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Last post on Hipmunk

There was some confusion on my last try, so let me explain one more time . . .

The flights I where Hipmunk failed (see here for background) were not obscure itineraries. One of them was a nonstop from New York to Cincinnati; another was from NY to Durham, North Carolina; and yet another was a trip to Midway in Chicago. In that last case, Hipmunk showed no nonstops at all—which will come as a surprise to the passengers on the Southwest Airlines flight I was on a couple days ago! In these cases, Hipmunk didn’t even do the courtesy of flashing a message telling me to try elsewhere.

I don’t understand. How hard would it be for the program to automatically do a Kayak search and find all the flights?

Hipmunk’s graphics are great, though. Lee Wilkinson reports:

Check out the figure below from The Grammar of Graphics. Dan Rope invented this graphic and programmed it in Java in the late 1990’s. We shopped this graph around to Orbitz and Expedia but they weren’t interested. So I [Lee] put it in my Second Edition to point out how ordinary charts could be used as user interfaces to Web sites.

The Hipmunk site is an interactive, cleaned-up version of the above display.

Lee Wilkinson’s Grammar of Graphics is a great statistics book, and I think it shows excellent taste on the part of Hipmunk’s developers to base their service on a graph from his book (or to independently come up with the idea of using this graphing tool by Dan Rope for the purpose of flight search).

I really don’t see why they can’t get together with Expedia or Travelocity or Kayak. Hipmunk has implemented Wilkinson’s graphics idea excellently, these other services have the ability to find the flights that I want . . . put it together and you’d have everything.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with Kayak. I’m hoping that someone there (or at Expedia or wherever) will pick up on the grid graphics idea. It’s published in a book, so I don’t think they’d need anybody’s permission to try out the idea on their websites. Or maybe they’d have to pay some royalties to Dan Rope and Lee Wilkinson? I have no idea what the rules are here.


  1. Funkhauser says:

    None of the flight search aggregators search Southwest, by design.

    But yes, I depend on ITA Software and Kayak, with Hipmunk in third.

    • Andrew says:


      My problems were not just with Southwest; they occurred with other airlines as well.

      If Hipmunk were to do a Kayak search and then post a warning: “Try Kayak—there are flights that we’re missing”, that would help.

  2. Bill Mill says:

    > How hard would it be for the program to automatically do a Kayak search and find all the flights?

    It wouldn’t be programatically hard, but it would be illegal, in as far as it is against Kayak’s terms of service. They can’t include Southwest flights for the same reason.

    I’ll wager that they don’t want to partner with Kayak, because there’s not much margin in the space they’re in, so they have to try and eat Kayak’s lunch rather than partner with them.

    • Andrew says:


      Kayak and Expedia must be doing something right, because they have had flights for me every time I’ve looked, while Hipmunk has failed in more than 50% of my tries. The most impressive things so far about Himpunk are: (1) they implemented Rope and Wilkinson’s idea very well, and (2) they got a blurb in the New York Times. Both these accomplishments are indeed impressive but they don’t add up to me being able to get a convenient flight!

  3. revo11 says:

    I agree with Bill. It isn’t hard to implement, but if they don’t have the partners, it’s kindof out of their control. Maybe they need to hire someone that can make these kinds of licensing(?) deals happen.

  4. Phil says:

    Andrew, when you say “I don’t understand. How hard would it be for the program to automatically do a Kayak search and find all the flights?,” people are taking that to meant that you think it should be easy for Hipmunk to search all the flights that the other programs do. What you mean instead, I think, is “why don’t they give up if they can’t do a better job,” or something like that. It’s obvious (to me) that you realize there must be very good reason that they don’t search all of the flights, but it’s not obvious to other people!

  5. Phil says:

    Andrew: exactly! So your “question” might be better posed as “why don’t the other travel sites use Hipmunk’s graphics?”. And _that_ is a good question!

  6. David Wolkin says:

    Andrew, You want to see ALL nonstop flights with just 1-click from 300 U.S. airports? Go to and click on Cincinnati; you immediately see ALL airlines from CVG to NYC (all airports); Now “Clear Map” and click on Midway and see ALL airlines to NYC including Southwest. Clear the map and click on “Raleigh/Durham”. You can also click “Compare Airlines” button to see all airlines/routes from any airport. This UI is a “1-click VISUAL flight search map.”