The flight-search app Hopper has partnered with six airlines
to offer fares that are cheaper than the fares those airlines list anywhere
else, including on their own websites.
The service, which Hopper calls Secret Fares, went live
Wednesday for selected routes on Air Canada, LATAM, Turkish Airlines, WestJet,
Copa and Air China. Hopper says it is already offering the Secret Fares for 60,000
nonstop and indirect itineraries.
"These are discounted flights exclusively available on
Hopper -- fares on participating routes/carriers will be as much as 35% cheaper
than the same ticket available online somewhere else," Hopper says.
Hopper said customers will be able to save up to $500 on
long-haul flights that won't be found anywhere else, including metasearch
In an interview, Hopper head of growth and business Dakota
Smith said that the Secret Fares program will be disruptive in airline
distribution and will especially impact metasearch sites and OTAs. Airlines
will file the fares they offer exclusively to Hopper with ATPCO via a pseudo
city code, just as airlines do when they create fares that are specific to one
travel agency. Hopper can push out those fares directly and privately to
consumers through its app.
Key to Hopper's value proposition to airlines is its
business model, Smith said.
Users of the app don't simply search for a flight like on a
website. Instead, they create a long-term fare watch for a specific route, then
wait for Hopper to send out push notifications when the airfare drops to a
level that leads the app's algorithm to conclude it is time to buy. Hopper
users add more than 150,000 fare watches each day and Hopper says its sends
more than 400 million push notifications annually. The app determines when to
recommend a flight purchase by tracking billions of daily fare searches in the
GDSs and combining those results with historical sales data.
Hopper users typically set their fare watches four to five
months before departure, which is 90 days earlier than consumers commonly query
a website for a fare. So, providing cheap fares to Hopper should allow airlines
to get a jump on early bookings, Smith said.
Smith said an airline's competitors will have difficulty
matching the Hopper fare because it’s not easy to find, unlike a fare on an
airline's website, which revenue-management software will easily locate. But
fares pushed out in the closed environment of an app, Smith said, are more
difficult to scrape.
"To date, mobile hasn't really disrupted the selling of
travel because nobody has used the parts of the phone that are interesting,"
Smith said, referring to push notifications. "This is a great example of
getting suppliers to innovate with us and see the opportunity there."
In addition to the six carriers that have begun supplying Hopper
with exclusive cheap fares, seven others have inked deals to join the Secret
Fares program, Smith said. None of those carriers are from the U.S., though
Smith added that Hopper is "very far along" in talks with one of the
major U.S. airlines and is also talking to a few secondary U.S. airlines.
That major carrier is likely American or United, since Delta
and Southwest don't distribute through Hopper.
Hopper said that in beta testing of the Secret Fares
program, airlines have seen major leaps in conversion. For example, one undisclosed
airline saw its share of U.S.-Asia bookings within the app increase from 4% to