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Tracking Airfares To Hong Kong With Hopper

Two months before I last went to Macau, I bought a brand new smartphone - a Palm Treo 780 - which, at the time was a hot shit device. It had a keyboard, a touch sensitive screen and a stylus to tap the tiny buttons. It was the only smartphone phone on the market that had any degree of interoperability with Apple products. I've been an Apple user since I was in 7th grade - 1982. I don't feel old.

In the three months I had the Palm Treo 780, I had already had it repaired because the screen cracked. I also couldn't get the Handspring app store to work properly. I primarily used it to check email and post photos to Flickr. Only a few months later, Apple introduced the iPhone, which, as you probably know, changed literally everything.

Change is the only thing that is permanent.

During my last trip to Macau, we procured airline tickets not by searching travel retailers or doing comparison shopping but by calling a China travel focused brick and mortar travel agent. Archaic, but this is how my dedicated wife Miss Monkay (the true brain of this operation) managed to find the best price. She is an expert at booking travel, online and off. Part of her expertise is steadfast dedication to not overpay. Whereas I will often say "that's good enough" she says "are you kidding me with that price?"

So how does my wife, the laser focused, quasi-cheapskate travel booking expert shop for long distance air fares in the age of apps, information and big data?

She recommended to me a flight price tracking app called Hopper. She's been using the app for about six months, tracking airline prices for a future family vacation. Hopper uses pricing data published by airlines to create realtime models that track and predict pricing changes and notify users when best available pricing is found.

Since I'm in no rush to buy airline tickets, using Hopper seems like the perfect plan of attack for a trip so far in the future.

I downloaded Hopper from the App Store and fired it up.

Hopper Welcome

Hopper, as in rabbit... cute. The app immediately used geotargeting to find the airport(s) nearest me - Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). It then asked me to insert destination airport.

Hopper Search

I entered the Hong Kong airport code (HKG) and hit "Done." Hopper immediately started working, and working, and working... combing through tons of datasets of past and future flights from LAX to HKG, making comparisons and applying algorithms to predict pricing ranges for open ended travel between these two locations.

Hopper Legend

The simplicity is amazing. With my permission, Hopper automatically geotargeted my home airport then asked where I wanted to go. Within about 45 seconds, I was presented with a six month calendar, color coded by price derived from analysis of large sets of data. The calendar enables me to view holiday pricing surges, analyse advance booking trends and choose dates based on pricing.

Hopper Calendar

I extended the calendar out past the 6 month window to include my travel dates - June 2016.

I selected June 20-30 as a rough travel frame surrounding the June 25th opening of Wynn Palace by tapping the calendar. After tapping "Select These Dates" Hopper went back to work.

Hopper Watch

It returned with the news that the lowest price available for my trip right now is $1040 round trip and that I should watch the trip and wait for the prices to drop. It also offered a price predictions tied to specific calendar dates between now and departure. Amazing.

A quick tap on the "TIPS" tab ran my flight details through the Hopper yet again, where Hopper analyzed my travel dates, departure and arrival airport options to see if any further savings could be gleaned by making adjustments.

Per Hopper's suggestion, I elected to have them "Watch" this trip and send me notifications as to any major price changes.

Miss Monkay has received multiple notifications for the trip she was watching, and followed Hoppers suggestion to hold out for lower prices as her trip dates rapidly approached. Earlier this week, Hopper notified her that the price had hit a low target and she should buy the tickets now. Within the next few days the price went up by $100. Wow.

It's going to be interesting watching these prices changing and eventually pulling the trigger on airfare booking between now and June.

To be continued...

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