As a diehard Google fan, I’ve never really given Bing more than a cursory look but have to admit, Bing’s travel search engine is terrific. Based on Farecast (which was eventually sold to Microsoft), the site’s interface isn’t particularly remarkable save for one feature…
…the feature that distinguishes Bing Travel from other sites is its “Price Predictor” feature:
This is Bing’s description of the technology behind Price Predictor:
Our technology and data
Bing travel’s predictive technology evolved from a University of Washington research project led by computer science professor and Internet search expert, Oren Etzioni. We’ve spent several years developing and refining our state-of-the-art predictive, statistical and data management algorithms with the objective of providing consumers with unprecedented, actionable information to help decide “when is the best time to buy?”
Each day Bing travel processes millions of round-trip, priced flight itineraries from several complete and partial airfare information sources. These itineraries extend up to a 180-day period, encompassing trip lengths up to 21 nights and span over 2500 combinations of U.S. origins to domestic and international destinations. For each origin and destination pair, this is equivalent to performing thousands of searches on a typical travel search site. The data is stored and forms the basis of our airfare price predictions, deals, and flexible travel features.
Data aggregation and analysis
The huge volume of airfare and hotel rate data we process every day is aggregated and transformed using a variety of statistical measures. These statistical measures allow us to intelligently filter air and hotel data to reveal where the best prices and deals reside. For our airfare price predictions, we also calculate special features from our historical data that are predictive in nature. This data is used to train our predictive models which ultimately power our arrows and recommendations on our web site.
In actual practice, Price Predictor provides a simple visual cue indicating whether you should purchase now or wait:
In the example shown above, it’d be best to wait until prices fall. When you click on “Details” (beneath the Confidence level above), a pop up window explains the Price Predictor recommendation:
With many itineraries, the Bing Travel results display an icon for a “Fare History” graph:
Click on it, and an interactive graph with additional information is launched:
Now for the bad news: Bing Travel is definitely U.S.-centric (although I recently used it to quote a Chicago-London trip and Price Predictor did work). Also, Southwest Airlines does not show up in the search results; I suspect that some of the discount airlines won’t display also.
Definitely check out Bing Travel (www.bing.com/travel). Also worthy of consideration: Skyscanner, particularly for international travel. Finally, Oren Etzioni, the brains behind Farecast – and by extension, Bing Travel – also created Decide.com; check it out if you’re in the market for an electronic device or appliance – it offers a feature similar to Price Predictor.
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