Social Commerce

Flightfox: Hackers Compete to Find You the Best Deal on Flights, Bring New Meaning to Human-Powered Flight

I’m planning a trip that will require flying. Being a frugal shopper, my normal routine involves scouring sites like Kayak, Travelocity, Orbitz and others looking for the least expensive airfare. A new website spotted by our friends at Springwise and founded by Australian entrepreneurs Lauren McLeod and Todd Sullivan, called Flightfox, relies not on databases, but on the power of crowds to locate the cheapest rate. In fact, the site purports to save travelers an average of $373 on trips.

How It Works

Flightfox users create what the site refers to as a “contest” spanning a period of three to five days and commit to paying a finder’s fee of $29. A group of flight experts – called “hackers” – respond with the best flights they can find.

The modest (and completely refundable) finder’s fee provides incentive to these experts to search the best flights. Once the user books his or her trip, the winning flight hacker gets awarded the fee promised up front. Also, because users are dealing with actual humans, any question can be asked. Try that with Travelocity!

Why It Works

Flight hackers compete against each other to find the best deals. They’re considered to be experts because they know strategies to cut fees, taxes and surcharges as well as frequent flyer points, complex routes and more. Price is not the only issue under consideration either; the quality of the flight is also factored in.

In other words, rather than taking a 6:00 a.m. flight in a cramped coach seat surrounded by crying children (sound familiar?), these experts attempt to find flights that are convenient to the traveler’s schedule and, where possible, provide some extra room as well.

Why It Matters

The site benefits users in two ways: it saves travelers time by doing the work of rate-finding for them and, in most cases, it saves them money.

I gave Flightfox a run for its money looking for rates on a domestic flight, but was disappointed to see a disclaimer that said the site was less likely to undercut the lowest advertised prices; multi-city and long-haul flights are where it provides the most bang for the buck. Still, the time-savings involved is worth the finder’s fee.

There is also a free version available for those who prefer not to commit the funds, but it doesn’t provide the necessary motivation to get flight hackers to do the work for you. Lacking incentive, the chance of getting the best results are minimized.

Crowdsourcing has long been considered a staple in social media and is becoming an essential element of social commerce in the form of what we refer to as “social proof”- a reliance on what others are doing or have done. It’s commonplace for us to depend on the opinions and advice of friends, including online “friends,” and even those we don’t know.

Additionally, we place particular trust on those we consider to be experts or authorities, precisely because they save us time, energy and, in this case, money. Flightfox takes advantage of both these heuristics to bring an entirely new meaning to the term “human-powered flight.”

So, the next time I need to find cheap airfare – especially if it involves international travel – I may forego price-comparison sites altogether and head over to Flightfox instead.  After all, my time is worth at least $29. Plus, if I don’t like the results, I can get my money back, which is something that certainly appeals to my frugal nature.

Flightfox airfares

5 Comments Add New Comment

  1. I was really excited about this company and signed up as soon as I had an international trip planned. The site touts “Flightfox saves you time and money”, but in my case it was the opposite. The “experts” were unprofessional, did not read the criteria I had set out for my itinerary, and generally did not provide any useful information. The staff were also less than helpful, and when I contacted them for support they just cancelled my contest and refunded my money without telling me ahead of time. Flightfox is a great idea that is just poorly executed — maybe in the future they will get their act together, but for now, don’t bother!! I missed out on some great flight deals because of the time I wasted on their “service”.

    1. Albert, thanks for sharing your experience with the company and its service, or, in your case, the lack thereof. No matter how companies position themselves, the proof is in the pudding.

  2. I haven’t seen much feedback from users.

    My experience was extremely positive.
    +You can really save BIG. I got 36% off of the Expedia list price and it cost me peanuts compared to the actual ticket price.
    +The expert answered all my questions, even after they got my money. He was timely, professional, etc.
    +The day my contest ended, the guy who found my flight had the lowest price on a quarter of the contests that I read. Here is his link: If you use this link and go though him, he automatically enters your contest. I’d guess the situation is similar with other experts.

    But there were drawbacks.
    +/-How well it goes depends on which experts look at your flights. You see the same names consistently winning contests, but there is no way to message them or to ask them for help.
    -You can’t interact with people outside your own contest. There was no way for me to ask about flights being proposed in other contests that were similar to what I wanted.
    -It’s a waste if you just need a simple domestic flight and know how to search for them.
    -There is a guaranteed refund if it doesn’t work, but you can still lose a lot of money. By the time the contest ends, prices may have risen substantially.

  3. I use flightfox on the regular. Last month I saved $300 when booking a flight from SFO to MAN and this month I saved $320 on a flight from SFO to HKG. Some of the experts are really really really good and you kind of have to be specific and patient if you want the best flights. Here is my coupon code if you are interested

    FYI: the more information the better. dont expect a LAX to JFK on October 1st to suffice. try an include +/- days, alternate airports, specific airlines, etc… the more they have to work with the better

  4. Flightfox is the only website I use for travel these days. I saved $950 on flight (LAX-ORD-ZUR return). The expert I used was able to find better times and a better route than the one I found myself. Very impressed.

    If you want to give it a try, here is a 25% off coupon:

    P.S. the best way to take full advantage of FlightFox is to submit as much info as you can: dates, time, carriers, alliance, layovers, etc… the more the better!

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