I’m going to Berlin to speak at a travel conference in March, which meant booking a flight. With a British Airways strike looming, I wanted an alternative to fly from my closest airport — London Heathrow — to Berlin. But no one but BA seems to fly to Berlin from Heathrow, according to Expedia UK. Time to cast my net further, I figured. So I turned back to a small UK and Europe oriented travel search engine I wrote about briefly back in 2005, AllCheckin. I wanted to jot down a few notes of what I thought. Over time, I’m trying to play with more travel search alternatives, one by one. So, expect more of these.
The nicest thing at AllCheckin are all the options you get back after doing a search. You can use sliders to restrict prices to a particular range, or flights to a particular departure or arrival time. That dynamically changes the results without having to reload the page. Nice!
Checkboxes let you refine further to direct or indirect flights, plus you can easily remove any of the airlines that come back in a search. In my search, I see Air Berlin, Air France, British Airways and Ryanair all fly direct to Berlin. Don’t want to fly British Airways? Just uncheck the box, and boom – they’re gone.
Having Ryanair in there was impressive. Ryanair doesn’t show up in Expedia, similar to how Southwest Airlines or JetBlue don’t show up in US results. My understanding is that this is because these companies refuse to either allow inclusion or won’t pay for it. Allcheckin’s got them, making the results more comprehensive.
Then again, it has Ryanair but noted "424 Day old fare" next to the listing. Oops. It then gave me a link to update the fare. I did, and nothing happened. I’m guessing Allcheckin tried to query Ryanair and get results. If so, the page never reloaded.
Another odd thing was that when I reran the search, suddenly I was shown many more airlines even though I hadn’t changed anything. It suggested that Allcheckin is hitting multiple sites directly, and that if there are timeouts or other issues, you might not get as comprehensive results.
The single Air France flight listed as a direct flight was odd. A direct flight of five hours? Turns out, rather than stops being 0, it’s stops as N/A for this flight through consolidator LastMinute. Really, it shouldn’t have shown up.
In the end, I had some back-of-my-mind reliability issues with the service. It’s not going to pull me away from my primary service of Expedia. But it’s a nice backup to make sure Expedia (or Opodo, another Europe-targeted travel search service) isn’t missing anything.
Oh, and only BA flies out of London Heathrow to Berlin. I’m not schlepping up to Stanstead — another two hours past Heathrow — to fly to Berlin. Here’s hoping they resolve the strike.