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.

Screengrab of Flightfox contest

The initial result of my Flightfox contest. I was able to click on each flight and see the carrier and times, just like any other search.

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.

Booked.

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.

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