27 Jun The Story of Flystein
A lot of people ask us — why Flystein? What can you do for me that I can’t do for myself? To settle this once and for all, here’s a post from one of our founders Roman on what we do and why we started Flystein in the first place. It’s also important to say upfront that Flystein is everything but yet another automated flight search engine.
Dreaming of Hawaii?
Air travel has become more affordable in the recent years. With the rise of budget airlines and flight search engines, it’s a no-brainer for anyone nowadays to jump on Kayak or Skyscanner to search for tickets and get instant gratification by seeing a flight from London to Barcelona for the price of a dinner.
Things may look less happy for a holiday trip to Hawaii. You were wandering around random flight search sites for exotic gateways and found that getting from Los Angeles to a white sand beach with a palm tree is actually quite affordable.
But when you settle on the dates the reality shows its dark side.
That’s right. It’s the holiday season and everyone wants to get away to the tropics. But at the same time, someone leaving from San Francisco and coming back to San Diego on similar dates can easily take $300 off the price and even fly a better airline.
By taking a short hop on a low-cost carrier from Los Angeles to San Francisco and then from San Diego to Los Angeles can set you back $150 but still save $150 from the original price. The flight search site Kayak may be able to find connections like this when an airline can sell theirs and another partner airline’s flights as one ticket. But what if this trip can be done with two competing airlines?
Let’s look at the numbers
There are about 40 airports in North America that have flights to Honolulu and Los Angeles. One of these airports can be the cheapest connection point for your holiday trip.
For a simple return trip to Hawaii, there can be about 1,600 combinations. Even with all the sophisticated caching algorithms it’s a bit too much for a meta search engine like Kayak or Skyscanner designed to return results within half a minute.
But that’s Hawaii. If we were to look for cheapest connections between Barcelona and Sydney then we might have to go through about 77 million combinations!
There must be a way to make this easier.
There are many factors that can help downsize this multi-million problem to something that a single person can comprehend: personalization (budget, airline preferences, travel class, stopovers, frequent flyer miles), airline fare rules, and best routes.
This is where human-powered common sense can do better than computers. There is no automated flight search engine that can take all of these factors into account when putting together the best itinerary. And as said, some combinations can’t be displayed due to them being ‘out of the box’.
This kind of flight search does involve a certain amount of communication with the client. One of the best ways to get to know the client’s preferences, discuss itineraries and build a trip is to use an online communication platform, like a built-in chat feature.
Flystein, the travel agency for the 21st century, to the rescue
When I met Vlad Protasov, he had already been helping a small group of clients to build the best itineraries for the lowest prices available on the market. I was not new to these ideas either, flying from Australia to Europe and back for under A$800. After a few months of brainstorming, coding and going through the network of flight hackers we launched Flystein where we brought together the best flight experts from around the world.
Flystein experts are hackers. In a good sense. They do not take over control of airplanes by breaking into their entertainment systems. They play a special sport. Hanging out in closed groups of travel enthusiasts they spend most of their free time trying to understand airline’s revenue management strategies, logistics and finding the cheapest places to book tickets.
They get so good at it that every now and then they fly business class half around the world and drink champagne at airline lounges for a few hundred dollars. At Flystein, they use their skills to let others fly with style and save money for a fee.
We have spent a lot of time trying to find the right explanation to why someone would pay another person to search for flights on the Internet which is freely accessible to everyone. That’s why we have introduced two ways to work with the experts.
1. Your personal travel assistant
You write down your preferences, pay the expert fee, and launch a trip request. One of our experts starts working on your request and then comes up with one or more itineraries supported by explanations of how and where to book these tickets. Your expert walks you all the way until you have booked your tickets. And you can be sure the prices are always the lowest. Experts don’t pay extras for their own flights and would not like you to do so either.
In the process, the expert can ask questions to clarify things in the built-in chat. For example, if they see an option few hundred dollars cheaper but on a different day, they will always double check if you would like to adjust your travel dates to save.
2. Beat my price
Works the same as the first option but you don’t pay unless our expert beats your price. This is our tool to fight doubt. When you create a trip request, you specify the price you have just found on your favourite flight search website along with a link that the expert can verify. Our expert keeps this price in mind and if he cannot find any real savings (an option that would be definitely cheaper than your price less the expert fee), you pay nothing and can go ahead and book your flights with the peace of mind, knowing that there is nothing cheaper around.
There is some “fine print” though. When you use “Beat my price” we do authorise your card for the amount of the expert fee. We know that it reduces our conversion rate, but we have to do it to make sure that only genuine requests are lodged and our experts do not work 24/7 for free.
Where to next?
A friend of mine once told me that her university travel agency arranged a conference trip for her from Australia to Europe for almost AU$3000. This is a lot of money for an economy class ticket. To be honest, it would not be easy for me to find a trip this expensive straight away.
We have several clients who have been using Flystein on a regular basis to sort out their travel needs and it has been working great for them. They would struggle to find a travel agency that could guarantee them the best prices without compromising their own business model.
We see Flystein filling this gap for businesses and frequent travellers. Long lasting partnerships would help businesses manage their travel expenses, travellers get their elite frequent flyer statuses faster, and learn how to make their air travel more enjoyable.