Business

Hellowings promise to make travel planning easier

Four friends from Taiwan went to Australia for their graduation trip and ended up starting a company, HelloWings

They were four friends from Taiwan who decided to go to Australia for their graduation trip, and ended up starting a company, HelloWings. It helps travellers find out when airlines are selling the cheapest tickets so trips can be planned around those dates. Yasmine Yahya spoke with one co-founder, Mr Mark Hsu, on how the company plans to disrupt the travel industry

  • How did it all begin?

We wanted to do a grand tour of Australia for our graduation trip. We were students, so our time was flexible.

We didn't need to book flights on certain dates, we could travel any time in October or November. What mattered most to us was that we got the cheapest flights possible.

So, we started searching for cheap flights and that was when we realised how hard it was.

We had many flights to think about, both international and domestic.

We have exclusive technology, crawlers that mimic human behaviour.Mr Mark Hsu on the mechanics behind the service

We had to do a lot of searches to figure out which dates we should fly on to get the cheapest flights.

As computer science graduates, it got us thinking: Could we use our abilities to build a price chart that would visually show a user the cheapest dates on which to fly?

That was the start.

  • So that's what HelloWings does?

Yes. When you get to the website you don't have to enter any travel dates, as you would on other travel sites.

You can just say, I want to go to Osaka, then we will show you every single budget airline that flies there.

You can choose to see each airline's two-week, one-month, three-month, half-year and full-year price charts for these flights.

Let's say you call up an airline's three-month chart.

There will be dots on the graph that show you the lowest fare being offered by the airline to Osaka, with all taxes and fees included in that entire three-month period.

At one glance, you'll see when you should book your leave to take advantage of the airline's cheapest fares, and you might be able to save 30 to 40 per cent on the airfare as a result.

Our service is particularly useful for trips that you have to make a transfer.

Usually, when you book a flight that has two legs, you'll book both on the same airline.

That's where airlines mark up the prices.

Let's say you want to fly from Taipei to Melbourne, which always requires a transit.

Since we have so much price data, we might fly you from Taipei to Singapore on Jetstar, and then from Singapore to Melbourne on Scoot.

Bringing such combinations together is where customers can save over 20 per cent on airfare.

  • How do you get all the airfare information?

We have exclusive technology, crawlers that mimic human behaviour.

They go to each airline's website and retrieve the prices for every flight that the airline is offering for the next 365 days.

That is why we are able to put out so many dates and accurate prices.

We track about 300 airlines and nearly every budget airline across the five continents.

  • What kind of reception are you getting from the airlines themselves?

We met (AirAsia chief executive officer) Tony Fernandes and he really liked the Hybrid Connect idea.

They are proposing to give us exclusive discounted tickets, at about 20 per cent off, to offer on Hybrid Connect.

It is a win-win situation because AirAsia has limited capacity on long-haul routes and they do not have the capacity to form partnerships with every single traditional airline.

That is where we come in.

This way they can get the passengers coming from Europe or the US to Asia.

In each continent, maybe we will find one strategic partner.

So in Asia, it is AirAsia.

If the model works well, we can then go to Ryanair, for example, and see if they want to work with us the same way.

We registered our holding company in Singapore and we have a travel licence in Singapore, so we'll be selling tickets from here.

The regulations here are just much better.

Chief information officer Peter Chen and I will be moving here and we will be expanding our team in Singapore too.

For more, see The Straits Times today.

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