Websites of the Month

Summer is on its way so if you want to beat the heat, or just explore, read on as we review eight regional airline websites. If you have any suggestions for next month’s Web Browser, feel free to e-mail us at windows@itp.com. Happy holidays!

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By  Cleona Godinho Published  May 1, 2006

www.emirates.com|~|emirates.jpg|~||~|The site lets you book regional and international flights online and also provides a nifty flight status feature. If you’re looking for flight schedules, the site offers these too. Also onboard is a frequent flyer offer called Skywards. If you don’t want to wait hours in line at the airport, the site also offers online check-in, which lets you check-in two to 12 hours before departure. At the time of writing, a round-trip economy ticket from Doha to Muscat (D2M) cost US $349. Easy to use but far from the cheapest. ||**||www.gulfairco.com|~|gulfair.jpg|~||~|Besides letting you book flights online, this site also provides flight timetables, which you can download to your PC, Pocket PC or Palm. In the ‘Plan and Book’ section, the site offers a very useful traveller toolkit, which includes a currency converter, travel tips, a weather forecast tool and a helpful visa section. This provides a list of visas you’ll need based on your destination and nationality. In our price test, the site quoted the same price as Qatar Airways - $340. It’s feature rich, but not for budget flyers. ||**||www.qatarairways.com|~|qatar.jpg|~||~|Like Emirates and Air Arabia, this site lets you book tickets online. The site offers a miles programme for frequent flyers, however unlike Emirates.com it doesn’t offer a flight status feature. Flight schedules and a currency converter feature are also not available. In our D2M price test, the site quoted $340, slightly cheaper than Emirates but far behind Air Arabia (right). Overall, the online booking portal is simple to work with, but the site’s feature list needs expanding.||**||www.airarabia.com|~|airarabia.jpg|~||~|If you frequently travel around the region or to India, AirArabia.com is the way to go. The site lets you book tickets online and features a useful currency field, which lets you view prices in Dirhams or Indian Rupees and more. If you wish to visit the UAE and need a visa, the site provides the application form for download and a list of regional centres at which you can apply. In our D2M price test, the site quoted $196. That’s $153 cheaper than Emirates. In a nutshell, a cinch to use and friendly fares galore! ||**||www.etihadairways.com|~|etihad.jpg|~||~|Etihadairways.com is very similar to Gulf Air.com in that it also includes a travel toolkit, which includes a weather forecast tool, a list of international telephone codes and destination maps. Though the site includes a currency converter, it lacks the arguably more essential online check-in and flight status features. Unlike most of the sites in our line-up, the site requires users to register to book flights. Although this may be seen as a bane, it’s useful as you can save your preferences - such as your personal details, desired meal and seat preference. Overall, good but not great. ||**||www.saudiairlines.com|~|saudiairlines.jpg|~||~|Next up we have Saudiairlines.com. Design-wise, the site won’t dazzle you. That aside, it does let you book flights, but there’s a catch. Though you can book from cities in KSA to other international cities, the site doesn’t let you book from other cities to Saudi (at the time of writing). For instance, you can book a round-trip ticket from Riyadh to Dubai but you cannot do the reverse. We reckon it’s a design glitch and have flagged the issue with the airline. On the plus side, the site lets you check any flight’s status. Overall, a good site for those looking to leave from Saudi but not for those who want to get in.||**||www.mea.com|~|meaairlines.jpg|~||~|Mea.com belongs to Lebanon’s Middle East Airlines - one of the oldest carriers in the region. The site lets you book flights online to local and international cities. On the design front, the site scores well, however its slow performance overshadows its good looks. Like Etihadairways.com, the site doesn’t include a flight status feature or an online check-in function. Nevertheless, the site does provide some handy traveller info and can be viewed in Arabic and French. A frequent flyer programme is also offered. In short, a good site but still room for improvement. ||**||www.kuwait-airways.com|~|kuwaitiairlines.jpg|~||~|Last but not least, we have Kuwaitairways.com. On loading the site we were welcomed by a web page consisting of press releases. Not the best start. Though the site offers an online schedule of flights, unlike the other seven airlines it doesn’t let you book flights online. On the bright side, the site lets you view the status of its flights and offers users access to its Oasis miles programme. Additionally, the site offers a baggage tracing feature to help you track down lost luggage. Overall, the site is pretty basic and has a lot of growing up to do, e-buying being the key. ||**||

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