Mobile

Travel-search startup Hipmunk is nitpicky – and getting better

Flight search startup Hipmunk now indicates which flights have Wi-Fi available for the duration of the flight — a relatively small change that shows just how nitpicky the company is about building the best design in the travel-search startup ecosystem.

Finding a flight with Wi-Fi is usually a minor annoyance when booking through a site like Orbitz. I’ve paged through multiple flights on Hipmunk until I can find a flight that has Wi-Fi available. But Hipmunk is known for its almost fanatical devotion to efficient design on the site. So this tweak is emblematic of the company’s strategy. It should sound like a familiar strategy, too — Apple is well-known for its tight focus on design.

Part of Hipmunk’s charm is its streamlined interface — the site only requires a user to enter a general location and a few dates. Like its flight search engine, the site pulls in information from flight and hotel booking engine Orbitz. Once users find a flight they like, they can jump to Orbitz to book the flight.

Flights found through Hipmunk aren’t actually booked through the site — instead, Hipmunk directs its users to Orbitz and other flight aggregators to purchase the tickets. The same is true for the iPad application, except the tickets cannot be purchased within the app. Instead, the app will either send users to a Safari browser where they can buy the ticket or give them a code to purchase the ticket from a PC.

The company also recently unveiled a new way to search for hotels through the site. The search engine uses a proprietary sorting mechanism that sorts hotels by “ecstasy” — a combination of hotel ratings, prices and other metrics. Just about every flight search engine has a hotel booking service — and that’s how they end up making a majority of their money.

The site has raised $4.2 million in funding in a round led by Ignition Partners. The company is a Y-Combinator incubated startup co-founded by Adam Goldstein and Steve Huffman. Hipmunk launched a mobile version of its application at the Launch Conference.


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