Amtrak goes the Hipmunk route with claims of exclusive deal
Update: Although Momondo displays Amtrak fares in its flight-search results, Amtrak spokeswoman Christina Leeds says Amtrak has no relationship with Momondo.
This wouldn’t be the first time Momondo has been accused of obtaining supplier information without authorization. In 2010, the metasearch site was displaying Southwest Airlines data without authorization.
In addition, Leeds characterizes its presence in Hipmunk as a “test.”
“Hipmunk offers Amtrak the opportunity to have train schedules compared alongside flights, allowing us to test this program in a short-term exclusive relationship,” Leeds says.
Meanwhile, Hipmunk is still working out the kinks in its display of Amtrak trips which are Wi-Fi enabled, with the verbiage referring to them as a “Wi-Fi Enabled Flight” and noting that “malfunction and plane swaps possible.”
The Wi-Fi glitch has since been corrected and the images now say, “Wi-Fi Enabled Train” and “Wi-Fi available under normal circumstances, but malfunction or train swaps possible.”
The original post follows:
Now it’s trains versus planes on Hipmunk.
The travel metasearch site began displaying Amtrak schedules and fares interspersed with flight results.
So for a Washington, D.C., to Boston flight search filtered by price on Oct. 8 to 15, you can see the Amtrak schedules for a $140 roundtrip fare beneath some lower-priced AirTran (depicted in purple with Wi-Fi symbols) and JetBlue flights.
Hipmunk and Amtrak are characterizing the deal as an “exclusive partnership,” saying in a joint announcement that “Hipmunk is the first and only U.S. consumer travel site to include Amtrak train results with airline segments.”
Emmett Fremaux, Amtrak’s vice president of marketing and product development, even goes so far as to say: “We are excited to partner with Hipmunk as this is the first time our train trips will appear alongside flights on travel search sites.”
Fremaux’s statement is not true and Hipmunk’s boast about exclusivity is somewhat misleading [see Update above] and may depend on what your definition is of a U.S. consumer travel site.
Consumers using Hipmunk can take advantage of its various filters, including its Agony sorting, when looking for flights and Amtrak options.
When consumers opt to use Hipmunk’s Agony filter in the Washington to Boston example cited above, the Amtrak schedules are pushed lower, with train travel seemingly considered a more agonizing choice.
The Amtrak fares and schedules also will be shown in Hipmunk’s iPhone, iPod touch and iPad applications.
Hipmunk displays most of the details of the Amtrak trip, including the price, origin and destination stations, train changes, layovers and whether the train has Wi-Fi.
To book the train trip, consumers select “Buy on Amtrak” and complete the booking on Amtrak.com.
Amtrak didn’t immediately respond to questions about why it chose Hipmunk for the so-called exclusive U.S. partnership and not a larger or more-established brand.
Kayak, meanwhile, says it has no plans to display train schedules and fares in the U.S. market, but does so in Europe.
Hipmunk and Amtrak kicked off a Train Trak Photo Contest on Facebook to promote the partnership.
Users will submit photos of trains and train stations etc., the finalists’ photos will be posted on Facebook and they will receive credits toward Amtrak trips.
Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.