Flightfox – Complicated Flight Booking Without a Travel Agent

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Passenger air travel must have one of the most complicated, opaque pricing systems known to man. The price of a ticket depends on date of travel, date of booking, time of arrival, time of departure, one-way or roundtrip, how many seats are left, the price of oil, and who knows what else. I mean, this is an industry that overbooks on purpose because they gamble on how many people will miss their flight, and will start to charge for restroom access by the second any day now.

Sites like Travelocity and Expedia have made buying your own airfare much more simple, but if you’ve every tried to make a complicated booking with an extended layover, open jaw, multiple cities, or international transfers it’s still quite a maze. In the old days you’d ask a travel agent and hope they were good, but now you can ask the crowd at Flightfox.com. Thanks to reader Mike for the tip.

Simply enter your trip details and offer a bounty ($19 minimum) for the best flight booking in your own opinion. In addition to a low price, you may prefer a certain airline, have a lot of baggage, require no stopovers, or be willing to endure extra stopovers if it saves money. Ideally you’d choose the best option, pay the bounty, and walk away with a better result than you’d have gotten otherwise. If you don’t like any of the options, you owe nothing.

If you’re already a savvy frequent flier, then you can sign up and earn money as a Flight Expert deal finder. Flightfox takes 25% of the fee and you keep 75%. According to Techcrunch, about 5-10% are indeed moonlighting travel agents, and the rest are just well-versed travelers.

I definitely plan on trying this the next time I have a multi-city trip. Anyone use it yet?

Update: About to fly? Get 25% off Flightfox with this link!

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  1. Wow – never heard of them. Thanks for the heads-up!

  2. Interesting concept. Thanks for the post!

  3. Have you heard of Personal Capital? http://www.personalcapital.com
    If you have, what are your thoughts about it?

  4. personal capital is similar to mint, good interface, but the end goal is they want to sell you their advice, via personal advisor for a fee

    they will call you non-stop

  5. I have signed up for flightfox as the ‘expert’ a few days ago. I have scored myself a $368 round-the-world ticket in business class (to some extend thanks to you, Jonathan!) and have gotten to know many of the low(er) cost airlines in Africa, South East Asia, Australia, and South America while traveling around. So I thought I would be able to help a few folks out.

    As an expert, I found it to be very time consuming and not rewarding. Even with the higher-payout itineraries (keep in mind that FF keeps 25% to themselves), the time spent is only justifiable as a hobby and not as any sort of way of making an income.

    The people posting the itineraries, on the other hand, seem to have this notion that they are hiring their own travel agent that will look at every flight possible in the world for those $19. And then look at them again and again.

    For example, I spent probably six to eight hours over three days trying to work the Australia-France-Greece-the island-back to Australia itinerary with the requestor alternating dates, changing airports, wanting me to look at options of starting and ending in Abu Dhabi… And in the end, awarded the flight (and the fee) to someone with higher price. And that’s pretty much the 90% of my experience with the site so far.

    I would say I probably spent about 30 or 40 hours on the site, submitted itineraries for about ten contests and won two of them with the grand payout of $63.

    So at this point, I am doing just because I am a bit curious to learn about other airliens I do not know about. Essentially, because I love the airline industry and I want to learn, not because I am making any sort of decent money out of.

    If you decide to use this website (and I do encourage you give it a shot), keep that in mind. You are getting a few passionate folks to HELP you out. Don’t treat them like your slaves just because they have the ‘honor’ to work it for your $19 fee.

  6. @Dima – Thanks for the insights!

  7. I haven’t seen much feedback from users.

    My experience was extremely positive.
    +You can really save BIG. I got 36% off of the Expedia list price and it cost me peanuts compared to the actual ticket price.
    +The expert answered all my questions, even after they got my money. He was timely, professional, etc.
    +The day my contest ended, the guy who found my flight had the lowest price on a quarter of the contests that I read. Here is his link: http://www.flightfox.com?referral=7584 If you use this link and go though him, he automatically enters your contest. I’d guess the situation is similar with other experts.

    But there were drawbacks.
    +/-How well it goes depends on which experts look at your flights. You see the same names consistently winning contests, but there is no way to message them or to ask them for help.
    -You can’t interact with people outside your own contest. There was no way for me to ask about flights being proposed in other contests that were similar to what I wanted.
    -It’s a waste if you just need a simple domestic flight and know how to search for them.
    -There is a guaranteed refund if it doesn’t work, but you can still lose a lot of money. By the time the contest ends, prices may have risen substantially.

  8. Flightfox is the only website I use for travel these days. I saved $950 on flight (LAX-ORD-ZUR return). The expert I used was able to find better times and a better route than the one I found myself. Very impressed.

    If you want to give it a try, here is a 25% off coupon: http://bit.ly/14cv6Il

    P.S. the best way to take full advantage of FlightFox is to submit as much info as you can: dates, time, carriers, alliance, layovers, etc… the more the better!

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