Darjeelin has launched with what it’s calling a human-powered flight search engine. In an interesting employment of the crowd, through contest form, experts are tasked with going off and finding the cheapest flights on a bespoke basis for users who pay a small fee in return. A process referred to by the French startup as ‘flight hacking’, as those in the know — frequent flyers, experienced travellers, professional travel agents — use their expertise to source and manipulate the best online offers.
Searching for the best price for a flight has become a lot harder due to the proliferation of online travel agencies, the success of low-cost companies and the “thousands of special promotional offers flooding the web”, says the company, therefore making it a daunting and incredibly time-consuming process for the average flyer who is unsure whether or not a better deal can be found. Darjeelin aims to solve this problem by putting those users’ specific air ticket needs in front of its crowd of experts who compete for a bounty of €15 for each contest, although users actually pay €20, with Darjeelin taking a €5 cut.
Interestingly, each flight contest is only re-routed to 4 ‘flight hackers’ from the expert community. The reason, co-founder Charles Guilhamon tells me, is to incentivize those competing by giving them a 1 in 4 chance of winning per-contest — a constraint that he says is still producing savings of as much as 25%, which can amount to hundreds of Euros for a long haul flight, compared to traditional agencies or metasearch engines (e.g. Skyscanner, Kayak etc.).
“We believe in a community of experts working within closed contests (limited number of experts staffed on each contest) rather than pure open crowdsourced flight search, which in the end raises the fee users have to pay in order to keep experts motivated”, says Guilhamon.
It also sets Darjeelin apart from a potential competitor, Australia’s Flightfox, which launched last January. On that note, Darjeelin is targeting Europe for now, having launched to France, UK, Germany, and Spain.
The company is self-funded by its founders and two “associates”.