Hopper uses AI to find you cheap flights to unexpected places

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Hopper, a travel app that is designed to help people find lower prices while on the go announced a new feature today that’s aimed at getting people somewhere they want to go, even if it’s not where they meant to fly at first.

Called Flex Watch, it’s based on an artificial intelligence algorithm that’s designed to recommend destinations to people that match their preferences. Users input their preferred destination along with their desired travel dates, level of flexibility, and preferences for other potential locations.

After that, Flex Watch will keep an eye out for flights that it thinks the user would want, and Hopper will send push notifications when it has a match for a particular user. It’s designed to help people find a good price for their vacations without necessarily going right where they planned.

The new feature is a tweak to what Hopper and other travel sites usually do, which is allow users to pick out preferred trips and receive recommendations about when they should buy flights. For example, if someone said they want to go to New York from November 1 through 5, the system originally would have just watched for flights during those times and informed them when It was expected to be cheapest.

What’s surprising about Flex Watch is that people actually were twice as likely to buy travel based on early tests of the feature than they were the flights that they initially watched. Users save on average 40 percent buying flights recommended through Flex Watch than what they would spend on the trip that they initially searched for.

In order to improve the suggestions from Flex Watch, Hopper will be training its algorithm based on users’ browsing habits within the app. That’s supposed to help it make better decisions, and better understand the way that users view the world.

That’s one of the interesting insights to come out of Hopper’s work building this intelligent algorithm: the company found that its users saw trips differently based on where they were flying from. For example, people flying out from San Francisco saw Honolulu as more related to other destinations in Asia than their counterparts in Chicago.

Flex Watch is rolling out today to iOS users, and will be available to Android users soon.

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