Searching for flights has always been an exercise in futility. You either had to go from airline website to website comparing prices or use an online travel agency site and hope they were telling you the best price instead of the one where they earn the highest commission.
Sure, if you knew what you were doing, you were already using the ITA Matrix website. Once that was purchased by Google, it just didn’t seem to work the same as it did before.
That’s when Hipmunk came on the scene.
The founders of Hipmunk understood that it wasn’t important just to find the cheapest airfare between cities. It was also important to not leave at 5AM or to not have a 14-hour layover with an overnight connection. Besides price and schedule, Hipmunk sorted flights by “Agony” level, which I thought was brilliant, as I’m willing to pay an extra $20 to avoid a lengthy connection. That’s why I included them on my list of ways to find the cheapest airfare.
That’s why I was sad when I saw this post on Twitter:
Am I surprised at the closure? Not totally. In 2016, Hipmunk was purchased by Concur, a huge corporate travel/expense company. I guess they wanted access to the technology to help them make better travel plans for their corporate clients. Once they had access, there was no reason to improve the platform, so Hipmunk has provided the same service for the past several years.
Since then, websites like Google Flights have started to implement some of the same intelligent search methodologies that Hipmunk pioneered. Google has a competitive advantage with its dominant search engine, so I guess it was difficult for Hipmunk to stay relevant. Instead of trying to hang on to their segment of the market, Concur decided to pull the plug.
I’m as much at fault as everyone else for Hipmunk’s demise. While I loved their engine to search for flights, I never used one of their links to book a ticket.
Hipmunk ended up being a one-trick-pony. Once other websites were able to duplicate their “agony” index into their own websites, there was no reason to go to Hipmunk to search for flights.
I’m thankful for them pushing the airline search websites to find more than the shortest or the cheapest fares. Factoring the flight departure times and the layover duration into a searchable field forced other websites to do the same. Now, every website showing flights will display the “best” flights first, leaving you to search if you want to find the lowest price or shortest connections. We have Hipmunk to thank for that.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary