Priceline is Becoming My Airfare Go-To (via ITA/Hipmunk)

Priceline is steadily gobbling up online travel booking lately beefing up airfare booking. This is not the ‘Name Your Own Price’ bidding Priceline is most known for, this is the traditional online booking like Expedia or Orbitz where travelers know the flights and price, and receive their frequent flyer program benefits as they would on those competitor sites.

Like many frequent flyers I begin my flight research on ITA Matrix. For complicated itineraries I then turn to Hipmunk to replicate ITA’s results to find a booking option. See Wandering Aramean’s Using Hipmunk to maximize mileage run bookings for detail on how to force Hipmunk to act like ITA.

On recent trips, particularly a fall trip around the Baltics, Belarus and Ukraine, I am finding time and again that Priceline is the only option or significantly cheapest option that Hipmunk produces.

An Air Baltic booking was $99 through Priceline and $220 through Expedia. I could have gone to Air Baltic to book however I less and less book directly on airline websites for smaller and non-US airlines because I so often run into difficult/failed payments, sneaky fees, and terrible interfaces.

Hipmunk Air Baltic

Priceline Air Baltic

Priceline Air Baltic Booking Success

Priceline’s own search tools are rather limited so it can be difficult to force unusual routings without the aid of Hipmunk. You may want to go direct from ITA to Priceline, or replicate Hipmunk if desiring to collect booking bonus rather than let Hipmunk collect its referral. Chase Ultimate Rewards gives 1 point/$ on Priceline bookings, Big Crumbs gives a flat $2.80 for an airline ticket, and there are others that frequently change.

Yes, there is a credit card, the Priceline Rewards Visa is a cash back card with no annual fee that gives 5x on all Priceline purchases, and currently offers a 10k signup bonues for $1,000 spend in 90 days. Extra bonus is you can choose the William Shatner image card. I get much more positive feedback from Shattner than my dumpy Chase Sapphire Preferred. (Disclaimer: if you apply through my link I will receive a referral commission, metal is so 2000s.)

A separate Rossiya intinerary I could not replicate in Priceline because I was forcing a two night layover in St. Petersburg. I was able to get it to Priceline via Hipmunk but then ran into an issue that whatever I tried, Priceline could not issue a Rossiya ticket. Not that many others can. Even Rossiya’s website gives fits to people with non-Russian credit cards. I got the same error for booking Estonian Air.

Priceline Rossiya

Priceline Estonian Air

How to book airlines that the major sites do not list or fail is a tangled web though I have recently discovered new hope…see the next post.

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  • al613

    try vayama for rossiya

  • smittytabb

    Had a similar experience recently. Used ITA matrix but found Priceline was the only site that matched the ITA price on SATA to the Azores. First time I have ever booked a flight on Priceline… By far the best price for that itinerary.

  • @al613 – Vayama is typically a good one, however for my Rossiya trip they tacked on $60 that the eventual winner, OneTravel did not.

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  • Jerome

    Hi, can you give me some insight on how you forced the 2 night stay over in St Petersburg via hipmunk. I am looking at a flight and it has the best price from priceline via hipmunk but I would like to stay over in the stopy over city for a few nights. Any help is appreciated.
    Jerome

  • @Jerome – in my case ITA suggested the double-night connection as part of my original Sochi-Kaliningrad search. St. Petersburg wasn’t even on my itinerary until I saw that. Then the issue was to force the booking. On Hipmunk I had to search as multi-city Sochi-St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg-Kaliningrad. It found the itinerary but only recommended Pricline for booking, and despite many attempts, Priceline could not book Rossiya flights. That led me to One Travel, where I did a similar multi-city search and got the fare. For my itinerary, stretching past 48 hours from orginal departure broke the fare to price into two expensive one-ways. It may have made a difference that I was on the last flight to St. Petersburg the first night. I don’t know Rossiya’s routing rules so it is all experimentation. Good luck.