Patrick Surry at BDF 2015 | “Buy or Wait? How the Bunny Predicts When to Buy Your Plane Ticket”

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Abstract: Buying a plane ticket is a time-consuming and frustrating process that often leaves the consumer unhappy. Flight prices are less transparent and fluctuate more than almost anything else a consumer buys, even though airfare is one of the most expensive purchases for a typical family. On average, consumers spend almost two weeks comparison shopping but end up spending nearly 5% more than when they started looking. Ironically, all the variability in prices means that there are good deals to be found, but consumers lose out because they’re only spot-checking prices occasionally. By watching continuously there’s often a 5-10% lower price even within 24 hours, and the potential for further savings by picking the best time to buy. Our goal at Hopper is to bring more transparency to pricing, by giving consumers advice about where and when to fly — and when to buy — to save money on their air travel. We believe this helps consumers buy more quickly, with less effort, and ultimately be happier with their purchase decision. One of our key features is our “when to buy” advice: we’ll watch prices for your trip continuously and alert you when we think you should buy. The question is what makes a good deal? If we’re too conservative and tell you to buy too early, we risk missing out on a better deal later, but if we’re too optimistic and wait too long, you could end up paying more as prices rise towards your departure date. Because prices change in unpredictable ways, at the whim of the airlines, it’s impossible to know for sure. But this session will outline the predictive approaches we use to make recommendations that save about 10% on average, and up to 40% in some cases.

Bio: As Chief Data Scientist at Hopper, Patrick Surry analyzes flight data to help consumers make smarter travel choices. Patrick is recognized as a travel expert and he frequently provides data-driven insight on the travel industry and trends. Patrick’s research and commentary have been featured in outlets such as New York Times, USA Today, Bloomberg Businessweek, TIME, and many others. Patrick also regularly appears on various broadcast stations to offer travel insight and tips. Patrick holds a PhD in mathematics and statistics from the University of Edinburgh, where he studied optimization based on evolutionary algorithms, following an HBSc in continuum mechanics from the University of Western Ontario. You can also follow Patrick on Twitter at @PatrickSurry.