As you probably know, all three legacy airlines have started rolling out awful “basic economy” fares. Moving forward, you’re going to be charged for a carry-on bag and or seat selection. Last week we wrote about how basic economy displays in Google Flights, until then our favorite flight search tool. Ever frustrated, I set out to find a flight search tool that understands the difference between standard and basic economy fares. To my delight, I found I could exclude basic economy fares with Hopper, a mobile app designed to estimate the best price for your next flight.
Hopper: A Quick Overview
Based in Montreal, Hopper was created as a data tool to predict when flights will be at their lowest price. I’ve always been skeptical about using fare prediction tools. I suppose it’s a fear of missing out on a good deal, or that I don’t trust the data I’m being presented with. Anyway, here’s sample results I got for a trip my family has planned this summer:
Hopper is telling me that now isn’t a good time to book that trip to New Jersey. In this case I’m inclined to agree. I know from experience I can usually make it to New Jersey for just under $300. On it’s own, Hopper is a nifty tool. I like how the interface is clean, fast, and easy to use. Of course these are the same reasons I’ve always used Google Flights.
Exclude Basic Economy Fares
Here’s where Hopper has beaten Google Flights. Once you input your destination and dates, Hopper will display a result much like the image above. Like last week, I decided to test out a market where legacy airlines are now selling basic economy fares. This is a route from Minneapolis to Denver (June 1, return June 8). I’ve gone ahead and only included nonstop flights. Here are the initial results:
As you can see, my first result is Spirit (yuck). After that, I get what seems to be some favorable options with United. Seemingly in last place, we’ve got Sun Country. Since Spirit is a non-starter for me, I’d normally think that United would be my best bet. Before basic economy started infecting the airlines, I’d be able to bring a carry-on bag and select a seat. With Hopper, let’s see what happens if I select that United option:
This is very cool. Instead of having to click through and find out about restrictions at each individual airline, Hopper is telling me up front that this is a heavily restricted fare from United. Remember Sun Country, that fare that displayed in last place? Once I clicked through, here’s how they displayed:
As we learned last week, for an extra $4, Sun Country provides a much better value. Sun Country allows me to choose a seat and bring a carry-on bag. Hopper bests Google Flights by clearly warning us up-front about basic economy restrictions. Even better, Hopper provides a cool filter that allows you to filter out all basic economy fares all together:
Check out how my non-stop results displayed once I filtered out basic economy:
Hopper has beaten Google Flights (and everyone else) to the punch here. There’s no reason heavily restricted fares should be mixed with standard fares. My only gripe with Hopper is that it’s limited to mobile applications. When I’m trip planning, I’m usually on a laptop with multiple tabs open. Using a phone for flight search might be a little cumbersome. I’d encourage Hopper to open up their website for searches.
Ultimately it’s going to be up to online travel agencies to draw a line in the sand with basic economy. Furthermore, these fares need to be put in their own category. Kudos to Hopper for leading the way.