Kayak pairs one-way flights into Hacker Fares
In search of flight savings and more choice, Kayak’s search results will now sometimes include Hacker Fares — pairs of one-way flights from different airlines to create a discounted roundtrip.
Although these flights will be presented as a roundtrip, these Hacker Fares aren’t interline fares — each leg must be booked separately on the airline or online travel agency website.
Hacker Fares were rolled out today on Kayak.com only for domestic and international fares.
Robert Birge, Kayak’s chief marketing officer, declined to address any plans to introduce the new feature on any of Kayak’s international or partner sites.
Birge says Kayak will show Hacker Fares when:
- They are substantially the lowest-price itinerary;
- They are the lowest fares in a time slot;
- The Hacker Fares save time; or
- They add an airline.
Kayak will not display Hacker Fares as two one-way fares on the same airline, and it also won’t show Hacker Fares as connecting flights, Birge says.
On a Chicago O’Hare to New York JFK roundtrip search, departing Sept. 1 and returning Sept. 6, Kayak displays a Hacker Fare of $217 for a 6:05 p.m. Delta Air Lines departure Sept. 1 and a 7:38 a.m. return Sept. 6. on JetBlue. (As Kayak notes, the Delta leg actually is from Delta Connection and operated by Mesaba Airlines.)
When you click “Select,” Kayak explains that you would have to book the $126 Delta Connection flight on Delta.com and then the $91 JetBlue flight on JetBlue.com.
Kayak provides the links to both airline websites for bookings.
The Hacker Fares also may include one-way fares with a stop.
The Hacker Fares appear to provide more choice for travelers and some savings, which can be seen if you do the same search on Bing Travel.
Kayak powers flight search on Bing Travel, but hasn’t introduced Hacker Fares on Bing Travel.
Both sites showed the lowest roundtrip as $210 on Delta. But, while Kayak.com displays Delta-JetBlue Hacker Fare for $217, Bing Travel’s next lowest fare was a $229 JetBlue roundtrip.
So, on Kayak.com the savings on the base fare was $12 and it added a time slot not shown on Bing Travel.
Kayak explains the new feature in a blog post:
A few savvy travelers know a little trick for finding deals. Sometimes buying two one-way fares on separate airlines can turn out to be cheaper than the best roundtrip price. But finding these ‘holes in the matrix’ isn’t so easy. Basically you have to search travel sites over and over to find these deals.
The blog post says Hacker Fares — and Kayak has applied for a trademark — are the “brainchild” of the company’s chief scientist, Giorgos Zacharia, and his team.
“I’ve saved hundreds of dollars for my family with this approach over the years, so we thought we’d make this type of searching available to non-hackers, as well,” the blog post quotes Zacharia as saying.
Many sites and airlines sell one-way fares.
Birge says Kayak thus accesses one-way fares from multiple data sources and puts them together into two one-way fares for a roundtrip.
Kayak does this by “running the additional query approach simultaneously and presenting those fares that add cheaper or different options and doing it quickly and accurately.”
So Kayak is merely consolidating one-way fares that are widely available into roundtrip options that normally would take a lot of manual searching and skill to find.
It remains to be seen how airlines will react to Kayak’s Hacker Fares.
Delta, for example, has barred metasearch sites from displaying interline flights under the Delta brand, and also has prohibited online travel agencies from selling Delta’s flights on metasearch websites.
“These are not interline fares,” Birge points out. “An interline fare is one roundtrip booking on separate airlines, but one booking whether fulfilled by an OTA or airline. Hacker Fares are separate, one-way fares so if someone books this with a Delta one-way fare, they would have to book at Delta.com and the other one-way fare from another provider.”
Birge adds: “We would be showing Delta one-way fares that they are selling here if they showed up.”
Delta was looking into the new feature and didn’t have an immediate comment.
Dennis Schaal was North American editor for Tnooz.