Travelers responded with an outpouring of sorrow, kind words and “Noooooooos.”
“I was always a fan of how Hipmunk changed the industry,” said Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights. “It was a time-saver and a confidence-booster. You didn’t have to double-check their work. It was one-stop shopping.”
The start-up, which scurried onto the travel scene in 2010, revolutionized fare searches. Instead of organizing its findings by price alone, the site took a more holistic approach. It factored in crucial variables such as flying time, number of stops and on-time performance and presented the results under the “Agony” index. The site also included fares from airlines and online travel agencies, or OTAs, such as Expedia and Orbitz. And it presented the information in a clear, concise and consumer-friendly fashion.
“This has become an industry standard,” Keyes said of all of the above.
In 2016, SAP Concur, which specializes in business travel, bought Hipmunk. Dennis Schaal, founding and executive editor of Skift, a travel industry media company, said the corporation wanted to use Hipmunk’s technology to modernize its business travel division. The closure “won’t have a huge impact on consumers,” he said, “because Hipmunk was no longer a huge consumer brand.”
Keyes said the competitive field of flight search engines also contributed to Hipmunk’s demise. The commission on booking fares is also meager.
According to Schaal, after SAP Concur employees became aware of the company’s plans to close Hipmunk, its co-founders — one of whom is Steve Huffman, chief executive of Reddit — attempted to buy it back. But SAP Concur did not accept their proposal. SAP Concur did not return a call for comment.
As of Jan. 23, customers will no longer be able to access their accounts or trip data, but their reservations will remain intact. “Please note that as a travel metasearch,” the site explained, “all bookings are held with the provider directly.” Tracy Stewart, content editor at Airfarewatchdog.com, said Hipmunk users should work directly with the airline’s customer service department.
To be safe, Keyes warns travelers against using the site in its final days. So, what’s a Hipmunk loyalist to do? Find a new fare wizard. Keyes uses Google Flights, which can perform even more tricks than the chipmunk. For example, it can search up to seven departure and arrival airports each, plus regions. Stewart recommends Skyscanner, which offers route combinations from lesser-known carriers as well as a variety of filters, such as flight duration and CO2 emissions. Other options: Kayak and Momondo.
“Hipmunk will have a legacy in the way people search for flights,” Keyes said almost wistfully.
As for the chipmunk, we wish the woodland creature Godspeed and good fares.