I bow down before travelers who know all the tricks for saving money on flights. You know these people: they book different legs of their trips on different airlines and save hundreds. Or they find some obscure flight sale on a carrier’s foreign site and save by paying in euros rather than dollars.
Kudos, my flight-hacking friends. You should go work for Flightfox.
Flightfox is a startup that allows customers to crowdsource their next flight purchase to a team of freelance flight hackers. You name your flight, flexibility, desired layover length, and the fare you want to beat. Flightfox sets up a two-day “contest” for their team of researchers – or “experts” as they’re called – to try and find a cheaper flight that meets your requirements. If they don’t succeed, you get your money back.
After reading reports of travelers saving hundreds on flights, I decided to try Flightfox for an upcoming trip from Orlando to Rio De Janeiro.
I listed my preferences as the following:
- Schedule flexibility: zero
- Cheap flights vs short flights: short all the way
- The best fare I found: $898 on Kayak
- Finder’s fee I was willing to pay: $29 ($39 minus a 25% discount)
My first Flightfox fare came back at $798 but required me to leave a day earlier. My limited flexibility was especially traumatic when I received a flight for the following weekend for a startlingly cheap $698. One researcher found a flight for $818, but it required two layovers on the way out. Meh.
For each flight I could see the itinerary and airline, just like any other search. The instructions on how to book the flight are kept hidden until you award a winner.
Flightfox encourages you to give the experts feedback to better customize their searches. I corresponded with a few but none could find a flight that beat my original fare and matched my preferences.
The night before my contest ended I searched Kayak for the Orlando to Rio flight on a whim. I feared the worst: the $898 flight would be gone, or replaced by one with an extremely long layover.
I found the exact opposite.
There at the top of the list was a $698 flight from Orlando to Rio. My exact dates. Extremely short layovers.
Interestingly the Flightfox researchers never found this rate. Flights were back up to $898 the next day.
I announced on my contest page that I had found a cheaper flight. Flightfox refunded my money a few days later.
Considering Flightfox’s return policy – they’ll only charge you if you find a flight that’s cheaper than your original flight minus the finder’s fee – I’d try it again.
It works best for flyers who:
- Have some flexibility in their schedules.
- Are visiting multiple cities.
- Want to travel with pets or unique luggage like surfboards, instruments, etc. Flightfox’s experts know the ins and outs of each airline’s rules and regulations. Check out this contest for a flight from Zurich to Phalaborwa that must include a flexible return ticket for a chihuahua.
- Are willing to deal with long layovers. This saves big bucks.
A few tips:
- When setting up your contest, post the cheapest flight you would possibly consider. A few researchers found a flight with a 12-hour layover in JFK for $80 less than my fare to beat. I saw the same flight in my search but had initially poo-pooed the long layover. As more flights trickled in I worried this was my cheapest option and considered booking it. I would have been out the $29 finder’s fee, even though I found the same flight on my own.
- Don’t fret if you don’t get a response right away. I received a bulk of replies during the final hours of my contest.
If you want to check out FlightFox, use this link to save 25% on your finder’s fee. Just a heads up that I get a small kickback if you use any of the links in this post to book a flight.