I found myself planning a series of flights for Hacker Paradise, flying from Tel Aviv –> New York –> San Francisco –> Tokyo –> Tel Aviv with a few days of flexibility for when to take each flight. I spent about half an hour on Skyscanner and Google Flights, and couldn’t find flights for less than about $3,000. Which is a lot. At roughly the same time, Vlad from Flystein reached out and offered to help Hacker Paradise participants book flights. So I tried the service out.

Flystein Homepage

What’s Flystein?

Glad you asked. Flystein, it turns out, is what a value travel agent looks like in the “digital age”. Instead of making money by taking a percentage of your booking fare from airlines, Flystein helps you find the cheapest possible fare online that meets your needs and then charges a flat fee for doing so. You then book the flights yourselves, via links & booking instructions Flystein provides.

Taking money for providing value. Who knew.

How did it go?

I gave Flystein my itinerary and neurotic set of flight cost preferences.

My flight itinerary

A day later, they came back with flights totalling $1934. A ~$1,150 difference between a “reasonably competent” online flight shopper like me and a bona fide flight expert.

Proposed Routes

How did things get so much cheaper?

Throwaway Ticketing. My Tel Aviv to New York flight includes a roundtrip flight back to Copenhagen in February. I’m probably not going to take it, but who knows. Also, who cares – it was $200 or so cheaper than the equivalent one-way flight. I would have never known to check.

Hidden City Ticketing. My San Francisco to Tokyo flight included a day-long layover in Tokyo and then continued on to Hong Kong. I, however, never made it on the connecting flight. One day, Hong Kong, one day.

The Economist has a good write-up of the hows and whys and economics of flight hacks. The point is, you can save a considerable amount of money on flights if you know what to look for and are willing to dedicate the time required. Or you can use Flystein.

How was booking?

Mostly fine. One of my flight legs was expired by the time I looked (you have to book quickly) and I ended up calling British Airways, only to be told that I needed to pay thousands of dollars more.

So I let Flystein know. After cursing about British Airways for a bit, Vlad found a flight that worked perfectly only a few minutes later. The new flight cost a whole $20 more.

The whole booking episode could have been avoided if I had the ability to go full “travel agent” and just given Flystein permission to book on my behalf. It turns out there are legal reasons why doing so is not trivial, but they’re on it.

Was it worth it?

Flystein saved me over $1,000. Research fees for a trip like mine cost <$100 (a simpler flight starts at $49). So, yes. 90%+ of the savings for near 0% of the frustration in finding & booking flights. Value….but what if they don’t find anything? Fair question.

It’s possible you’ve already found the cheapest rate you’re going to get. Flystein has a beat-my-price option where you only get charged if Flystein actually saves you more than their fees.

Flystein. Use it when booking flights of non-trivial complexity (international flights over $500). It’s a thing.