I just booked a flight to Las Vegas for next month’s CES, the big tech conference, and I tried to find the cheapest flight I could using services like Expedia and Travelocity — but I walked away, tickets in hand, feeling like I still got burned.
So when Oliver Dlouhý and Lucie Brešová told me their startup, Skypicker, helps people find flights that cost as much as 90% lower than those booked via a regular flight ticket, I was sceptical, but definitely interested.
If you’re like me, you probably use a flight aggregation service to buy your plane tickets — for example, a website like Travelocity. Or maybe you just buy your tickets right from the airline. Either way, you’re missing out on cheap flights that don’t get shown to customers.
Skypicker, a three-year-old startup from the Czech Republic, wants to help unearth these flights so you can fly as cheaply as you want to — and for the first time since its 2012 launch, it’s serving customers in the US.
Oliver Dlouhý, Skypicker’s CEO, first got the idea for his company a few years ago, when he and his girlfriend were trying to book flights from Prague to Portugal. They were students, and they had a hard time justifying paying $500 each for plane tickets. So as broke college kids are wont to do, they got creative, spending six days cobbling together a bunch of random, connecting flights to take them from Prague, to a random European city, to Porto, Portugal.
They only spent $80 on the tickets, but it was a hassle to book them. Plus, if something goes wrong with your first flight — it gets delayed, for example — you’ll miss your connecting flight you so meticulously booked, and you’ll fork out a ton of cash just to get home.
Dlouhý figured there had to be an easier way to find plane tickets using this method, so in May 2012 he founded Skypicker. The startup, which Dlouhý says has been profitable for the better part of the past year, has an algorithm that helps find the lowest-price flights to where you need to go. Often, this is a series of cheap, connecting flights. And if you miss one, don’t worry — the company’s Skypicker Guarantee lets you rebook a missed flight, completely free.
When Dlouhý started the company, he was scraping flight data from other websites using a search engine he built himself. Soon after, Skypicker acquired Tripomatic, a small search-engine startup, for half a million dollars. Now, Skypicker has 300 employees and is doing €500,000 — about $530,000 — in sales every day.
Since its launch, Skypicker has provided flights for European airlines, though it has offered its services to US customers, letting them pay in US dollars and offering English translations of its website. But last month, Skypicker expanded to start catering to North American travellers, letting them book flights through major and low-fare carriers.
Here’s what Skypicker’s website looks like if you’re using it in Europe:
And here’s what it’s like to find a flight in the US on Skypicker: