I’m at the Passenger Experience Conference in Seattle today and just listened to James Seidman speak. He’s a senior account executive at Google for its travel products and brought up the example of Hipmunk’s “Agony” filter as a way that companies are working to simplify the consumer experience to provide better results. Hipmunk automatically takes into account not just the price of a ticket but also the pain of inconvenient departure times, connections, and so on.
I first reviewed Hipmunk years ago when this blog started and commented on how cool it is that Hipmunk provides its customers tools like this to make sense of the huge number of search results customers have to sift through to find the flight they want. They have some other cool features like a “heat map” for nearby amenities when trying to pick a hotel.
Here are the Hipmunk search results for a trip from Seattle to London later this month. Notice that results are not sorted exclusively by price. Some higher fares float to the top because they are more convenient. (Ignore the super cheap fare on Air Canada. That’s a mistake and can’t be booked when you click through.)
Often when people email asking for help, they usually know what they want. The issue is that they are overwhelmed and want someone else to make the decision for them. Hipmunk makes that easier to do yourself.
I really like using ITA Matrix to perform my flight searches, but I don’t pretend it works for everyone. I’m used to seeing tons of results and picking through them in my mind. Here are the results from the same search using ITA. Notice that Hipmunk didn’t invent “time bars” — they use ITA’s software to help perform their searches and copied this feature. But ITA Matrix sorts by price only and includes a lot of duplicate results that are really just code shares for the same itinerary.
Google Flights recently updated its user interface to filter results just like Hipmunk does. It doesn’t do it quite the same way. Notice that it has a separate section at the top for “Best Flights” and then a second section below for the rest. But it still filters out a lot of duplicates and itineraries that are merely similar versions, perhaps with a different connecting flight but the same over-water segment. (Again, ignore the super cheap mistake.)
Given the greater speed of Google Flights, the fact that it now owns ITA Matrix, and probably has a ton of extra financing to throw at this project, I’m always excited to see how the service evolves.
Where it might start to get creepy is if — correction, when — Google starts to take into account my email, search habits, and other profile information to suggest itineraries. Is this necessarily bad? Maybe they’ll realize I have American Airlines elite status and automatically filter out Delta and United from the results. Now that would be intelligent travel search.