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Airline Spy

Page history last edited by Martin Brochhaus 9 years, 4 months ago

I travel a lot and I always feel ripped off by airlines.

And I don't trust all those cheap-travelling-portals that claim to do price comparisons between all airlines.

 

I would love to have an app that visits multiple airline sites every hour and gets the cheapest available price for a given itinerary.

The results should be saved into a database so that one can generate nice charts upon it and discover the magic mysterious patterns airlines use for their pricing (I still believe someone just rolls the dice).  

Email alerts when prices drop below a given threshold would be nice to have as well.

 

This is a tricky beast because a) this is probably illegal and b) almost all airline websites have set up all kinds of hurdles to piss off robots and screen scrapers such as

  • flash plugins
  • deferred loading of pages via ajax
  • needing cookies
  • having session information encrypted in the response, needing it to go on to the next site (a simple post request to the next URL will not work) 
  • input fields that rely on javascript being enabled
  • html code that is not valid (madness !!!)

 

During the last few months headless browsers where on the rise in the Python and also in the Node.js community. I haven't checked all of them but I have some on the radar. Also more and more airlines offer mobile versions of their sites that cannot implement many of the hurdles because most mobile browsers wouldn't be able to cope with it. This might be another possible attack vector.

 

I'm not sure about the legal issues. If anyone is interested in hacking on this, we should probably first do some research and discuss those :)

I have done this some months ago but I gave up because in the end I failed hacking Singapore Airlines because of their extensive use of JavaScript. It; s a cool project for keeping several people busy. We would have to implement one framework app and each airline should go into a module that can be registered with the main app. The main app will send information about the flights to monitor to all modules and the modules will return the cheapest price. The work that needs to be done for each modules differs a lot since all airline websites must be hacked in individual ways. 

Comments (8)

Jeremy Foo said

at 6:51 pm on May 10, 2011

wego.com currently does this :)

ejames said

at 6:52 pm on May 10, 2011

As does hipmunk.com

Washington Irving said

at 6:52 pm on May 10, 2011

..and HipMunk does it better.

http://www.hipmunk.com/

Daniel Vaughan said

at 6:53 pm on May 10, 2011

I think skyscanner.net does this and has been around for maybe 10 years in some form

Martin Brochhaus said

at 10:40 am on May 11, 2011

You will find flights that are cheap NOW. I want to find out when is the best time to buy. They drop prices at certain times and days. I want to know how many months before departure it is cheapest. Then it will rise, closer to departure it will drop again. It's not about getting a cheap flight in the short run, but getting profound knowledge about their pricing policies in the long run.

Besides I don't trust all those booking portals. It's bad enough that I give all my data to all those different airlines. HipMunk forwarded me to book with Orbitz, a site I have never heard of before. Where will it direct me to for the next flight (adding yet another signup to my never ending list)?

But the HipMunk interface is truely sexy, that's for sure! Will use that in the future, thanks for the link!

Martin Brochhaus said

at 10:47 am on May 11, 2011

Just tried hipmunk for a SG <--> BKK roundtrip. They don't even show TigerAirways and JetStar and suggested an itinerary with stopovers at KL for 444 EUR in total. By searching all airline sites manually I bought an itinerary with direct flights for 210 EUR (!).

Jeremy Foo said

at 9:16 pm on May 13, 2011

locally, wego's the best. if you're US based, hipmunk's probably a better bet.

with regards to the time to buy tickets, i think that's a rather difficult task. there have been articles written that say purchasing tickets 8 weeks before departure is good, but even then, its not accurate. its ultimately up to the airlines to decide.

as a general guide however, checking it on a tuesday afternoon PST sometimes yields quite a good price drop. from what i've seen charting tickets to SFO, tuesdays seem the best time, allowing my friend to net a 500SGD discount over the normal prices.

Meng Weng Wong said

at 9:05 am on May 14, 2011

I wonder why more sites haven't implemented farecast functionality.

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