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Meet Hipmunk, a really cool flight-finder that doesn’t actually work

Brendan pointed me to this news article by David Pogue promoting a website called Hipmunk, a sleek competitor to Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak, and the like.

Coincidentally, I had to a buy a flight right now so I followed the link and found that, indeed, Hipmunk is about a zillion times easier to use and more impressive than Expedia or even Kayak. It’s awesome. The others aren’t even close. The display was so clean and effective, I felt like ordering a few flights just for fun.

That’s the good news. Now the bad news. I wasn’t just playing around with the site. There was actually a flight I wanted to buy–an itinerary I’d looked into yesterday but hadn’t saved or booked. I effortlessly set up the request in Hipmunk, scanned its impressive graphical display, and . . . couldn’t find the flight I wanted! Oh no! The last ticket must’ve been sold!

Just to check, though, I want on good old ugly Expedia. And my flight was right there! So I bought it.

So, just a quick memo to whoever runs Hipmunk: Your interface is great, but I suggest you scrape Expedia to find more flights. You could start with evening nonstops from RDU to LGA. (Or, if my flight was actually on Hipmunk all the time, you just need a better interface.)

The relevant screenshots are below (right-click to see the full images):

hipmunk.png

expedia.png

11 Comments

  1. Nameless says:

    As far as I can tell, they simply don't have any flights by American Airlines or its subsidiaries (such as American Eagle) in the database.

  2. Laura says:

    Oh wow, the UI is exactly what I ever wanted!! I hope they improve on the data side soon.

    Sometimes it is cheaper to book a flight operated by airline A via the website of airline B (I just saved 200 USD this way). This info is also not factored in (yet?)

  3. Elizabeth says:

    @Laura: How do you book a flight on Airline A via the website for Airline B?

  4. Laura says:

    Maybe this only holds for intercontinental flights, but sometimes different airlines offer flights that are carried out by the same same aircraft. Usually there is a note saying "operated by Airline A", if you book the flight offered by Airline B.

    There will be several flight numbers (one per airline) with differing prices, but you get the same service.

  5. Antonello Loddo says:

    So far, all Hipmunk flight data is coming from Orbitz.

  6. Thanks for the bug report, Andrew. Though we do prefer receiving these through contact@hipmunk.com, we're always looking to improve the service. Could you give us a bit more insight into what you were searching for when the breakage occurred? Please don't hesitate to email me directly – alexis@hipmunk.com

  7. Andrew Gelman says:

    Alexis:

    There wasn't exactly a breakage, it's just that Hipmunk didn't find the flight I wanted, so I had to go to Expedia to get it. The actual flight is shown in the Expedia window above.

    P.S. I also sent a message to contact@hipmunk.com as well as to David Pogue. (Hipmunk replied to me already, but I haven't yet heard back from Poque.

  8. Who was the carrier? (It's not clear from either screenshot)

  9. Andrew Gelman says:

    U.S. Air and American. As noted in the blog entry, you can see the details if you right-click on the images (or whatever is equivalent on the Mac).

  10. Ah-ha. Yes, as a commenter stated earlier, we're not yet able to pull all the AA data we'd like. But we're working on it. Sorry you weren't able to find your flight this time around, but your thorough blog entry will only further encourage us to get it right for you the next time!

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I agree with you! I was about to try Hipmunk, when my friend pointed out that Kayak is superior in so many ways. Hipmunk doesn't even have any of the helpful features that Kayak does.

    I made sure to save my friends from using the disaster that is Hipmunk!