Air Wander finds the best stopover for you
A few days ago I found myself looking for flights to New Zealand from Europe.
The country is so far away that there are no direct flights from anywhere in Europe. For most travellers going to NZ, thus, the trip is an opportunity to explore some additional place while doing a stopover.
If you are looking for good value, the task can easily get complex, there are so many different variables and combinations to consider: price, airline, city, number of days staying for the stopover, etc. Tweak these parameters a little bit and there comes a whole new range of options to be considered.
Coincidentally (yes, this happens!), when I was right in the middle of my flight search, I got an email from Air Wander's founder, Douglas Deming, presenting his startup: a flight search engine that...focuses on finding the best stopovers!
No wonder that the concept immediately caught my attention.
In any other search engine, the stopover is an afterthought. Indeed, most travellers are looking for the most direct route possible between A and B and would look at stopover options only if they offer a significant cost reduction.
But, there is also a segment of travellers that needs to organize their trips as more complex itineraries - this is the reason many flight search engines have a "multi-city" option - it may be because they need to visit several cities in succession or, simply, as in the case of the New Zealand flight search, because they wish to make the most of a required stopover.
Here's where Air Wander's technology comes into play.
This San Francisco-based startup has develop algorithms that refine multi-city search and place the stopover at the center of the search experience.
Air Wander checks different ways to structure the trip, for example, it may be more advantageous to book four one way tickets with four different airlines than a single itinerary, or, to break a complex itinerary in two round trips, also with different airlines.
When given a start and a destination point and a set of dates, the system then offers you a number of stopover options. At the same time, it calculates an estimated one-way "itinerary" cost based on up to a 100 variations of that route, that it uses as a benchmark in order to assess the attractiveness of each stopover option. Travellers are then told how much they save by choosing each particular stopover, in comparison to that benchmark.
The website has a neat, very visual design that facilitates the filtering of different options, as well as the desired duration of the stopover. It also offers the chance to select the general direction of the itinerary, so if you are travelling from Europe to New Zealand, you may want to select only stopover in an East-bound direction, even if there may be some cheaper alternative through North America.
Other interesting features are that it also takes low cost airlines into account as well as the fact that there is an "World Tour" search option for those that are looking to complete very long itineraries with many stopovers along the way.
I am not sure how big is the "stopover traveller" market, possibly a small fraction, of the, albeit, huge air travel market, nevertheless, this is an interesting, original approach in the crowded World of travel meta-search.