speak for themselves, while Classic Search pulls up flights in the same way as any other fare engine, by plugging in destinations and dates to see what you get.
The real difference comes from CheapAir's Voice Search, a feature where you simply tell the phone what you want and let it do the rest. For example, telling CheapAir "Chicago to Athens, September 20 through 22" was all it took to find out I won't be going to Greece this weekend.
This ease of use, according to CheapAir CEO Jeff Klee, was the whole point behind developing an app in the first place.
"We wanted to solve the biggest problem with using a phone to book travel," he said, "which is filling out the form. It's extremely cumbersome to do on a phone, it's arguably pretty cumbersome to do on a computer."
That's why CheapAir led with its voice activiation feature. The app piggybacks off of Siri to translate your requests into a string of searchable text. It's an interesting feature and will come in very handy for some people. In fact, I suspect it will be a brilliant addition for anyone who finds the iPhone's touch screen interface too complicated or too small for comfortable use. Although, since I've never objected to using iPhone forms, it's little more than a neat gimmick for me.
This focus on streamlining the search feature is also a smart recognition of the state of the airfare marketplace in general. Design is the area where fare finders have to stand out. The fact is, for all of the ink spilled on how to find good airfare and which site does it best, there's just not much difference between them. Fares are set by the airlines, so no matter how good a search engine you create, you're stuck with the prices ToughLuck Airways offers.