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REVIEW of Travel Sites: Hipmunk, SeatGuru, Kayak and Apple’s Secret iTravel App

For my day job, I work in the aerospace industry. In fact, I work with in-flight entertainment. So I tend to come across a lot of travel sites dealing with the passenger experience (from booking to in-flight). There are a few great sites out there that are beginning to gain some traction but you still may not have heard of them.

In this post, I’ve decided to part with some of my wisdom and share the secret. Also, please share any travel sites that you find useful in the comments. Thanks!

Hipmunk was started by Adam Goldstein and Steve Huffman (of fame). The idea is simple. They believe that searching online for flights and hotels is a cumbersome process, in large part due to the interface and design of popular travel sites. So they set out to build something that makes searching, browsing and filtering search results easier. The result is The site uses Orbitz links to actually book the tickets. So Hipmunk just helps you find what you are looking for faster.

Here’s what I like:

  • Tabbed Searches – Meaning you can run multiple searches at once using tabs. No more opening multiple tabs in the browser or multiple browser windows (does anyone still do that anyways?).
  • Multiple and Non-standard Sorting Options – They have standard options for sorting like “Price”, but they also have options such as Duration, Departure, Arrival and Agony. The Agony sorting option takes into account various factors and sorts by the amount of agony a given flight inflicts.
  • Very Fast – Finding a flight that fit my pretend itinerary really was quite fast and easy.

What I don’t like:

  • Transaction Happens Off-site – The transaction is actually completed on another site like I didn’t like having to leave Hipmunk and complete my purchase on another site. This is a plus though if you typically like to use sites like Orbitz or Expedia to research and then buy direct from the airline.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Ever wonder whether or not you’ll have in-flight entertainment? Or if the seat you are reserving is a good or bad seat? If so, then SeatGuru, by TripAdvisor is about to be your best friend. To find out what your plane will be like, all you need is an airline name and flight number. You can also look-up the entire fleet information by airline.

What I like about it:

  • Very Detailed Information – The color-coded graphic is loaded with great information about the plane and which seats are good and which are bad.
  • Info on In-flight Amenities – Quickly see what’s offered: Internet, food, power to the seat, entertainment, etc. Also, you can find information about how much the amenities cost.

What I don’t like:

  • Not Always Accurate – I’ve found that the information is not always 100% correct.
  • Flight Not in System – I have also found that my flight number or information about my flight is sometimes not in the system. If I know the type of aircraft, then I can still look it up, but that is cumbersome and very manual.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Think of Kayak as the guy that knows everything about everybody else. Sites like Orbitz and Travelocity rely on partnership agreements with airlines in order to sell tickets. Kayak searches 100s of travel sites at one time, which increases your odds of finding the flight you want at the price you want.

Interesting side note, co-founders of Orbitz, Travelocity and Expedia actually started in 2004.

What I like:

  • Smartphone App – I love my smartphone and I love companies that make it easy to use my smartphone for everything. There is an app for iPhones, Android devices, BlackBerries, J2ME enabled devices, and the iPad.

The bad:

  • Choose Your Booking Site – This would be a plus if it actually worked. I never had the option to choose which site to book my flight on despite Kayak’s claims that you have the choice.
  • Lots of Advertisements – The site is riddled with advertisements, to the point of excess. Although the ads are not directly in my path, I found them distracting (which I believe is the point).
  • Transaction Happens Off-site – Though, Kayak does this much worse than Hipmunk. At least Hipmunk passed my flight information to the airline’s website and I didn’t have to do much other than confirm and pay. With Kayak, I had to start my search all over again on the airline’s site.

Rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Apple's iTravel App

Apple’s Secret iTravel App

With the ease of searching and tracking patent submissions, nothing is a secret for very long in today’s world. Apparently, Apple filed a patent in 2010 with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and has made several subsequent updates to the patent as the product has evolved. Apple’s goal? To revolutionize the airline ticket buying and check-in experience. Though some of the features are already being implemented by airlines such as Qantas.

Some of the features include:

  • Paperless ticketing and check-in
  • Book your hotel, rental car, etc as well
  • The airline can offer you upgrades right before the flight
  • Information, such as where to get food, available to you at the airport
  • RFID or Near Field Communications check-in and baggage self check-in
  • Interfaces with aircraft’s in-flight entertainment system
  • And the list continues…

To read more about the app and see images from the patent, check out an article on Australian Business Traveller.

Rating: 5 out of 5 on the concept

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2 Responses to “REVIEW of Travel Sites: Hipmunk, SeatGuru, Kayak and Apple’s Secret iTravel App”

  1. I’ve used several times and really liked it, so based on your reviews, I’m pretty excited about checking out Hipmunk to see if it can do the job better.