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Using the Kayak Travel Search Engine

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Kayak is a travel search and booking engine. Unlike Expedia, Travelocity, and Orbitz — where several of its top execs hail from — the Kayak site does not sell travel directly.

How Kayak Works

When you request information about a flight or hotel, Kayak searches more than 100 major airline, hotel, and travel sites. From those it can access prices and itineraries on more than 550 airlines and 85,000 hotels — and then Kayak gives users the options of booking directly from the travel supplier of their choice by clicking on a supplier's direct URL, calling the travel provider's tollfree phone number, or booking via Orbitz or Onetravel.com.

The Kayak Advantage

Kayak co-founder and CEO Steve Hafner says, “We created the site to meet the needs of today’s consumers who are frustrated at having to search multiple sites to find the best deal. With just one click, visitors at Kayak.com will be able to see prices and services in real-time.

"Kayak.com’s reach is so comprehensive that consumers will often find an itinerary on Kayak.com that they may not have found on their own. Not only does Kayak.com provide consumers with more travel options than any other site, but it also gives consumers the freedom to choose where to buy their travel."

Kayak Launch

Since its beta launch on October 7, 2004, Kayak has added content, features, and distribution partners. Launched to consumers in February 7, 2005, Kayak has a bare-bones interface and produces search results fairly quickly. Searches can be filtered by airports, airlines, and number of stops.

Now fully operational, it enables users to view ratings from other travel sources including Frommer’s and Fodor’s. "Our website will continue to expand functionality, such as multi-city and one-way itineraries, passenger and cabin-type fares, and new personalization features," said Paul English, Kayak CTO and co-founder.

Ultimately Kayak will remember consumers' preferences for airlines, fares, hotel star ratings, and hotel locations so Kayak returns will display searches based on automatically customized criteria.

Searching Kayak

See how Kayak works by searching for a hotel or a flight.

First Look at Kayak

The early version of Kayak, with its clear and simple interface, resembles Orbitz. Like Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity, it is not as comprehensive as all users might like. For instance, it seems to favor major airlines and does not return searches on all low-cost airlines, such as Southwest. Jet Blue flights, however, are accessible through Kayak.

One test click-through from Kayak to Onetravel.com yielded prices that were lower on Onetravel than those returned on the Kayak search. That makes this reviewer believe it will still be necessary to search more than one site to find the best price.

Destination information on Kayak currently seems heavily dependent on content from IgoUgo and The New York Times travel section. At the risk of sounding prejudiced, your reviewer believes that by not including content from About.com Travel, which has more wide-ranging and up-to-date travel content than any place online, users are deprived of a valuable Web travel resource.

Since Kayak is still new, we'll keep watching its progress and report back as the site develops.

Kayak Affiliates

Kayak.com's affiliate program is targeted at providing travel search functionality to websites with more than one million visitors a month. Kayak launched its affiliate network with America Online and recently added USAtoday.com, which will host Kayak's co-branded travel price comparison tool.

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