For consumers, this means that the hunt for the lowest fare has become more difficult as the number of places where they can comparison-shop has dropped. In many cases, they just give up. Already, travelers typically use three or four sites when shopping for a flight, according to Phocuswright, a travel market research firm. “The number goes up for your more price-sensitive travelers,” said Douglas Quinby, vice president for research. “Consumers are going to go to the price-comparison sites and thinking they’re comparing prices, but they’re not,” said Fiona Scott Morton, an economics professor at Yale University, who conducted a study for the Travel Technology Association, a trade group representing air travel sites, asserting that the airlines hurt competition when they cut independent distributors out of the loop. Get the full story at SFGate.com