When it comes to booking flights, thereís no scarcity of Internet sites to use. Three of those I like are Kayak, Expedia and Hipmunk.
Each site lets you enter a specific itinerary and will come back with a list of flights to chose from, often numbering into the hundreds. Kayak and Hipmunk are aggregators, meaning they collect the listings from other sellers and collect fees from referrals and click-throughs. Expedia sells the flights directly.
Whichever you use, the process is much the same; the big variation is in how results are sorted and displayed, and to some extent, the flights they find.
But searching through each list can be frustrating. Mixed in are often strange routings connecting through out-of-the-way cities or with long layovers on airlines youíve never heard of. Just this past week I needed to book a flight from San Diego to Hong Kong, and the choices were endless, even including one itinerary with a stop in London and another in Dubai.
What Iíve learned to do is to find a few of the best selections on each of several sites and then print them out and compare. I’m often going back a day or two later, to look at the flights again, essentially conducting the same search all over again with a few variations. So while the Internet brings us gobs of information, it still requires a lot more work on our part to find the most suitable flight. And according to industry research, the average user has nine online sessions before booking a flight.
A few days after I booked my flight to Hong Kong (a non-stop from LAX), I learned of a new software product, Pintrips, which claimed it could make these searches easier. Iíve been trying the product, which is still in public beta. (That means it works, but is not yet complete, and is still a little rough around the edges).
Pintrips addresses the difficulty of searching through different sites to come up with the best flight. In essence, it lets you compare a choice of flights selected from any travel site, by bringing them all together to a single location. Not only can I compare flights from the sites noted above, but also from the airline websites such as Delta, Alaska, United and Jet Blue.
The Pintrips name was likely influenced by the hugely successful site, Pinterest, which lets people post or “pin” images of all sorts of things to a virtual bulletin board. But Pintrips is a serious product in its own right, and has the potential to be an effective travel-planning tool. Itís currently available as a plug-in for the Chrome browser, with new browser plug-ins in the works for Firefox, Safari and Explorer over the next few months. According to the company, mobile apps are also in the works.
Once installed, Pintrips lets you go to any travel website, select one or more flights and, with a single click, capture the flight information and “pin” it to your personal dashboard or list. Youíll then end up with a dashboard listing the flights you selected from all the sites you visited, side-by-side, so that you can compare them or even share them with a friend.
You can also use Pintrips to compare flights going to different locations. For example, suppose you were looking at visiting Europe, but were open to several cities, depending on price. You can create your dashboard with several different destinations. Thatís something I would have found useful when I compare my flight options to Hong Kong leaving from either Los Angeles or San Francisco.
One of the best features of Pintrips is that the flight details listed on your dashboard are continually updated in real time. You can check back at any time and see current pricing and availability.
If youíre planning a trip with friends, you can use its collaboration features to share the dashboard and communicate with each other through a built-in chat feature. Once you select your trip, you can book the flight directly from the Pintrips dashboard.
Pintrips is a Sunnyvale-based startup, founded in 2011 by now-CEO, Stephen Gotlieb, who became frustrated with trying to book flights for his parents in Israel and then communicating with them by email to make a final selection. He would find that the time it took to settle on a flight, due to time zone differences, often meant that the flightís price changed or was no longer available. That led him to create Pintrips.
Pintrips is free and its plug-in can be installed on a PC or Mac version of Chrome browser (pintrips.com). If youíre really intent on finding the best flight, whatever your criteria may be, Pintrips can be a big help.
Baker is the author of "From Concept to Consumer" published by Financial Times Press and available at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and other booksellers. He has developed and marketed consumer and computer products for Polaroid, Apple, Seiko and others, holds 30 patents and is an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Phil can be heard on KOGO AM the first Sunday of each month. Send comments to email@example.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor. Phil's blog is http://blog.philipgbaker.com and his Web site is philipgbaker.com