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New airfare tool helps you save after you book

It's official—Web 2.0 fever has taken over the travel industry. It seems like every other day somebody's rolling out a new website, widget, or tool to make their product more useful and interactive. One new innovation this week comes from Yapta, an airfare-tracking website that launched earlier this week. From my initial inspection, it appears to be a useful tool for tracking price drops on flights and the only site I'm aware of that helps you save on tickets after you've purchased them.

Yapta tracks prices on individual flight itineraries that users have "tagged" and then sends email alerts when prices go up or down. To use the tool, you must first download the Yapta Web browser add-on. Then, when searching for fares on an airline or travel seller website, an icon saying "Tag it with Yapta" will appear when you've selected a flight. By clicking the icon, you'll add that particular itinerary to Yapta's "My Trips" tracker. The tracker will check prices on your flights several times a day. For now, you can tag flights when searching Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity, and websites for 11 U.S. airlines, including all the majors and JetBlue and Southwest. The tagger only works in Internet Explorer, and you can't tag flights with segments on more than one airline.

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Yapata's website neatly displays all of your tagged flights along with the current lowest fares. The site indicates whether fares on your flights have gone up, down or stayed the same. You can also receive email alerts when the fare for your flight(s) drops below a specific price. If you choose to book the flight, you'll click on a "Buy It Now" link which will redirect you to the provider's website.

In the tests I ran, the tool comes across as a useful device for tracking prices on specific flights. However it only tracks the exact flights you tagged, so it won't tell you if a cheaper fare is available on your route on a different flight you didn't tag. Also, while the site will tell you if prices drop, you won't know if they'll go down even more or if you should book right then. If you want that information, you'll have to go to a site like FareCast, which has its own set of limitations.

Yapta's more useful feature is that you can track flights after you've booked and be alerted to refunds for which you may be eligible should prices drop. It will provide you with a contact number for the airline so you can obtain your refund, and it will tell you if the airline imposes any fees or penalties.

If you'd prefer not to download the Yapta tool and go through the bother of tagging flights, you can still find out if a you're eligible for a refund on a flight you've purchased. You just have to enter your flight details and confirmation number into the "got a ticket?" widget on Yapta's homepage.

I'm not sure if I'll use Yapta to track flights before I've booked unless I have fairly set times I need to fly. However, I will certainly use it to monitor fares on flights I've already booked. I might be done shopping around, but I'm always open to saving money.

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