With so many travel sites out there, finding affordable flights has never been easier – it’s usually coordinating them that’s a pain … until now.
Douglas Deming and Ela Bader are both very passionate travellers. The couple met at Burning Man before doing an eight-month back-packing trip through South America and on the way back to their home in San Fransisco, they had stop-overs in Columbia, Panama, West Virginia, Red Oak, California and more.
“We found out that combining multiple flights was truly the best way to book cheap flights and add extra destinations to our trip. We really realized how significant stop-overs could be if they were done properly,” says Deming.
But your average traveller tends to avoid stop-overs (stops lasting more than 24 hours) because it’s just so much work to coordinate them into your trip manually from the various flights available through sites like Expedia, Travelocity and others. It might even take an entire spreadsheet just to write out your destinations and decide on the various stopovers available as you calculate the cost of the cheapest flights from the myriad of options.
The Power of a Travel Agent at Your Fingertips
Knowing this, Deming and Bader combined their travel experience with their computer programming and technical troubleshooting expertise to do all that planning for you. It’s called AirWander and it’s a flight search engine that, through a proprietary algorithm and technical wizardry, suggest cheap or, in some cases, free stop-overs (stops lasting more than 24 hours) on the way to your final destination. You can even select a number of cities and AirWander will find you the best route to them all. Plus, if you type in “Anywhere” into the destination field, AirWander will give you a number of countries to choose from.
“We find that currently a lot of travellers are connecting flights manually, so we’re addressing the pain point right when people are doing that because I think it has become easy enough to search for flights and possible to combine flights manually, but it takes so much time that people don’t often do it,” says Deming.
“We have tons of people come up to us and say that they’ve tried coming flights manually, but are glad we’re making it so easy. It has been great to see so many who have combined flights manually in the past get excited that there’s now an easier option.”
Don’t Wander Too Far
But one thing AirWander doesn’t do is plan the rest of your vacation. You will not find the same price comparison of hotels or rental cars according to the destinations or stop-overs in your itinerary. Bader and Deming did program those features into an earlier iteration of AirWander, known as QuestOrganizer, but after participation in a start-up accelerator and a previous round of seed funding, those features were dropped. AirWander is also not available as a mobile app and can only be used through the web browser on either your phone or desktop, which makes usability a little more clunky and a little less responsive or tactile than similar search portals.
There is a larger, very similar service based out of the UK that employs over 770 people in ten offices around the world called SkyScanner.net, which is also available as a mobile app. Not only does SkyScanner compare flight prices, with included stop-overs and multi-city trip-planning, but it also does the same for car rentals and hotels, so why didn’t Air Wander continue down this path?
“At that time we were making a decision on whether or not to include hotels, rental cars and tours or to really focus on what we were doing well, which was the combing flights. We decided to focus on the latter. So a year later, here we are with a much more functional platform that can do so much more than our first. Our first was designed by us and very difficult to use,” says Deming.
However, the team discovered that 83 per cent of users had included a stop-over. The algorithm had advanced enough to predict cost and when it did predict the cost to be less, the cost was over 45 per cent less when airlines were combined.
Kiwi.com (formerly known as SkyPicker) is another multi-city flight search engine (no hotels or rental car options on this one either) that has prices listed as even cheaper than SkyScanner. However, neither SkyScanner nor SkyPicker have AirWander’s “Anywhere Option” where it will suggest the countries to visit and then once you pick them, it will do the rest.
Flying into the Future
Travel industry intelligence companies, such as Travelport and OAG report that over 90 per cent of travellers would add another destination to their trip if that addition cost the same or less than a standard flight, so the idea of being able to seamlessly book trips with stopovers that are cheap and plentiful is certainly the wave of the future.
But one of the dangers of booking so many flights at once is that your bags are never guaranteed to come with you to all your destinations. This is something both Bader and Deming hope to address in the next version of AirWander.
“We want to add new features to our site, including user accounts. Eventually we want to add visa information and user information – things that will make travel easier for our users. We have some bigger plans for the future, but those are going to be the steps that we’re doing now.”
They also need seed funding in addition to the $25,000 USD they’ve already received. Potential investors can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.