As experienced travellers and house sitters who are always seeking out the next destination or adventure, we need to use a flight search engine which we know will give us the best value and most relevant results without too much hassle.
That's why the team at Bravofly asked us to give their search engine a test drive to see if it met our standards for usability, speed and accuracy when booking an international flight.
We are always on the lookout for house sits in Spain, given that we want to be able to continue improving with our Spanish and we think it would be the perfect sunny spot for a few weeks of work and local travel whilst looking after someone's pets. So, we decided to test out bravofly.com.au to find return flights for two people from London to Madrid for the dates of Friday July 29th - Sunday 14th August (exactly when we'd want our house sit after our adventures in Scotland, France and Sweden!)
As we are quite flexible in our schedules, we would ideally like a search engine which gives us a breakdown of cheaper flight options (i.e. letting us know if by leaving a day earlier, we could save some money) and has a clear breakdown of any additional charges beyond the advertised price, such as luggage charges.
For this test, we used our MacBook Pro and the Google Chrome browser on Incognito (how we always book our flights as it sometimes results in reduced prices popping up).
Searching for a flight on Bravofly
The homepage of the Bravofly website is unfortunately affected by obtrusive advertising all around the main booking platform and it's immediately a little annoying, especially with one advert always overlapping the search engine.
Aside from that, the booking platform is very easy to use and intuitive. It gave us the option to look for flights from all London airports, or from a specific one, which is a positive.
The default option is 'one way' which is something we appreciate as that's the most common option we go for, however in this instance we are looking for a return flight.
The dates on the search automatically reconfigure for your return flight once you've selected your outbound dates, and the drop-down calendar format is very user-friendly and better than other flight booking platforms we have used.
Selecting a flight
Once our dates were inserted, we were taken to the following page.
Again, the first thing the eye is drawn to is the overlapping advert. Hopefully that is something Bravofly's developers can improve as it does impinge on the user experience of the website.
However, the blue and green grid on the top right hand side of the page is extremely useful for us. It gives an easily understandable breakdown of firstly, how much our cheapest flight is on our selected dates (in dark blue), but also clearly outlines three cheaper options and their dates (the green). Clicking on one of these green options brings us directly through to a flights overview page of the same look, but with the cheaper flight dates selected. For travellers with our level of flexibility, this is a big positive as we can sometimes adjust our departure according to when the best value flights depart.
Scrolling a little further down to see the specific flight options, the layout is quite clear and well-structured, with the default filter being given to flight price, listed from cheapest to most expensive. There are also a number of filters down the left hand side which allow users to define their preferences and results for both the outbound and return flights. If, for example, London Heathrow is your most convenient airport to reach from home, but Stansted brings up cheapest flight options, you can easily select and compare flights for only these two options.
A feature we particularly like is the 'move to trash' button underneath each flight. If you aren't a fan of a particular airline or a suggested cheap, but very inconvenient route, being able to completely remove it from the page to streamline your selection pool is a useful feature of Bravofly.
Clicking on the 'details' drop down on each flight gives the following further flight information, however it unfortunately states nothing about an airline's baggage allowances or restrictions - an important factor to consider when looking at the total cost of flights in Europe. This would be an excellent addition to this stage of the booking process as, sometimes, the up-front cost of the cheapest flight increases substantially later on in the booking process once baggage is factored in, meaning that you actually end up with a more expensive option overall by going for the 'budget' or 'no frills' airline. Additionally, noting at this stage of the booking process whether you want flight prices based on 'hand luggage travel only' or based on '1 x checked-in bag per passenger' would be a really excellent step from Bravofly as this is something missing from all other flight search engines.
Once we have clicked on the orange 'continue' button, we are brought to the confirmation and payment page below, which provides a clear overview of your selected flight, as well as a drop down breakdown of rates, taxes and fees.
Scroll further down, and we are given the option of adding in luggage to our booking. How Bravofly has presented this on the booking page is a positive feature - simple to use and understand the extra cost - although it disappointingly does not mention hand luggage allowances and baggage dimensions, necessitating a separate search elsewhere prior to booking.
On this Ryanair flight, if we both take one 15kg piece of luggage on each flight leg, the total cost jumps from to £263.85 to £356.19 for two passengers. If, at this stage, you want to reconsider your options, then clicking back on either the button at the top of the page or on the browser thankfully takes us straight back to the previous page overviewing the flight options for our selected dates and destinations, rather than making us have to input all the information again.
The Payment Page
After some time spent reviewing the overall cost of the other flights, Ryanair has still come out at the cheapest and most convenient option for our dates and baggage requirements.
So, we've decided to go ahead and book with them.
This single payment page is one of the best features of Bravofly (it's also featured in the two previous screenshots). It's clear, readable, devoid of advertising (especially those annoying sections to click through confirming you don't want to add a hotel or rental car which are common on other booking sites!) and is very user-friendly. We like that it doesn't re-direct to other websites, but keeps everything in one place in a clean and simple layout.
Flight information is provided as well as notices from the airline, as well as the simple drop down menu for adding luggage to your booking. A full overview and breakdown of rates, taxes and fees is given and we would strongly encourage every user to fully check these before buying the flights to ensure you are happy with the terms and no hidden costs have been included.
Passenger details and payment information is also inserted on this page and, in a very good touch, the last thing you see before you click 'buy' is a clear and simple overview of your flight details - dates, cities and airport. It's always the final thing you should be checking before you confirm (and lord knows our paranoia means we check it about eight times before payment) and Bravofly has placed it in exactly the right place to help you avoid making an easy, but expensive, mistake.
Aside from annoyances with the positioning of adverts on the website, we found the process of searching and booking a flight with Bravofly a positive overall experience. Certain features, such as the cheapest time to fly grid, comprehensive filter options and slick confirmation and payment page, really enhance the experience and give travellers the appropriate tools to find a flight deal which suits them. It has also cut out a number of stages to give convenience to anyone looking for a flight quickly who doesn't want to click through several pages offering additional elements for their trip (i.e. hotel booking).
However, additional improvements, particularly around noting the impact of baggage fees and restrictions on your overall booking cost earlier in the process, would really help to make the experience even better for travellers booking their next adventure.
For more info, visit the Bravofly.com.au web site. Please note this article is brought to you in parntership with Bravofly, but all opinions are our own.