How would you like to save money on long-distance flights? That’s what CleverLayover says they can do.
RewardExpert spoke with CEO and Co-founder Phil Hu to find out more. He explains the secrets of the system and offers a few travel tips.
Founding of CleverLayover
Hu admits he’s not a globetrotter. Rather, he’s a practical person who likes to save money when he flies.
Hu says the idea for CleverLayover started when he had to book a school trip from Boston to Istanbul, Turkey in January 2015. While looking at airline prices, he realized that he could save money if he split his trip into two flights. And he’d get to explore an extra city.
Hu and some of his classmates from Harvard Business School tested the idea on a flight from Boston to Istanbul. Instead, of flying directly the group booked a trip from Boston to Tel Aviv, Israel. Then, they flew from Tel Aviv to Istanbul.
With the money they saved on the fare, Hu and his classmates explored historic and bustling Jerusalem for a few days.
The idea for the company — making strategic, clever layovers — was born. Hu had discovered a counterintuitive idea: “I found that if you take more flights, you can save more money.”
Hu and classmate John McGugan created CleverLayover as a class project for first year students in business school. The classmates were in small teams of six and competed to see who could create a good business model.
“We wanted to see how far we could go with a business,” he said.
Not only did they win the competition over 180 other teams, but also they actually created a business that could be sustained in the long run.
How CleverLayover saves money
“Users love us. They say we help them visit their family once a year. It used to cost too much for them to visit before,” Hu says.
How does this system work? Hu explains the database looks for the least expensive layovers, even if it means going in the wrong direction.
Hu’s background in applied mathematics helped him build the algorithm. He uses theories applied with other networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Those social media giants enable users to discover connections and grow their networks.
In similar fashion, CleverLayover examines flights and travel destinations to solve the puzzle of finding the cheapest flights. The itineraries include at least one extra layover, which can save considerable costs over flying direct.
“We pull [information] from global databases such as Skyscanner,” he explained. “Just like a social network covers people, our network covers cities and flights to cities.”
The company gets a commission from Skyscanner when trips are booked.
Hu has the numbers to prove savings. He says, “You have a 1 in 3 chance of saving money on any flight. That’s pretty good odds.” Longer domestic and international flights have a higher yield.
“CleverLayover might not be right for you if flying from Boston to New York. A layover might take you to Chicago,” Hu says.
“You’ll have a longer travel time. To be honest, the money saved may not be worth it,” he adds.
Savings average $200 per trip, but Hu notes that global travelers can save as much as $1,000.
Hu revealed he loves flying but hates travel. Most people would say the opposite.
Hu laughs, “I love flying because I took two flights a week for work. I liked having that time to relax and reflect on life. I find flying more bearable than most people. My business partner loves travel but hates flying.”
Hu’s enthusiasm for flying seems evident by his passion for saving travelers money.
“CleverLayover doesn’t just save a few dollars here and there. Users get savings that changes their lives,” Hu says.
The site is popular among students, savvy leisure travelers, and people with loved ones who live far away.
Hu offered some travel secrets for air travelers.
Long distance trips may allow users to have an extra vacation destination and save money. Many long flights require a layover and there are usually different options that yield savings.
If travelers want to fly from Boston to Sydney, Australia, they can opt for a long layover in Hawaii. Hu says flyers can save $400 if they choose to spend a couple of days in Honolulu.
CleverLayover is not a company that finds hidden fee flights, but he recommends that strategy.
“Hidden fee flights are very popular. You get a ticket with an extra trip to save on an itinerary,” Hu says.
As an example, he says a traveler might get a ticket from Boston to Washington, D.C., but only wants to go to New York.
Hidden city ticketing is best for shorter flights from one airport hub to another. On the other hand, CleverLayover works best with longer flights or trips to non-hub cities.
Use CleverLayover with rewards programs
CleverLayover offers flexibility and choices for travelers using rewards or loyalty programs.
The layover flights are actually booked as two separate flights. That means a traveler can choose their preferred airlines. They can also split payment across different credit cards.
“Let’s say you fly from Boston to Sydney with a layover. That means you’ll probably save $400,” says Hu. “You’ll have the extra option of putting the two flights on two different credit cards.”
“You spread out money, but also use a rewards structure. There are a whole bunch of possibilities to play around with,” he adds.
To learn more or search for flights, visit the CleverLayover website.