If you hate spending hours looking for the perfect flights at the best price, you’re not alone. With so many flight search engines, so many airports, and so many variables, it can be a huge time-suck just trying to get what you want without paying too much.
I first heard about Flightfox when it was still in the idea stage nearly two years ago. Officially launched earlier this year, it has quickly become the go-to place for providing great deals on flight itineraries. And I’ve saved over $500 using it so far.
How Flightfox Works
First off, Flightfox isn’t a search engine, at least not in the standard way. Instead, it’s a human-powered service that allows experts to help you find the best possible price and itinerary to meet your needs. Unlike a travel agent who gets paid a commission on a sale, experts compete to find the best price for you based on an award you set.
Simply, you create what Flightfox calls a “contest,” which is essentially the itinerary you are looking for. Freelance experts will then see your contest, and compete by using their skills to get you the best deal.
You assign a value for the contest award, from $24 (basic) to $34 (standard), or name your own price. The higher the price you’re willing to pay, the more experts it will attract.
When the contest is up, you award the person who found the best flight to fit your needs, and you book the flight yourself (they tell you how).
Making a Contest
Flightfox and its interface is quite simple. Like a regular flight search engine, you fill in your departure and arrival destination, with one-way, return, and multi-city options available.
Next, you can specify how flexible your itinerary is. For example, maybe you could leave anytime within a 10-day window, but must return by a particular date.
Do you have checked baggage or just carry-on? Do you prefer a particular airline, or are you willing to take ground transportation, or make multiple stops? The more information, the better for the experts.
All in all, it takes about 60 seconds to fill out a contest form.
Over the next 1-3 days, you’ll be notified when an expert submits an itinerary for you. You can update your contest with more information, and grade their submission. The more feedback you give, the better flights they can find for your needs.
My Real World Flightfox Examples
I’ve given Flightfox a try on two itineraries recently.
First was a one-way flight from Kuala Lumpur to Denver one month out back in May. The best I found was a flight on Kayak for $1042. After 3 days, that was the best the experts could find as well. Cue sad face.
- Kayak: $1042
- Flightfox: $1042
(I was out $29 for the award)
I gave Flightfox another chance, and used it to help me find a one-way flight between Saskatoon (Canada) and Barcelona about one month in advance again less than a month ago. Within hours, experts were already submitting itineraries for me.
In the end, here’s what I got for my $24 award:
- Kayak: $1149
- Flightfox: $571
Yes, you read that right, less than half price, a saving of $578.
Not only that, but the expert worked with me to see if we could make an itinerary that might fit my needs a little bit better, even if it would cost a bit more.
The difference in the second itinerary was two-fold. First, there was a charter company who had cheap flights between Canada and Portugal. Second, a low-cost carrier in Europe took me to Barcelona from there (Lisbon).
Both are typically omitted from the typical flight search engines, but the experts knew the tricks and the deals.
One other difference was that when I launched my first contest above (KL –> DEN), there was no option to give a price you had already found. That has now been added, and I wouldn’t have awarded it otherwise.
Where Flightfox Shines
If what you’re looking for is flexible flight options, multi-city itineraries, and areas that include many low-cost carrier options such as Europe and Asia, Flightfox could save you big money.
As well, if you just wanted to fly from New York to “cheapest flight to Europe,” the experts could find the best price for multiple locations.
The more complicated the itinerary, and the more flexible you are, the better Flightfox will be.
On the other hand Flightfox isn’t the answer for all of your flight needs. Basic flights on particular dates are probably just as well served by a regular search engine. Toronto –> Vancouver would be a poor choice for using Flightfox, for instance. There are only a couple of airlines that fly in Canada, and the route is simple.
Flightfox is also best used for people who are a little savvy when it comes to booking flights. Unlike the typical search engine, after awarding the contest, the expert will tell how exactly how to book the itinerary. It may involve buying two or more flights from different airlines.
Finally, for those frequent fliers among us, it appears that Flightfox will offer a service to help you redeem your miles for the best award flights in the near future.
Have you used Flightfox before? Do you have a favourite tip or technique for finding the best flights?
Image via Jan Vašek