Vayama is a new airfare-ticket-finding service the likes of Expedia, Priceline and Travelocity. However, instead of focusing on domestic travel, Vayama is marketing itself as a provider for international flights. The service is also beginning to build what looks like a people-powered travel tips section to help newbie travelers with the post-airport journey into foreign cities that can often be confusing.
To begin any travel search, users can enter their data as usual, or use Vayama's neat touch-and-go map, which lets you zoom into various parts of the world to select arrival and departure cities. The map is powered by Microsoft Virtual Earth and is a nice way to see where airports are geographically located without having to look them up elsewhere. Each airport's dot is also proportionately sized for how big it is in real life. Large international airports such as LAX and JFK have big dots, whereas some of the stateside and municipal airports get tiny ones.
Once you've found your tickets, you can pick out your seat with Vayama's seat finder, which is presented in a slightly angled 3-D image. Seat finders for plane travel is certainly nothing new, but it's fairly simple to visually see the open and full seats--and even cooler to click an open seat and see yourself appear.
Before buying any tickets, you can also do some brief research on any city, which will show you how much it costs (in U.S. dollars) to get to and from the airport, as well as around selected cities using private or public transportation. To make those numbers a little more accurate, Vayama is building out its own people-powered reviews network, where users can dish on city information in exchange for discount credits on airfare.
In my brief testing this afternoon, some of the fares I searched for were very competitive with those I found on some of the major providers. Vayama was also a little faster in the search, although not nearly as comprehensive as my personal favorite flight-finder, Kayak.com, which found the lowest prices of the bunch.One of the big things missing is a way to check if you're currently getting the best deal on your ticket, or whether it's worth waiting for a price drop; something you can do with Farecast, although not for international flights. Like any Internet shopping experience, ticket services like this are useful, but it never hurts to check the competition--especially when their mascots are gnomes and William Shatner.
To see a shot of the 3-D seat finder, keep reading.