Thursday, January 05, 2006


Searching on another plane with dohop

dohop is a fairly recent entry into the specialized flight search arena, but with its December 2005 upgrade to include 660+ budget and full fare airlines, it really has become an incredibly useful one.

The features I like best about it include:
The initial search just brings up possible itineries based on timetables - if you then ask for details on a particular flight, it does more searching and adds a price for that flight, and probably all others with the same airline. This two stage process does mean you get a view of the flights very quickly, but it would perhaps be better if they could cache the price info, or else fetch this in the background so that its available without the second action being necessary. Prices are shown in the currency of your choice. Sometimes sponsored results come up - which moves them to the top of the list, even if they are not necessarily the best matches.

Once you have a list of flights, you can filter them by time, airports involved (including for transits), airlines, and number of stops.

The site makes good use of AJAX to provide a snappy experience, but unfortunately there are a few technical problems with the implementation. As you navigate around the pages, the url address displayed is locked to the homepage, since you are really only navigating an inner frame, yet its easy to get to a state where that outer frame is inaccessible, so all the AJAX stops working. In fact the site does not degrade gracefully if Javascript is unavailable - it simply stops working at all.

I am on the team, now searching blogs for feedback and ideas on our new flight search engine - Some very good points in your post which we are now working on fixing:
- a fix for the url problem is ready and being tested.
- a price cache is ready, it will get more useful as usage increases, we show the age of each cached price next to it. Already millions of cached prices in there and counting.
- We clearly have to look closer at airport groupings for metro areas. Which ones would you like to see grouped for the NY metro area? Any other we missed?
- sometime next week users will be able to define their own home group of airports in user prefs.
- Could you give us an example for a missing budget airline secondary destination missing? The goal is to show them all in and I thought we had covered nearly all of them.

Many thanks for the helpful blog.

If you type in New York, the top 2 values are the grouping of JFK and LGA, and New York, Newark. Since you already identify Newark as a New York airport, I'd expect it to be avaialable in the New York grouping as well.

As for the budget airlines, an example is Ryanair who fly to both Girona and Reus, both of which they call Barcelona, yet neither of which appear in your definition of Barcelona. (In fact, even if I type Girona directly, it's not found - that seems to be because your database has misspelled it as Gerona!) I admit that some of these types of definitions are stretching the definition of a destination - perhaps you need a core grouping, and another one that also include the wider airports.
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