There's been a lot of buzz recently about Farecast, a website that predicts whether prices for airfare will rise, fall, or stay the same over a period of seven days. I decided to put the software to the test by tracking prices on several routes and checking the accuracy of its initial predictions.
What is it?
Farecast, still in beta form, debuted in June of 2006 with price predictions for flights departing from Boston and Seattle. It has expanded rapidly and currently offers fare predictions for more than 75 U.S. airports. Predictions only apply to two- to eight-night stays within 90 days of the search date. Farecast predicts whether a fare will rise, fall, or remain the same, or whether it is holding steady but may rise or fall. The site also provides a "confidence percentage" based on past predictions for the route, and the average dollar amount the fare is expected to change.
Also included is a fare history chart displaying the lowest daily fare for the route for up to 90 days beforehand.
Fare Guard is a recent addition to Farecast. For $9.95, users can purchase Fare Guard on a fare that is predicted to hold steady or drop, and if the fare rises within a week, Fare Guard will pay the difference between the predicted price and the actual price paid.
How accurate is it?
For a week, I tracked prices on several routes using Farecast. My small sample suggests that you can expect Farecast's predictions to be accurate about 50 percent of the time. You can review my results in the chart at the end of this page.
Overall, Farecast is a unique fare-predicting tool that's worth using in your trip-planning process, as long as you don't rely on its predictions as your only method of fare shopping. While in my experience, its results were only accurate half the time, the fare history chart did have some useful information, particularly the average low price for my selected routes.
Even if you don't purchase a Fare Guard and use Farecast to its full extent, you can take the average low price as your benchmark when looking for fares elsewhere. I probably wouldn't spend $10 to safeguard a fare, preferring instead to shop around myself for the lowest price I could find over the span of a few weeks, but it may work for some users.
Farecast's predictions are still limited, but it will likely expand beyond the 75 or so cities for which it currently offers predictions. In the future, I'd like to see Farecast offer fare-predicting capability for trips beyond eight nights, and for major international cities.
|Route||Prediction||Lowest initial fare||Lowest fare after 7 days||Right or wrong?|
|New York (JFK) to Los Angeles||Fare will drop or stay the same||$339||$359||Wrong|
|Chicago (O'Hare) to Orlando||Fare will drop by $50||$278||$323||Wrong|
|San Francisco to Honolulu||Fare will stay the same||$298||$298||Right|
|Dallas (Ft. Worth) to Boston||Fare will rise by $50||$308||$179||Wrong|
|Washington, D.C. (National), to New Orleans||Fare will rise or stay the same||$191||$191||Right|
|Los Angeles to Las Vegas||Fare will stay the same||$98||$98||Right|