You might not be booking any flights nowadays, but how about 'dream travel'? - Technical.ly Philly

Growth

Mar. 23, 2020 1:37 pm

You might not be booking any flights nowadays, but how about ‘dream travel’?

Here's how flight tracking startup Moonfish is faring during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pick any place on the planet.

Pick any place on the planet.

(Photo by Flickr user Chelsea Nesvig, under a Creative Commons license)

Last spring, former Philly resident George Zeng cofounded flight tracking startup Moonfish, which helps travelers find deeply discounted airfare flying out of their preferred airports — launching first with flights from Philadelphia International Airport.

Zeng — a Wharton School alum who spent four years at Facebook — and the rest of the nine-person team is now either based in the Bay area or works remotely. About a year after launch, Moonfish services about 20 cities, Zeng said.

While at Wharton, Zeng built and later sold a Dreamit-backed company called Aircare, a patient engagement platform. Now, he and the Moonfish team use a massive data collection and data analytics from sites like SkyScanner and other data sources to find cheap trips.

What’s differentiates the site from other flight tracking tools?

“We’ve seen people are a little more flexible than they realize they are,” Zeng said.

Most tools require someone looking for a flight to know the origin, destination and date they want to travel, he said. Moonfish wants to know when you generally want to travel and out of what general area, then it will look for all possible flights that fit that criteria.

Answering the three classic questions like other sites do, Zeng said last year, detracts from offering consumers an “exploration-first experience” that focuses on the consumer’s own location.

Say you want to visit New Orleans this Fall from Philadelphia. Moonfish will search across airlines, dates and even nearby airports (like Newark or Baltimore, for example) for the best deal.

The company offers services for free, but also has a premium and first-class membership, which are more personalized and offer things like searching from more than one “home base,” an ad-free experience, more than one flight watch, and searches for business and first-class fares.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, travel services are feeling the effects. Zeng said that the health crisis is creating a hit to business to a certain extent — travel is way down.

But the company is still seeing a bit of “dream travel” searches, Zeng said. Basically, while stuck inside, people are searching for dream destinations or vacations or are looking for travel later in the year.

The company has taken precautions and created messaging that’s discouraging users from taking tempting cheap, last-minute trips right now, Zeng said. It’s also created a blacklist on all international and domestic deals that depart before July 1, and is instead focusing efforts on travel after that time.

“We want to build something that can find good deals, but we want to do right by people,” Zeng said.

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