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505 days ago
 

WhichAirline reboots with Hipmunk-style visual flight search

For years, European metasearch flight booking engine WhichAirline.com has struggled to gain traction with users, experimenting with interface tweaks like open-date search and marketing strategies like spreading cute infographics around the social web.

GIven that flight metasearch is a crowded market—with Skyscanner, CheapFlights and Momondo leading in Europe—WhichAirline has had to settle for facilitating about 11,000 bookings a year.

Now the Czech startup is hoping that a Hipmunk-style visual flight search interface will catapult it ahead.

Yesterday, the company, which is headquartered in Brno, Czech Republic, officially launched the complete overhaul of its interface.

Now when users search for flights, they see a limited number results (usually between 3 and 10 results) and they must click a button if they want to see more results.

Visual graphs allow users to instantly see which flights are direct and compare flight duration and stopovers for those which are not.

WhichBudget orders results by price to duration ratio.

The company says it include virtually all of the low cost carriers, including Ryanair and Wizz Air.

Noticeably similar interface

We asked WhichAirline for their thoughts on Hipmunk, a startup that popularized graph-based flight search and the concept of only showing a few flights rather than pages and pages of listings of often duplicate and unattractive flights.

We received this response from marketing director Petra Vaškových:

As for Hipmunk – we really like the same idea – to use graphs to find the best flights and use visual interface.

However, Hipmunk seems a bit difficult to understand at first glance according to us – there are too many little graphs and as they are located according to the departure time it is also hard to compare the duration quickly.

At WhichAirline.com you can compare the duration immediately.

We also try to make the choice as easy as possible – so by default you only get the best results (on average, 5-10 depending on route).

Nobody is going to choose a $1,000 flight if there is a $100 alternative. We divide the results into several different groups and by default only show a handful of the best results – it is much easier to choose from those that we preselect for you.

Moreover, we also offer to search for flights without dates. It can be surprising but there are many people that are looking for the list of companies that operate selected route without dates.

In flight details we also show the checked baggage allowance which can be quite handy if you don’t know that you have to pay for a checked baggage when travelling with specific airline.

You be the judge

Is Which Airline a re-skin of a concept originated in California? In other words, is it a Czech Hipmunk?

Or is WhichAirline actually solving problems unique to Europe, having studied competitors like Hipmunk to see what had worked for them and what didn’t and then adjusting those lessons to its local markets?

The answers to these questions may be in the eye of the beholder. But one thing is certain: Unless WhichBudget funds a marketing campaign or word-of-mouth effort that to promotes their service to new users, none of the changes matter.

It could learn some marketing-related lessons from Hipmunk, which  has been quite effective at getting the US tech press talking about it, and has hired a PR pro to help full time.

The California startup is also rumored to have spent loads of money to improve the chances that using search engines for flight information might try their site.

In fact, WhichBudget and Hipmunk both have something in common: Once they get customers in the door to book flights, they each have to find a way to sell them other things which will actually be profitable, because commissions on flights are a low-margin proposition.

In the past six month, Hipmunk has experimented with paid services for businesses and a revamped hotel search tool. (It is focusing on hotels because hotel chains generally offer higher commissions to metasearch companies than airlines do for flights.)

Will WhichAirline learn similar lessons?

whichairline.com hipmunk metasearch visual graph tnooz

 
 
Sean O'Neill

About the Writer :: Sean O'Neill

Sean O’Neill is a London-based reporter for Tnooz. He's also a regular contributor to BBC Travel.

Follow him on Twitter, Google+, and his personal site .

 

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  1. Psycho

    Hipmunk style is not only about visual interface but also about some “agony” and “ecstasy” issues. And, of course, WhichAirline doesn’t have a cute chipmunk mascot. :)

     
  2. Steve

    Wow, that is so slow! If you don’t put in any dates they seem to just guess a price and then refer you to the airlines website. if you do put in a date it’s one of the slowest flight searches I’ve ever seen.

    Yes it’s visually different.
    Yes there’s something to be said for making times, stopovers etc really nice and clear for users.

    But you can make flight search easy to use, filter etc without totally changing the design paradigm that users are used to. I think these guys and Hipmunk will either trip up or will survive but just won’t get the chunk of the market that their investors are going to be expecting them to… which equals pressure for startups.

     
    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Steve, Those are great insights. Much obliged.

       
    • Barbora Nevosadova

      Hi Steve, thanks for your comments. Website speed is one of the issues we are aware of and we are working on it.
      The new interface is based on many hours of user testing and initial data suggest that it was a good move. Perhaps it’s time to change the users’ habits.

       
  3. Alex Kremer

    Shouldn’t we be crediting ITA Software for the original chart-based flight search interface? I am quite sure Matrix was live before Hipmunk…

     
    • Sean O'Neill

      Sean O'Neill

      Alex,
      Excellent point!
      Yes, visual search was pioneered as the “graphical view” of ITA Software, complete with time bars.
      Once again, imitation is apparently the sincerest form of flattery.

      Thanks for noting that!
      Sean

       
    • Daniele Beccari

      Yes “re-skin of a concept originated in Boston” would be more accurate.

      At the end, you can put lipstick on the pig, comprehensive results and fares are what matters for mainstream.

       
 
 

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