The travel industry has taken something of a beating in previous years, as a combination of regulations and a growing number of niche startups look to take an increasing number of pieces from the same pie. A new service called Flights With Friends is out to make traveling a bit more social, giving users not only the ability to more readily set up those flights taken with friends, but also better figure out what to do when those friends reach their selected destination.
The Flights With Friends system works on three basic premises: first it searches 150 different sites for the best prices in flights and hotel stays, allowing users to easily set up complete packages and take advantage of discounts. Second, it allows a connection through Facebook or through e-mail to invite friends along. Third, it then allows for an easier way to keep track of who's interested in going, as users can pin the flights and hotels they like, and receive notifications when the invited friends set up their travel plans.
Flights With Friends only launched out of beta late last week, but it's still out to make a name for itself in terms of not so much setting up flights and hotel stays—there are already plenty of places involved in such endeavor—but rather in getting the crew together to go out and hit the town, whatever town that may be. It also makes the process of planning a group trip more open to everybody who's in the group by putting it all online. Instead of two or three ambitious types planning the trip, everyone can have a hand in selecting destinations, communicating in real-time, and since the individuals make their own bookings, it puts a lot more on individual responsibility than on the efforts of the ambitious.
A recent study from Groupize suggests that small group travel, or travel of between two and nine individuals, is a market worth about $31 billion annually. With that kind of cash at stake it's easy to see why Flights With Friends would make an appearance in the larger market. By like token, much of that $31 billion is conducted wholly offline via travel agencies. What's more, there are a growing number of services out there with at least some similarities to Flights With Friends, including TripIt's group planning service Triporama, as well as the aforementioned Groupize and an upcoming presence from Jetaport.
Still, with telepresence systems and improved telecommunications systems taking a bite out of business travel
, and a soft economy keeping regular travelers looking more at staycations than vacations, conditions on the ground aren't the best in the travel industry. There's a major market still available in group travel, and it's clear plenty of competitors will go after it. Only time will tell if Flights With Friends can fly high, or if it will ultimately end up grounded.
Edited by Rachel Ramsey