The founders of Hipmunk are building a successor to their now-flawed flight search service.
The startup was acquired in 2016 by SAP-owned travel and spending platform Concur, and its CEO Adam Goldstein departed in 2018. But Goldstein still disappoints me and his co-founder Steve Huffman (co-founder and CEO of Reddit). When Concourse ceased service at the beginning of last year.
“Over the years, there were millions and millions of people who used it and liked it,” Goldstein said. (I was one of those people – before I knew what he was working on, I started my call by telling Goldstein how much I missed Hipmunk.)
So the pair financed a project called Flight Penguin, with Goldstein serving as president of the new company. And he said that the actual product was created by former hipmunk developer Sheri Zada.
The Flight Penguin interface will be very familiar to older Hipmunk users, with a visual layout that makes it easy to see flight times and layout lengths. And just as Hipmunk allows users to organize results by “suffering” (so that top results are not inconvenient times or cheap flights at ridiculous levels), Flight Penguin allows them to sort their flights by “pain”.
But this is not just an old experience with a fresh coat of paint – it is also meant to improve on hipmunk in some major ways. For one thing, it allows users to search for Chase Ultimate Rewards points (as well as US dollars, with the goal of adding more currencies and rewards programs in the future).
And the product itself is a Google Chrome extension instead of a traditional flight search website. The extension actually presents a complete, standalone web experience (rather than an overlay on another website), but Goldstein said that this approach is still important, as it allows Flight Penguin to “move through the frontend rather than the backend”. Allows data to be pulled. Most up-to-date information. This helps avoid situations where a flight or price appears in search results, but is not available on the airline or other vendor’s website.
In addition, Goldstein said that Flight Penguin “will show all flights.” In other words, it will not make any deal with airlines to hide certain flights or prices, and it will also show airlines that do not normally make their flights available on other search platforms.
“Actually many, many flights are available but consumers don’t see them because travel search sites cater to these deals,” he said. “We don’t like playing that game.”
This has the obvious advantage of offering more comprehensive results, but also the disadvantage that Flight Penguins will not be able to collect the associated fees for the purchase of the flight. Instead, after a 30-day trial period, it will charge users $ 10 per month. (This is an introductory fee and will likely change in the future.)
Goldstein acknowledged that this is probably “not a mainstream product that 50 million Americans use,” but he is hoping that it can attract a significant customer base of frequent travelers that “flight booking experience.” Value their time and care about. “
“What we learned from Hipmunk was […] The way traditionally worked for consumers in an era with a lot of competition between airlines and travel agencies has been the business in online travel, ”he said. “In a world where there is little competition, you are basically becoming an agent for the people you are working with, and it is hard to build a business model around providing a great user experience . So we are saying that we are going to get out of this game and play by our rules. “
Flight Penguin is currently accepting signups for its waitlist, but Goldstein said the company is simply using it to bring users on-board in a controlled style, and that it can move people off the waiting list very quickly Is planning