Welcome to sidestep.com
, another comparison-fare shopping site, although with a difference.
This site has the key to unlock the Web-only sales of the actual sellers-United Airlines, Sheraton, Motel 6, Southwest Airlines, Hertz, Avis, etc. SideStep also has the technology to insert itself into your other searches, saving you the time of switching between sites. So how exactly does it work?
Step 1: You visit sidestep.com and download its browser plug-in onto your computer. This will work for those with Internet Explorer 4 and above. The company plans to add Netscape 4 by the end of the first quarter of next year. Bad news for Mac users though, you can`t use this site, and there is no date set for making the technology apple compatible.
Step 2: You go to your favourite travel booking engine site, let`s say Lowestfare.com, and search for an airfare. Next to your Lowestfare screen, you pop up your screen from SideStep, and with no additional typing it will enact the same search. This will allow you to see, in real time, the different options available to you. The SideStep engine will then give you the “official” story-rates from the major airlines` websites only. You can click on a “details” button which will give you information on stopovers (including the amount of time down to the projected minute), the mileage, even food service.
Step 3: Compare and contrast. If Lowestfares gets you the best rate, you go with that. If SideStep is the winner, you simply click on the “reserve” button, which will take you directly to the correct page of the airline in question. We did a number of searches just to see how SideStep held up. Our results were mixed. On an itinerary from Boston to Denver, for example, Travelocity was able to find a fare of $244 on Continental for flights leaving at 7:30 am and arriving in Denver at 11:51 am with one stopover. The best SideStep could do was on America West-a 7am departure, arrival at 2:51 (again with one stop) for $321. On an itinerary of Seattle to Dallas, Sidestep beat Travelocity by nearly $90 for a much more convenient flight-one stop as compared to two.
However, when we redid that search on QIXO we got a tie; not surprising as both sites chose the same airline (America West) and routing. But on an itinerary from Columbus, Ohio to Denver Sidestep was the better option, finding us a flight on Continental for just $199-about $40 better than we found from other sites. The advantages to using Sidestep are numerous. First of all, because of its “side window” feature, it doesn`t preclude using other sites-it isn`t a time waster. Secondly, since this site connects you directly with the airlines, it allows for the collection of frequent flyer miles. It also allows the consumer to search for the very cheapest last-minute fares. You can use Sidestep to book a fare for a flight within the same day, an impossibility on such sites as Expedia, Cheap Tickets and Travelocity. And for those more cautious travellers, Sidestep never mixes carriers-a routing will be on one carrier only, from start to finish.
Finally, Sidestep allows you to input your affiliations and age so that its program can search for any special discounts being offered-a particularly useful feature for senior citizens and AAA members. The underside to SideStep? Well, as we found, it doesn`t always get you the best rates as it does not search the sites of the airfare consolidators-one of the key sources for cheap fares. Also its insistence on one carrier for the entire itinerary can also boost rates. At this point, the presence of the international carriers is low, making this a better site for domestic travel than international. According to Chief Executive Officer Brian Barth, this will be remedied in the upcoming months as the site forms partnerships with the major foreign airlines. Currently Sidestep searches the following airline`s sites: Aeromexico, Aloha, British Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Midwest Express, United Airlines, Air Canada, American Airlines, Continental, JetBlue, National, Spirit, US Airways, AirTran, America West, Legend, Northwest, Sun Country, Vanguard, Alaska Air, American Trans Air, Frontier, Mexicana, Pan Am and TWA.
For car rentals it covers Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Payless and Thrifty. And it handles 54 hotel chains, representing over 2.7 million rooms in the U.S. including Best Western, Courtyard, Hyatt, Sheraton, Super 8, Days Inn, Knights Inn, La Quinta, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Comfort Inn, Red Roof and Wyndham.