, Vayama take metasearch into opaque fares from OneWorld, Star Alliance carriers

Who thought travel metasearch — which is all about comprehensiveness and comparison shopping — would get into opaque fares where some flight details are unknown until after the booking?

Well, that day has arrived as, in cooperation with online travel agency Vayama, is now displaying some opaque fares from airlines within the SkyTeam, Oneworld and Star Alliances.

With international airline alliance partnerships all the rage, began offering a new filtering option where consumers can view search results via airline alliances.

So for a JFK-Madrid flight search on, the grid displays OneWorld and Star Alliance filtering options like this:


If you select OneWorld, the top result for a May 5-12 JFK to Madrid roundtrip was a $560 “OneWorld Alliance special” from Vayama, a unit of BCD Holdings. The hitch is that although you know the price up-front, the consumer won’t learn the identity of the OneWorld carrier(s) offering the fare until after booking the fare on Vayama.

The display of Vayama’s OneWorld Alliance special for JFK to Madrid looks like this:


When you click on details, you see the proviso: “Note: Vayama Negotiated Fares are so low that we can’t show the airlines and exact flight times on this page. The airlines will be revealed once your book your flight.”

Justin Soffer, who became vice president and general manager of Travelzoo’s March 1, says its foray into opaque fares on the back of Vayama fits well with’s mantra to be comprehensive. In so doing, he adds, wants to accommodate partners which offer negotiated fares, including Vayama’s opaque alliance specials.

Andre Hesselink, the CEO of Vayama, says offering alliance fares on its website is one way Vayama differentiates itself as it targets Americans with a bent for international travel. He notes the alliance specials are “a marketing tool.”

The airline alliances themselves play no role in the fare negotiations. Vayama negotiates a fare with airline A and sometimes pairs it with a negotiated fare from airline B in the same alliance, depending on any restrictions in play, Hesselink says.

So, where is the value for consumers?

Hesselink says they can take advantage of the discounts inherent in opaque fares and can find comfort in the fact that — although they don’t know the identity of the particular carrier or carriers up-front — travelers do know which airlines are members of the particular alliance. They also generally can earn frequent flyer miles if they belong to carriers’ programs within the alliance, he says.

Within the booking path for these opaque deals, Vayama discloses some trip details like the number of stops and departure times, Hesselink says.

Vayama’s sister company is corporate-travel specialist BCD Travel. Hesselink says the two companies operate independently, but their association doesn’t hurt his airline negotiations.

Fellow metasearcher, Kayak, offers filtering tools for airline-alliance searches like this:


Thus, for the New York-Madrid trip, Kayak users can book multicarrier itineraries from SkyTeam members  Air France and Alitalia on, or

After a cursory search on Kayak, I didn’t see any opaque, alliance-oriented offerings from Vayama or anyone else.

In other news, the travel metasearch company says website visitors conducted 3.5 million searches in March 2010, the most since launched 13 months earlier.

And, confirms that former general manager Brian Clark has left the company, adding that he left to pursue other opportunities.

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Dennis Schaal

About the Writer :: Dennis Schaal

Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.



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  4. John Yorke

    What makes no sense is that Iberia is cheaper than the oneworld option despite Iberia being in oneworld, and United is cheaper than the Star Alliance special despite United being in Star Alliance. I would only expect to see an alliance price if it is the same or cheaper than a flight on a single airline within the alliance.

    • bs

      John, it might not make sense to you/a general traveler, but it does actually make sense in the wacky world of air fare pricing. Iberia is cheaper because it charges certain taxes differently than other OneWorld carriers and United is cheaper because some Star Alliance carriers charge each other surcharges for joint fares. As a consumer, there is no way for you to know or understand these things but it is quite often true that a ticket on the exact same plane will be offered at a variety of prices, depending on who you buy it from.

  5. vert

    The neat thing about booking an opaque fare on is that there is a one hour cancellation guarantee. The flights and airlines are displayed in the confirmation email. If you don’t like the flights, you are provided with a link to cancel them within one hour without any penalties and no charges.

    One thing about Kayak – I am pretty sure that Kayak has an exclusivety agreement with Orbitz and Expedia that prevent other OTA’s from displaying their fares (even if the prices are better).


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