Oliver Dlouhý of Kiwi.com tells us about cheap traveling and innovation.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Kiwi.com.
Oliver Dlouhý: Everything started back in 2012 when I was trying to book a flight from Prague to Portugal and realized that if you play a bit with the connections, you can get two or three times lower prices. I thought, what if there will be a search engine that would do this exact thing – scanning and searching all the available flights and providing you with the fastest and cheapest itinerary. I met Jozef Kepesi, our CTO, and he turned the idea into practice. We created a unique algorithm that we named Virtual Interlining, which saves endless hours of searching to find the best possible connection. We added the Kiwi.com Guarantee, which protects our customers from disruptions on their trips, such as a missed connection due to a delay. Eight years later, we have more than 800 air and ground carriers that you can combine to create your unique itinerary from any A to any B.
How does Kiwi.com innovate?
Oliver Dlouhý: I am a huge believer in technology because technology is unbiased; technology is extremely pragmatic, and that’s actually what the success of Kiwi.com has been based on so far. Of course, Virtual Interlining is our most recognized innovation. We developed a variety of products and services over the years to respond to customers’ demands. An example is Nomad, the best possible tool for travelers who want to visit multiple destinations but do not want to stick to a specific route. All you need to do is put the destinations you wish to visit and the duration you want to stay in each place and let Nomad shuffle all the possible connections and show you the best and cheapest route for your trip. In 2019 we implemented Virtual Fare Types. We have more than 800 air and ground carriers, and with Virtual Fare Types, all of them are unified under the same terms of conditions. During the pandemic, we’ve also released a Hidden city ticketing – another great hack to bring even lower fares.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Oliver Dlouhý: Prior to the pandemic, we were beating our own records for bookings regularly, but then when it hit, travel was, of course, one of the first industries impacted. As a global tech business, we are better diversified than local companies by nature, so we didn’t drop as much as some competitors did. There are always some regions in the world where flying is still possible, and people are traveling. With the vaccination rollout beginning, we can look forward to seeing travel recovering, but it will, of course, be some time until we see things back to the levels of 2019.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Oliver Dlouhý: In the travel industry, the words frenemies and competition are quite common. We compete and cooperate with pretty much all the players who offer or distribute flight and ground transportation content. It is important to understand that Kiwi.com is a technology company, and we do everything technology first. Obtaining transportation and especially airline content is getting more and more difficult as many of the airlines don’t want the customers to access the cheapest fares. A big portion of our efforts is spent on finding innovative ways to obtain the fares the airlines simply don’t want you to find.
Your final thoughts?
Oliver Dlouhý: I am happy to live in times where technology can change people’s lives. Travelling has become more complex post-pandemic, and our technology, Virtual Interlining, is becoming the hero in the travel industry as it will find a way to get you to where you want to go by combining non-cooperating carriers, creating individual itineraries, and enabling you to reach your destination safe and stress-free.
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