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Flightfox Review: Airfare Hacking Made Easy

When I posted my tips for finding cheap airfares a few months ago, many of you were surprised at how complex the process was. And, I totally agree with you. I’d estimate I could spend up to at least 20+ hours whenever I need to research and book a flight somewhere.

For me though, it’s all in good fun. I love the challenge of finding a good airfare and dreaming about the different places I can go. However I get that not all of you are quite as crazy as I am.

This brings me to a new service I recently came across. Flightfox is a relatively new venture which allows you to work closely with an airfare searching “expert” to help you find the cheapest flights available. I was definitely intrigued when I heard about it, and had to try it out.

The opportunity to finally do so arose recently, when I needed to get from Manila to New York. It’s a route I’ve never flown before, and as I was booking last minute, I figured I could use some help. Time to see what the kids at Flightfox can do!

First thing I needed to was simply describe my trip and submit it. I gave them a range of around 3 days as I was semi-flexible, and described my route. Then I paid the one-off fee: $49.

Within an hour I was introduced to my ‘flight expert’.

airfare hacking, find cheap airfare, flightfox review

Within another hour, he had something for me:

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In the end, it was just a simple Kayak search result he sent me, nothing I couldn’t have done myself. However, until that time I had been limiting my search to Skyscanner, which hadn’t actually found this option. So it was actually cheaper than what I had found myself.

And while the result itself wasn’t some super-hacked airfare, I was impressed with how thorough their search was. I would never have time to search over 100 websites, and have also never considered buying frequent flyer miles before – quite a good tip I’ll look into in the future.

Then, I needed a date change. Luckily he was totally cool with this:

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Again, despite not getting me a super cheap airfare at this stage, I was impressed with the thorough search they did, certainly more thorough than I’ve ever done, and I do my fair share of airfare searches.

After a day or so, we found something decent:

Unfortunately, the price went up before I could book it (airfare prices change very often, especially last minute fares).

We chatted for a while about other options and the likelihood of the price coming down again (I won’t post it all here), but we concluded it would be prudent to wait a day or two. Luck was on our side:

ff5

I booked the recommended flight, and then decided to pick his brain for a bit. How often do you get to chat with an airfare hacker?

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And get some expert tips for my eventual flight back to New Zealand:

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As you can see, you can definitely learn a lot from these guys!

Verdict

Overall, I really enjoyed having an expert to work with. The flight they eventually found for me wasn’t anything exceptionally hard to find – it was just from a simple flight search engine, but it was a good flight and had I not had someone looking out for it, I very possibly would’ve missed it.

It was also very clear to me that these guys knew exactly what they were doing. They have scripts running so they can scour hundreds of sites within minutes, and seem to know a ton of little hacks as we saw above. I’m 99% sure I wouldn’t be able to find cheaper flights than these guys (same price maybe, but cheaper, no).

But to me, the real value in Flightfox wasn’t actually in the money saving – it was the time saving. On a flight that I probably would’ve spent 20 hours+ fiddling around to find on search engines, I needed to spend barely an hour checking in with my expert and getting updated. On top of that, there’s the comfort in knowing you have an airfare search expert working behind the scenes finding you the cheapest flight possible.

When to use Flightfox?

Using Flightfox won’t be necessary on all flights – for simple flights, such as Auckland to Sydney or Singapore to Bangkok, everyone should be more than capable of finding a cheap flight themselves. Where there are direct routes, finding hacks isn’t really possible, and you should be able to get what you need by using a simple search engine like Skyscanner. If you’re in doubt how to do it, check out my guide to using Skyscanner to find cheap flights.

Instead, consider Flightfox if you have a rather complicated itinerary that has the potential to be expensive. For example:

  • You’re doing multi-city trips, like Hong Kong to Rio with a stopover in Paris.
  • You’re flying a route that has many possible routes (e.g. Asia to South America)
  • You’re flying between two places with no direct flights available (e.g. Auckland to Paris)
  • You’re flying to a place you’ve never been and the route is expensive and/or long-haul.
  • You’re doing a round-the-world trip (just check out this in-house contest where they covered 6 continents for $1,700!)

The fee for using a flight expert starts at $49 (prices goes up for more destinations). I honestly think this service offers exceptional value. Spending $50-$100 on a Flightfox expert to get an itinerary for thousands less than your travel agent – seems like a no-brainer to me.

If you’ve been looking for a way to outsource your airfare search, don’t know how to search for cheap airfares, or simply can’t be bothered doing it yourself, Flightfox has a definite thumbs up from me.

Click here to visit the Flighfox website.

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Note: I paid in full for my Flightfox service. You can read my Disclosure Policy here.

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26 thoughts on “Flightfox Review: Airfare Hacking Made Easy

  1. Hi Bren,

    Saving time is the way to go even if you pay a premium. Super smart service here and smart points too.

    I recall my GF Kelli finding a flight from Chennai to NYC, and back, for $690. That is not a typo. We paid for it, in terms of layovers, but not too much because we had plenty of blog posts and articles to write for our pro blogging businesses. Worked out perfectly. Yes, again, that was a round trip for under $700, for each person.

    She looked around for a bit; researching takes time and energy. Like you she enjoys this process but it pays to offer money for a service which has a team of folks and algorithms working like champions to find the best price. You can’t get back time but you can always make more money.

    I impress that idea on my mind more and more each day, blogging from paradise, because travelers are often the busiest folks on earth….especially full time pro blogger travelers, like ourselves.

    Pay someone to save you time. Makes sense to me. They can see combinations you may not be able to see and they can mine data it’d take you a long time to mine.

    Leveraging.

    Thanks Bren, tweeting this Flightfox post now.

    Signing off from Savusavu, Fiji.

    Ryan

  2. Several years ago, I used to work as an airline reservations specialist. We didn’t advise jumping out of the airport on the first leg of your flight on a round trip ticket as this may render your return flight invalid for not showing up on your connecting flight. If you are planning to not take your connecting flight, make sure you are booked one way only. But then again, this rule may vary from airline to airline, best to always check with them.

  3. When flightfox make mistakes they run and hide like rabbits to avoid a negative rating. Keeps them looking good. They mislinked me to the wrong date and it led to all kinds of hassles and problems. Cost me more than just booking directly. Its a good idea but not done well in practice. Like you said they led you to kayak and me to orbitz. Nothing special for $145.

    1. Sucks you had a bad experience. Of course, they won’t get it right 100% of the time. I’ve used them a few times and it’s always been good. It’s also not always that the fare is difficult to find, but that they save you so much time in finding it. I had no issue with them sending me to Kayak, as I rarely check Kayak anyway. Thanks for sharing your experience nonetheless.

  4. They’re mostly okay. Don’t expect to get 300$ transatlantic flights or anything like that, though.

    FF does help people who aren’t too familiar with flight booking (you don’t know what an end on end or a back to back ticket is? Yes, they might be able to help you) or simply don’t want to bother. If you know your ways around airfares even a little bit, it’s not likely you’ll save a lot of money, if any at all.

    Flightfox is what a good travel agency should be but hardly ever is. It can, however, be a good idea for very complicated multi stops or round the world fares, as these tend to become a real bitch pretty quickly. Wouldn’t spend the money on a simple double open-jaw.

  5. I just had a less than positive experience with them after having a pretty good experience with them last year. This just went down so we will see how they respond to my negative rating. I don’t have a feeling they will be accountable for the ways in which they didn’t sufficiently render satisfactory services to me this time around. Not sure I will use them again unless they are able to step up. It took my advisor almost 10 days to finally get me options I wanted. And each time I emailed him it would take him almost 24 hours to get back to me each time. So, naturally, flight costs went up in that time. Total bummer.

    1. Interesting, thanks for sharing. It’s been about a year since I used them so I’m not sure if the level of service is the same. Will have to give them another try and update this.

  6. Im pretty sure this is a paid review.. Heres my experience:

    Alright here is my experience and what i think of how customers are treated on flightfox. I put my request in for a flight from from SYD – BRU (29/06/2015). I was without any say in it, given a guy as an ‘expert’ who read my request and probably just accepted it and slept on it. after 24 hours i get a msg that he has started working on my flight and will get back to me in about an hour with an itinerary. 10 minutes later i get an email that he could not find anything for me and that i was on my own. No communication no emails nothing, just a refund. So i think how they work is, if they can find a flight they get your money just by searching on flight search engines, if they cant they give your money back. Later i emailed the apparent founder of the website on the service. He did his search and from what he told me, the moron who was my expert could not work out that if i gave only one date on my request, that means its a ONE WAY request. I guess u need another kind of expertise to understand that, which is common sense. So the short of it, do not rely on these guys because you may be left hanging while the fares you found are gone too, like in my case. The best part is, now in every reply to my email the apparent owner kept forcing this idea onto me that im best to just buy the ticket i found myself, even though i wasnt even asking them for another try. i guess they just avoid any challenge and want to make easy money. so be careful if you dont have much time or if you see a good fare, just grab it, instead waiting for 2 days for these guys only to get an email back that they cant help.

    PS: im willing to verify my claims via emails if anyone interested.

    1. So you go on a blog and the first thing you do is attack the author’s credibility then use this space as your own soapbox? Who’s to say your review isn’t equally bogus?

      As for your experience, sounds like they didn’t charge you a cent which is completely reasonable. I’ve also had Flightfox requests where they couldn’t help and I’m more than appreciative I got a second pair of eyes to look at my trip for free.

    2. Hi Sarabjeet, Todd from Flightfox here.

      I’m very sorry you had a poor experience, but we really tried our best to find the right flights and we promise to make improvements in the areas you suggested (e.g. more frequent updates).

      To put this in context, you asked for a US$1.5k business class flight from SYD-BRU, while most economy flights are similarly priced. We spent many hours conducting this search for you for free. We didn’t charge you a cent at any time.

      I absolutely agree we should have given you more updates, but it’s disingenuous to suggest your expert didn’t know it was one-way. Of course he did, it was me (in reaction to your support email) who misread the request after a simple skim. I apologized immediately, and corrected my response.

      We have come a very long way since Bren’s review. (Btw, thanks for the honest review, Bren.) I’m the first to admit we struggled to find the right balance back then between customers and experts, but we’ve worked hard every day to now make sure EVERY paying customer gets good value.

      I talk about this in a lot more detail as a response to Sarabjeet’s same complaint on Travel.StackExchange: http://travel.stackexchange.com/questions/27559/is-there-a-guarantee-that-flightfox-com-will-be-cheaper-than-other-booking-metho.

      There are no good excuses for us making customers unhappy (even free customers) and I know to say “we’re trying” isn’t good enough, but our experts are super smart and genuinely good people who work their asses off. To call them morons after they spent hours working for you for free is unnecessary.

      Best, todd.

      1. You’re already being too nice Todd. I had a good experience with you guys and continue to recommend you and stand by this review. Cheers. Thanks for taking the time to add your side of the story here too.

    3. Didn’t you post your exact “review” on travel stack exchange already? I see that Todd from flightfox gave you a pretty good reply there.
      Honestly, if someone posts the same exact (word-by-word) review on several platforms, its either someone who gets paid to post bad reviews, a competitor or someone who is totally pissed off.

      I also see it really troubling that you did not mention at all why your expert didn’t find you any flights. Todd wrote, you wanted “business class flights SYD-BRU for AUD2k (USD1.5k)”, is that the case? How did you come up with that budget? Did you check for flights yourself on kayak / with a travel agency? If that is the case, I’m sure they told you already that this budget is out of any reason.
      You could have also requested flights for 300$ oneway in economy and be angry if they don’t find you anything.
      Here is what I take from your review:
      You wanted flights for a budget that is nowhere near possible and you got upset because your expert couldn’t find you anything after as Todd said: “His expert worked his ass off”, so you got a free search, didn’t have to pay a single $ and you are still upset?
      Is it just me or are you complaining about a free service?

      I’m not quite sure how searching for cheaper flights work, I mean, there must be a trick, otherwise flightfox and other websites wouldn’t exist if anyone could do it. I’m sure its not just going on several booking website, otherwise the search would be done within seconds and flightfox & co wouldn’t have any customers anymore.
      So searching for cheaper flights (cheaper than on kayak & co) takes time, if you don’t have that time, then a service powered website where real humans are involved is nothing for you, you need to rely on automatic systems (like kayak) then.
      I guess also when you are time sensitive (last minute travel) or you saw an unbelievable deal that is much cheaper than anything else you should pull the trigger on that ticket, its like you see a nice Dodge Challenger on sale but you know there are only a few left, now you write an email to several car dealers asking them if they can find anything cheaper. By the time they reply the original Challenger on sale is already sold out, are you angry at the car dealers now, too for being so slow even thou you asked them for their business and opinion?

      1. Saabi sounds like the type of “customer” who walks into a store, demands your time and attention and prods you for your expertise, then says “I can get this cheaper online” and walks out. Anyone who works in retail will sure know what I’m talking about.. !

  7. As far as their “secret strategies”, I think they are full of hot air. They do nothing else by browsing the online resources available to everybody else.

    1. While the resources are available to everyone, not everyone has the knowledge or time to use them. Everything a travel agent uses is available online to everyone also.

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