I heard about Kiwi.com from a friend, dry on the miles front, who was traveling in Europe this past summer and wanted to find the cheapest cash option to get him back home to the United States. Kiwi.com is an online travel agency with a fare aggregator and metasearch engine that used to go by Skypicker.com until the company re-branded under the name Kiwi in 2016. And lots of people are talking about it.
But there are tons of aggregators and metasearch engines for travel these days. What makes Kiwi special?
Kiwi.com’s unique feature is that their search engine pieces together flight segments sans codeshare agreements (non-allied, non-partner, and generally non-cooperative airlines),this is what is referred to as virtual interlining. They sell the result as “one ticket” with (conditional) coverage. I put “one ticket” in quotation marks because by all official means you’re flight segments are technically a bunch of disjointed tickets. This way of flying can sometimes result in an overall cheaper experience, if you’re willing to put up with some inconveniences.
Cherry-picking flights to put together your own cheaper itinerary is not a new idea. Individuals have been doing this for a while now. The biggest pitfall to doing it yourself is that you’re totally on your own in the case of a flight delay or cancellation that affects a connection. The airlines have no responsibility to get you on the next flight or remedy your situation in any manner. That’s where Kiwi steps up things a notch…as long as you book through their site and follow their conditions.
In the case of a flight delay, flight cancellation, or schedule changes…
…Kiwi will either provide you with another flight, or refund your unused tickets, depending.
- If there’s more than two days before departure and your flight schedule is changed/interrupted, you choose between getting a refund or picking an alternative flight.
- If it’s less than two days before departure, you don’t get to choose. Kiwi does.
If you miss your connection, Kiwi will put you on the next convenient flight free of charge as long it doesn’t cost more than twice as much as the original. If the alternative transportation does cost more than twice as much, they’ll cover up to double the value of the original flight you missed and you’ll be responsible for anything on top.
You can also receive some coverage for incidentals, like..
- up to 100 Euros of transportation coverage in the event you need to get to another airport
- up to 10 Euros a person in refreshments for delays over four hours
- up to 50 Euros (?*) a person in accommodation expenses if you are required to stay somewhere overnight (if you flight connects after midnight and you’d need to stay at the airport for more than eight hours)
*While the terms don’t say 50 Euros, I read that here.
- If you miss your connection on your Kiwi ticket, you have to reach out to them either via phone or online chat as soon as you find out. If you don’t, or you try to remedy the situation yourself instead of letting them re-book, you could waive your right to Kiwi’s Guarantee for coverage.*
- You cannot make any flight changes without their approval.*
- If you speak with Kiwi in the event of flight disruption and agree with them to purchase a flight no available online, you have to send them proof of payment within 14 days.
*There is a clause in their terms that allows for changes without Kiwi’s permission if you’re forced to make a quick decision due to lack of a time…
“In the exceptional cases when Your Flight(s) is cancelled or You miss the Flight Connection(s) due to the Flight Delay and You are not able to contact Us in this matter, You may purchase the ticket(s) for the alternative transportation without prior agreement between You and Us and We will refund You the price of such ticket(s) for alternative transportation up to twice the original price of the unused Flight(s) en route to Your Destination. Please note that You are entitled to this refund under the conditions in Art. 5 hereof, only after You provide Us with sufficient written proof of Your purchase of the ticket(s) for the alternative transportation to Your Destination together with the proof of the original Flight Delay or cancellation of Your original Flight.”
Pitfalls of Kiwi
The possible necessity of re-checking in yourself and/or luggage.
This one is unavoidable and probably be the biggest deterrent to using Kiwi. One of the benefits of flying on one continuous normal ticket, officially connected by codeshares, is that yourself and your luggage will be checked all the way through to your final destination.
That is not always the case when you book on Kiwi, or for that matter, piece together an itinerary yourself.
If there is no cooperation between two airlines you fly to get to your destination, you will have to pick up your luggage if you have any checked, check yourself back in for your connecting flight, and check your luggage back in if you have any.
Possibility of extra luggage fees.
I’m not sure exactly how this works, but it looks like Kiwi makes you pay for checked bags (when necessary) through them instead of paying directly with the airline (and sometimes Kiwi’s fees can be different, higher or lower, than the airline’s). Perhaps you might have to pay more, or perhaps you might save money. Looks like a crapshoot.
The possible necessity of visas for layovers.
This one is, thankfully, avoidable.
Kiwi’s search results might include a routing with a layover in a country that requires you to have a visa depending on your nationality, since on paper it will appear as though you are arriving to that country as your destination. Make sure you’re not laying over in a place that would require you to get a visa for being there for the amount of time of the layover.
I won’t go into detail about Kiwi’s search functions as, in general, they seem pretty similar to Google Flights.
There’s one big difference I can see between the two: with Kiwi.com, you can search for the cheapest flights from one region to another region instead of having to define at least either the origin or destination like you would with Google Flights.
For example, I clicked New York City on Kiwi’s map and a search radius bubble pops up. I can expand that search radius to include more airports by making the circle bigger. Then I clicked a spot in Germany and expanded that search radius bubble include airports in Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands, and Czech Republic.
The search results which show cheap flights between airports in both of those regions.
From what I can see, if you are flexible traveler that just wants to save money, Kiwi’s service could prove extremely useful. Those of you used to flying in premium cabins on ideal routings, leave Kiwi be. Their service is not for you.
Educate yourself on Kiwi’s terms and conditions and have appropriate expectations. Pick itineraries with sufficient layover times so you decrease the chance of missing your connection. Double check if any layovers require a visa (which I imagine you’d want to avoid). Read the fine print to see if you’ll need to check yourself and/or luggage back in along the course of an itinerary. Contact Kiwi immediately if you do miss your connection so that they can find the next best flight for you (unless there is no time to do so).
If you do all of those things, I imagine you’d have a relatively smooth experience and save a lot of money.
I haven’t used kiwi.com myself yet, but I certainly have it bookmarked. Do any of you have experience? Praises? Critiques? Words of warning? Terms and conditions are one thing, but the way they’re carried out in practice, as we all know, can be a different beast sometimes. I’d love for anyone with any experience to share it in the comments.
MileValue was not paid by Kiwi to write this post, nor do we have any sort of affiliate partnership with them. I am just genuinely interested in the service they provide.