Meta-search websites are great things and can be very helpful. As an agent, one knows a lot of wrinkles that can be actioned to get a fare for any journey that looks and feels right. A fare which represents good value for money (which is, I should add, NOT the same as "the cheapest" by a long chalk).
Sometimes you do, however, exhaust your options and still, do not feel that what you have represents good value. Here, meta-search sites come in handy. They can guide you to options which you did not notice, they can help you to cover that glaringly obvious option that you managed to miss and can help your out-of-the-box thinking get out of the container that the boxes are stored within.
Other times, they can do some pretty odd stuff. You know and I know that in the air travel business, basically, you either have consolidated fares.... or you don't. If you do, you know that give or take a few quid or bucks, your consolidated fare is going to be pretty much the same as the offering of everybody else, irrespective of how big you are, on or off line.
The other day, I happened to be looking at London to Detriot. No Saturday night, so I knew that the fare was not going to be £20 plus a few bob for a seat. Indeed, the range of fares meant we were looking around the £1,300 mark (and that in coach, too - what was that I wrote about earlier... that thing about "adding value"?) so, fire up my go-to search engine. The first two pages indicated that I could achieve a fare a shade under £600 .... direct from the Air Canada website. No, I couldn't.
The thing is this. If we know what sort of ball park any fare is in, then if anyone has a dramatically lower fare (like in this case, half price) then we can make a few assumptions. You will get something like: When you go to the booking site - surprise! surprise! "We cannot do this fare, but we can do (insert fare that appeared on Sabre)" or, it is one of those sites that wants you to start entering payment details before you really find out that the fare is simply not going to happen or it involves some sort of cross bordering or some other marginally-or-super-dodgy practice that could finish up with a client getting denied boarding. Either way, it is not something that any agent is going to embrace in any shape, manner or form. Agents may be (slightly) more expensive but any ticket we sell to get you from A to B, will get you from A to B.
Another great irritation is the "I have seen on...." syndrome when you know that what the client is suggesting has invariably missed some minor detail. Like a trip to Seattle for a shade under £400. Yes, you can have it, as long as you do not mind an over-night stay in Dallas on the way home. What is really annoying, is that you have to spend a good amount of time trying to work out what on earth is going on. Meta search has a very bad habit of hiding minor details, like the "+2" that is invariably written in tiny letters and missed by all.
Meta relies on its customers to set up their fares and automates how those selected fares are presented. Time has come for these airfare search platforms to take a little more heed of what is being presented, who is presenting it and how often those fares are checked.