Why consumers don’t trust ‘flight deal’ sites — And how Hitlist is different

Travel Disruption Summit Guest Blog

Editorial Note: Gillian Morris has been selected as the moderator guiding the “Discovery Roundtable” at the Travel Disruption Summit, a one-day symposium bringing together thought leaders in the travel industry to New York City on May 23rd. During the event, participants will discuss the opportunities for innovation at each phase of a traveler’s experience, including the early stages of when they first are discovering their destination.

Hitlist inspires and enables you to travel more by sending smart, proactive alerts for when to book trips you want to take.

Why is this important? Because today’s flight search engines are excellent if you know exactly where and when you want to travel, and you need to book right now… but not for any other kind of trip.

Many trips (we estimate up to 25%) are somewhat flexible on date or destination. Would-be travelers think: “I’d like to go to Bali someday,” or, “I’d like to travel somewhere warm during my kids’ spring break.”

More often, probably 50% of the time, there are the trips we know are coming up but don’t necessarily need to book right now: “I have to go to Vegas for the Arival conference,” or, “I plan to go to Missouri for my brother’s wedding.” Arival is in September, so the chance that there will be a fare sale on flights to Las Vegas between now and then is quite high. Presumably, I’ll save money if I wait.

Here’s an example of fluctuations in one fare (in this case, round trip from San Francisco to Reykjavik, Iceland) in the 90 days leading up to departure: if I booked 76 days in advance, I’d be paying more than $100 more than if I booked just 24 days before travel.

Hitlist is built for these 75% of trips: the ones that are flexible on date, location, or time of booking. You enter in the parameters for your trip — being as broad or as specific as you like — and we’ll alert you when prices drop.

Instead of you spending time searching and wondering whether you’re getting a good deal, Hitlist combs through tens of millions of fares every day, identifies the ones that are relevant to you, and helps you save 40%+ by booking at the optimal time.

Fare alerts and deal newsletters have been around since the early days of online booking, and they’ve enjoyed some success. Most OTAs, metasearch engines, and airlines send out a newsletter. Travelzoo built a hundred-million dollar business on this simple formula. But their success has been limited by certain product shortcomings that Hitlist is primed to overcome.

The first problem of most fare alerts is that they’re not targeted, or not targeted enough. Email newsletters typically send a broad selection of alerts from different origin airports to wherever is cheapest. Hitlist sends you only fares from your home airports (you can specify up to ten origin airports if you live between a few), and only to destinations that you have said you want to know about, so there’s high signal to noise. We use machine learning to examine users’ behavior in the app and get better at delivering the absolute best deals for you.

The second problem with existing fare alerts is that they’re often untrustworthy. How many times have you seen a clickbait-y subject line like ‘$49 jetBlue nationwide fare sale!’ only to open the email and find that the sale is applicable only from Buffalo to Washington DC, and even then is borderline impossible to find? Consumers are excited enough by the idea of a good deal that they’ll keep clicking, but not enough people believe they can reliably plan travel this way for fare alerts to catch on on a large scale.

Hitlist verifies each deal is available immediately before we send it, so if you get a notification, you can trust you’ll actually find what you were looking for.

The final problem extends beyond fare alerts to the entire travel planning ecosystem: lack of social integration. 85% of trips are taken either with, or to visit, family or friends — yet no large travel planning tool makes it easy to coordinate travel with your social group. Hitlist makes it easy to see where your friends live, have been, and want to go. You can share trips you’re planning with friends and keep watch for deals together. We’ve seen conversion increase 56% when people have personal context on a city (a friend who lives, has been, or wants to go there).

People love to travel, but they don’t love booking travel. Hitlist makes it easy to get to the fun parts of planning — exploring, connecting with friends, getting a good deal — and saves you the pain that is searching for fares yourself.

Download Hitlist to find the best flight deals, tailored just for you.

Apply to attend the Travel Disruption Summit to hear more from Gillian Morris and other figures currently impacting how travel is experienced.