Kiwi.com claims to “hack the system” so travelers can get much cheaper flights than other flight search engines will show. And while there’s some truth to that claim, there are also a few asterisks next to it that need to be carefully considered before booking.
What is Kiwi.com?
Kiwi.com is a flight booking site and mobile app (iOS, Android) that was founded in 2011 by two Czech entrepreneurs, Oliver Dlouhý and Jozef Képesi. The company has grown exponentially since then, being named Central Europe’s fastest-growing tech company by Deloitte in 2017 and the best Czech startup by Forbes in both 2017 and 2018.
How is Kiwi.com different from other search sites?
Kiwi.com is designed to focus, first and foremost, on finding the cheapest ticket—regardless of logistical considerations.
One of the primary ways Kiwi.com does this is by putting together somewhat unusual itineraries with the kind of routing other OTAs don’t offer. Here are a few examples.
This may take the form of buying two separate tickets instead of one ticket with a built-in layover, combining airlines on one itinerary, or booking flights without regard to codeshares. Since Kiwi.com is selling you two separate tickets and neither airline is really aware of the other ticket, though, you would need to collect any checked bags between flights and re-check them for the next leg. And, if the first flight is delayed, the airline for the second flight has no obligation to find you a ticket on another flight for free.
Obfuscating the purchaser’s location
This could also take the form of buying tickets from another location. Airlines and OTAs look at your location when you book—that’s why, for example, you automatically see content in English and prices in the US dollar. When Kiwi purchases a ticket on your behalf though, it may have the purchase originate in another country, like India, where the price might be cheaper. This is all fine until you need to get a refund and find out the airline wants to pay you back in rupees.
Kiwi.com looks at fares from alternate airports, too, even if you didn’t. In some cases, Kiwi.com’s cheapest itineraries may involve taking a bus or a train to another city to catch a flight from another airport.
Throwaway ticketing or skiplagging
Another one of Kiwi.com’s potential money-saving methods is only using a portion of a ticketed itinerary, such as booking a cheaper round-trip ticket instead of a one-way flight and then just not using the return ticket. This comes with its own set of ramifications (it’s against most airline terms and conditions, for one thing) that travelers should be aware of before they book.
The “hidden city” trick is another they promote as a way to save money. Let’s say you really want to go to Paris. Sometimes, the cost of a flight to Paris may be higher than the cost of a flight to Berlin that includes a layover in Paris. On the latter itinerary, Paris is the so-called “hidden city,” and Kiwi.com’s money-saving suggestion is to simply not board the second flight from Paris to Berlin.
The biggest concern with this practice is that it’s airline policy to cancel all future tickets on an itinerary if a passenger doesn’t show up for a flight. So, if you’re looking for a cheaper one-way ticket, the “hidden city” trick can work—but if you’re planning to return to the departure point, your return ticket (from Berlin) would be canceled if you stopped in Paris. And this, too, is against airline terms and conditions.
Savvy travelers with more time than money may be able to jump through all the logistical hoops with ease and save money in the process, as long as they know about all the possible issues that could arise.
Pros and Cons of Kiwi.com
Pros of Kiwi.com
- There’s no fee to use Kiwi.com to search for or book flights.
- Kiwi.com’s unique search methods can find cheaper flights than you’d find elsewhere.
- It’s easy to search flexible travel dates in several ways, from “anytime” to a span of a few days for both departure and return dates.
- Searching for flights to and from multiple locations is also easy. You can search points of interest, cities, regions, countries, continents, or even use the “Anywhere” option if you just want to find the cheapest ticket.
Cons of Kiwi.com
- With the sort of travel hack Kiwi.com likes to use, you have to operate as if you’re taking a series of individual trips. So, if you’re checking a bag, you may need to go through baggage claim at the transfer airport and re-check your bag on the next leg of the journey.
- When you check a bag and you have to collect luggage and re-check it at the transfer point, you’ll pay any checked baggage fees twice.
- If anything goes wrong on an itinerary like this—one flight gets delayed or canceled, for instance—it can get really complicated to fix.
- Technically, most airline terms and conditions stipulate that you must use all portions of a ticketed itinerary, so Kiwi.com’s hack of just not using one of the tickets violates those terms and conditions. In most cases, if used sparingly, this trick won’t incur the airlines’ wrath. If you use it frequently, however, you can be penalized by an airline.
- If you’re using Kiwi.com’s “hidden city” trick, you can’t check any luggage—because your bags will continue to the final destination even if you don’t.
How to Use Kiwi with Going
Going alerts you when fares drop from their normal price. You tell us which airports you fly from, and we let you know where there's a great deal from that airport. You can then book that deal directly with the airline, or if the price is cheaper on an OTA like Kiwi.com, you can book it there instead.
The search fields are right at the top of the Kiwi.com website. Your departure airport may be auto-filled based on your location—Portland, in this case. If that’s the case, there may also be a prompt below the “From” box to add other nearby departure airports to increase search results—in this case, we’re prompted to add Seattle and Eugene.
The default departure and return dates are set to “Anytime,” and the destination field is a rotating set of suggestions to demonstrate the sorts of things you can enter in that field. You don’t have to use a specific airport code or even a city—Kiwi.com lets you enter a point of interest (Eiffel Tower or Machu Picchu), an entire country (France), or even a continent (Europe).
Once you enter a destination, no matter how broad, you can enter more destinations to create a multi-city itinerary, if you like. There are additional search criteria options above the “From” box, including how many passengers are traveling, how much luggage you’ll have (including carry-on bags), and what type of ticket you’re looking for (round-trip, one-way, multi-city, or “Nomad”).
That “Nomad” search option is one of Kiwi.com’s unique features. By choosing “Nomad,” a date range for your departure, and an overall trip length, you’ll then get prompted to add a list of destinations (plus about how long you’d like to stay in each one).
From there, Kiwi.com will sort the order of destinations to find the best route.
Kiwi.com offers a lot of customization in the travel dates section. To narrow down “Anytime,” click in either date field and you’ll see a calendar with ticket prices on each date to give you an idea of when it’s cheaper or more expensive to fly.
You can select an entire month by clicking on the month name at the top of the calendar in both the “Departure” and “Return” fields.
You also have the option of selecting date ranges for both the departure and return flights by clicking and dragging across dates on the calendar for each one.
When you have the dates you want, click the “Set Dates” button and then the “Explore” button. There’s a lot going on with the next screen.
Potential destinations are displayed with images, Pinterest-style, along with the duration of the stay and cost of the trip. The default setting is to sort the destinations by popularity—click the “Popularity” prompt on the upper right section of the results page to select “Cheapest” if that’s your priority.
There are more filters available on this page, too, on the upper left corner of the results. You can sort by what you’re looking for in a destination (such as Romance, Family Fun, Beach, and Adventure), how many stops you’re willing to make (including whether you’re okay with an itinerary having an overnight stopover), what types of transportation to include (this is where the options for bus and train might be selected), an overall price cap, and what days of the week you want to depart and return on.
Once you choose a destination from the results page, you’ll get to start looking at the available flights. Kiwi.com sorts the flights in different ways. The default screen you’ll see is the “Best” flights. The other sorted lists are “Cheapest” and “Fastest,” which you can select by clicking on each name.
If you’re not quite ready to book but you want to keep an eye on an itinerary, click the “Create price alert” button at the upper left side of the list of flights and you’ll get this pop-up window. Enter your email and the price change you want to know about and you’ll get a message when the ticket goes up or down by the amount you specify.
But let’s say you’re just looking for a good deal and the destination isn’t the important part. Way back at the beginning, before you enter a destination on the main search page, there’s an “Anywhere” prompt that appears if you just click into the “To” field but don’t type anything.
The results page here offers places that are, quite literally, all over the map, so those “Things to do” filters may come in particularly handy.
Another way Kiwi.com allows for destination customization is with the map that appears in the upper right corner of that Pinterest-style display. Zoom in on the map, right-click on your departure area, and you’ll see a circle which you can make smaller or wider depending on how far you’re willing to use ground transportation to reach a departure airport.
Next, move the map around and left-click on your arrival area to get another circle, which you can also change the size of to cover however broad of an area where you’re willing to land. The search fields at the top of the page auto-update with the information derived from those circles, so you need to click the “Search” button again to get the results.
As mentioned earlier, there may be some risk in booking the kind of itinerary Kiwi.com creates. Kiwi.com has thought of this, however, so they offer an option to purchase the Kiwi.com Guarantee after you book your trip.
The guarantee covers “changes or cancellations caused by the carrier,” such as flights being canceled or delayed, or flight times getting changed by more than 24 hours. The remedies offered will depend on when the change occurs relative to your flight times, but they include things like a new itinerary or a full refund (in the form of Kiwi.com credit). The process for claiming any of the remedies must be followed exactly or you risk not getting anything.
There are also “service packages” that Kiwi.com offers as add-ons to every booking. Each service package (Basic Services, Plus Services, and Premium Services) grants travelers access to customer service above and beyond what’s available to customers who don’t add on a service package.
There are also varying fees for “each additional service,” from €0–30 depending on the package you buy, and every package allows you to make changes to your trip up to 48 hours before it begins.
While Kiwi.com can, in some cases, send refunds to the original payment method, the most common refund is in the form of Kiwi.com Credit. This kind of credit does have an expiration date, however, so check your Kiwi.com account page to see what those dates are.
Kiwi.com Flights Reviews
Kiwi.com has a rating of only 2.1 stars (out of five) on Trustpilot, with more than 61,000 reviews logged. Many reviewers say they were never informed about flight cancellations while others say customer service wasn’t helpful (or non-existent) when they ran into problems during a trip.
The number of reviews of Kiwi.com on the Better Business Bureau is significantly smaller, though you can also read through the nearly 600 complaints the BBB received in the past three years.
Kiwi Customer Service
There’s an article in the help section of Kiwi.com that details how to contact the company, but there are no phone numbers listed. In order to get Kiwi.com’s customer service phone numbers, you must already have booked a trip—the phone numbers are listed on your e-ticket.
Other contact methods for customer service, such as sending messages on the website or via the app, are available 24/7.
Kiwi.com can find some good deals using its unique system of putting together flight itineraries, but if the last few years have taught us nothing else, we've learned that even the most straightforward trip can get complicated by unexpected circumstances, and when that happens, Kiwi can be a bit of a problem to deal with. However, if price is the most important factor to you and you're willing to take on a small bit of risk, you can sometimes save quite a lot by booking with Kiwi.