More flexible flight-search options surface

Alaska Airlines became the latest carrier to add a flexible travel dates search to its website when it introduced the "Low Fare Finder" option on its homepage earlier this week. It works similarly to most other flexible-search tools by allowing travelers to check airfare prices for days on either side of their preferred itineraries.

With the move, Alaska joins AirTran, ATA, JetBlue, Southwest, and other low-fare carriers in an industry-wide effort to consolidate purchases to their websites—and away from third-party sellers like Expedia and Travelocity, where consumers can compare fares from multiple airlines at the same time.

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So how does Alaska's search tool stack up? My verdict: It's okay but nothing special. It certainly doesn't hold a candle to either Orbitz's "Flexible Search Tool" (great for finding the best weekend travel prices) or Travelocity's "Flexible Dates" search (the gold standard of flexible searches). In an article last March, SmarterTravel.com's airfare editor, Jessica Labrencis, evaluated the various flexible-search tools available to travelers. Give it a read for more on the top airfare search tools.

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