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Hopper, a startup that uses historical data to tell you the best time to purchase a plane ticket, is teaming up with a handful of airlines to offer discounted flights it says are exclusive to the Hopper platform.

Called “secret fares,” the new offering will be delivered in conjunction with Air Canada, LATAM, Turkish, WestJet, Copa, and Air China and will be available across 60,000 routes globally.

Founded out of Cambridge, Massachusetts in 2010, Hopper spent much of its early years trawling and archiving trillions of flight prices — data it would later use to power its predictive algorithms.

The company launched its first consumer apps for iOS and Android in 2015 to help travelers determine whether they should buy a flight now … or wait. A common misconception is that flight prices always go up, but that ain’t so — airlines will often price their flights conservatively to begin with and then drop prices later, depending on demand. It’s these data-points Hopper uses to establish when you should pull the trigger and book your flight.


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Armed with $83 million in funding, Hopper has been doubling down on its efforts, which include an expansion into hotels and the introduction of artificial intelligence (AI) to recommend destinations.

Secret fares are the next evolutionary stage in Hopper’s push to differentiate itself from the myriad travel booking applications out there, and these fares translate to discounts of up to 35 percent. On longer-haul journeys, that could mean a savings of $500.

The company provided this chart to show some actual secret fares during a beta trial of the service.

In terms of how it works, well, Hopper will alert the user to the availability of secret fares whenever they select a specific route (e.g. San Francisco to Tokyo).

As usual, the user has the option to watch a trip for several months, but they can also book immediately when they see the “exclusive price” secret fare tag.

Above: Hopper: Secret fares

Secret sauce

If something is too good to be true, it usually is. So what’s the deal with secret fares, and why are they exclusive to Hopper? It turns out that Hopper has been growing and is now among the top travel booking apps in North America in terms of downloads. The app now claims 25 million users, who have collectively planned 60 million trips.

Hopper also said that it recently surpassed $600 million in sales since its inception, $500 million of which came last year. And 20 percent of these sales are now generated through its AI recommendations, which are sent as push notifications directly to a user’s mobile phone. So Hopper is effectively generating revenue proactively by suggesting trips.

Put simply, Hopper now holds considerable leverage with the airlines.

If an airline was to offer such discounts through the usual online channels, Hopper suspects it would lead to a fare war with competitors. Airlines don’t want to engage in price-matching, however, so they may be more inclined to offer better deals in a closed environment such as the Hopper mobile app.

Secret fares are available to all Hopper uses in North America from today.

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