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RIP Hipmunk, the Travel Booking Site That Took the “Agony” out of Search

By Michelle Baran

Jan 18, 2020

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So long, cute Hipmunk chipmunk.

Photo by Shutterstock

So long, cute Hipmunk chipmunk.

If you relied on the site for travel comparison shopping and booking, you’ll have to find an alternative.

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If you use Hipmunk to book your travel, you’re going to have to find another way. And the thing you’re probably going to miss the most is the site’s “agony” feature—the way it sorts flights not just by price but by a combination of price, flight duration, and number of stops.

The travel comparison and booking site is shutting down on January 23, 2020, according to a statement provided by SAP Concur, which acquired Hipmunk four years ago. Travel media site Skift reported that Hipmunk’s cofounders, Adam Goldstein and Steve Huffman, made an offer to buy back the company, but that SAP Concur refused the offer.

Hipmunk was originally founded in 2010, and while other big players like Kayak and Google Flights have since dominated the online travel booking scene, Hipmunk does still have a following, including among AFAR staffers.

“I have deep love for Hipmunk and have been a loyal fan since the site’s early days. It launched right around the time that I was starting to travel on my own in earnest,” said Maggie Fuller, an associate editor at AFAR. “I probably logged hundreds if not thousands of hours around that time on the search engine testing different airport combinations, dates, [and] trip lengths.”

Fuller said she really appreciated Hipmunk’s easy-to-read interface and how it sorted flights by least “agonizing.”

The least expensive flight isn’t always the best

The “agony” feature was something that “caught on like wildfire” in the early days of Hipmunk, according to cofounder Goldstein, who wrote about the site’s (then) success story in a 2018 opinion piece.

Goldstein explained that one of the company’s first decisions was to not just sort results based on price. “We believed that most frequent travelers were willing to spend a little bit more to take a more convenient flight, and that flight options should be sorted by a combination of price, duration, and number of stops.”

He recalled that the original name for this sorting metric was going to be “suckage,” but that the day before Hipmunk launched, “we (wisely) changed it to ‘agony,’” he wrote.

AFAR’s Guides editor Ann Shields said she appreciated that the agony rating would show her shorter flights at decent hours.

Next steps for Hipmunk users

So, what now? Well, the shutdown will actually impact two separate products, Hipmunk and Concur Hipmunk, the latter of which is a more recently established travel tool for small- to medium-sized businesses.

Once both sites shut down, users will no longer be able to access their accounts, according to a FAQ section listed both on Hipmunk and on Concur Hipmunk.

Existing reservations will be honored by the airline, hotel, or whatever travel provider they were made with—Hipmunk is what is known as a travel metasearch site, the online booking equivalent of a middleman. The site helps users search for travel, but the actual booking is with the provider itself. In other words, existing bookings are safe even if they are for travel well into the future.

The Complete Guide to Booking Travel Online

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As for which travel metasearch site Hipmunk users should turn to in Hipmunk’s absence, if it’s the “agony” feature you will miss most, Google Flights will be your best bet. In what might even be the internet behemoth’s nod to Hipmunk’s brilliance, Google Flights searches now always first provide a small selection of what it calls “best departing flights.” These are options that offer what Google describes as the best trade-off between price and convenience, based on factors such as duration, number of stops, and airport changes during layovers. Sounds like Google’s version of the “agony” feature to us.

>> Next: How to Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Airline Tickets

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