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. Kayak is an independently managed subsidiary of The Priceline Group.
How Kayak Works
When you request information about a flight or hotel, Kayak searches hundreds of 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 options to book directly from the travel supplier of their choice.
The Kayak Advantage
Kayak co-founder and CEO Steve Hafner said, “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."
Since its beta launch on October 7, 2004, Kayak has added content, features, and distribution partners. Launched to consumers in February 7, 2005, Kayak had a bare-bones interface and produced search results fairly quickly that could be filtered by airports, airlines, and number of stops. "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.
Now fully operational, Kayak has become a go-to site for knowledgeable travelers. In addition to providing comparative prices on hotels and flights, Kayak also enables users to search for rates on rental cars, vacation packages, home rentals, cruises and even Amtrak trains.
For consumers who register an account on the site, Kayak remembers their preferences for airlines, fares, hotel star ratings, and hotel locations so that Kayak returns will display searches based on automatically customized criteria. It also mails price alerts for account holders to set.
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.
Kayak's Coolest Feature Today
Have some cash, but can't decide where to go on your honeymoon or next romantic vacation? Kayak's Explore page features a world map with round-trip economy class travel prices on the cheapest flights from the airport you designate to the airport you select. It can be filtered by month or season of travel, amount you are willing to spend on a plane ticket, and whether you prefer non-stop flights or are willing to brave stopovers.
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 currently operates as a Commission Junction advertiser.
The Kayak App
In addition to conducting searches on the fly and offering mobile-only rates, the Kayak app provides free flight-status updates, air terminal maps and TSA waiting time info. It is available for download from the Apple App Store and Google Play. Kayak also offers an Apple Watch app.
Post-Kayak Search Products
Kayak has proven to be useful to consumers and similar services have proliferated. Momondo, for example, compares fares from 700+ travel sites and is strong on searching European travel brands in addition to ones based in the United States.