A week and a half ago I posted a review of Everbread’s Haystack airfare search engine that provides functionality similar to ITA Software’s Matrix Airfare Search. I noted its similarities to ITA and also called out some glaring shortcomings, such as its inability to search for flights with flexible days (+/- x-days, month long, etc), not pulling in the full schedule of outbound & return pairings, lack of fare basis codes, tax breakout and more. I closed by acknowledging the fact it is a demo version and greater enhancements would likely rollout with the next release.
The day after that post, Everbread’s Deputy COO Filip Filipov sent me an email commending my thorough review and agreed with some of my criticism, but offered to show me a preview of additional features and functionality through a WebEx screen sharing conference call. I was thrilled for the direct contact by Everbread and scheduled a time the following week for the call.
After our brief introductory conversation, Filip logged in with his development credentials and took me on a tour of Haystack’s actual current functionality. He mentioned the reason for the limited capability public release version currently out there is in part to avoid revealing the highly proprietary successes they’ve developed behind the scenes. What he ended up showing me is indeed the next generation of airfare search engines and confirmed in my mind that Haystack is perhaps more than just competition for ITA Software, but also a front-runner integrating booking abilities into social media.
Believe me in that I really wanted to be taking screen captures during our call, but out of sincere respect for him taking an hour out of his day I refrained. Here are some of the highlights:
- On my initial test drive, Southwest didn’t appear in the results and I was curious to find out why. It was partly my fault, but partly not. There is a filter item I didn’t include (low cost carrier) that isn’t pre-defaulted. That was my error, but attempting it again also left Southwest off. They’re still developing worldwide connections to low cost carriers, but have had success with many European LCCs. He mentioned it can sometimes be challenging to get the appropriate API access from certain carriers to make this happen (think Ryanair, for example).
- Total breakout of taxes is shown and fully itemized by tax code.
- Full fare basis information is shown.
- Haystack validates its own fare construction against that of GDSs to ensure a consistent 100% match.
- The system can be easily modified to accommodate agency-specific programming needs.
- Expanded date range searching is a reality, currently up to +/- 15 days, which effectively gives a 30-day view and will be further developed to go +/- 30 days.
- Charter flights are included in search results, which can be a very significant advantage over published schedules in some markets.
- Private fares, bulk fares, and other non-published fares are fully supported.
- Delta Air Lines and Malaysia Airlines currently have Facebook integration that allows ticketing, but what he showed me is the absolute future of integrating social media and travel. Want to go see one of your long-distance friends on Facebook next weekend? Based on location data saved in profiles, Haystack will show the lowest fares for you to take a quick trip to see them and a link for booking the ticket.
- Haystack will return every possible combination of airlines and schedules well beyond what the demo version currently shows and that of ITA.
- Haystack has been proven to be faster than ITA in most search comparisons.
It’s an incredibly impressive technology and the company has secured many well-known clients across Europe. The demo version out there now has a sidebar ability to provide feedback, so if you’d like to offer your own suggestions, sign up for an account here. ITA Software hasn’t released new functionality, but I’d have to be certain they’re also developing enhanced capabilities that Google will eventually rollout live. It will be fun to monitor both companies and while they duke it out for market share, the products they release will do nothing but enhance we travelers’ lives.