Students help students plan spring break

A new Web site could get rid of the guessing game when looking for a cheap flight.

Allie Winter

Spring break is quickly approaching and airfare is quickly changing. Some students might turn to the Internet to find the cheapest, best ticket option available.

Five Carlson School of Management graduate students helped enhance one of those kinds of travel sites with ideas conjured up during a class competition.

Last year, entrepreneur Robert Metcalf created flyspy.com, a Web site dedicated to making airplane ticket choices easier. The site shows flights and prices to a certain destination over a 30-day period. This way, online shoppers can know what day or week will offer a cheaper price, taking out the guess factor.

on the web

For more information, go to flyspy.com

During the early stages of creation, Metcalf sought help from professionals including then-instructor and doctoral candidate, Nelson Granados.

Granados decided to involve students in his information technology management class by holding a case competition.

His students were divided into teams and asked to brainstorm how Metcalf could get the most money out of the data he’d acquired for the Web site.

The winning team included students Martin Bonsager, Igor Chechelnitsky, Spencer Helms, Ryan Kirvida and Katy Olson.

One of their ideas was to use past and future price information to determine what general time of year would be less of a wallet-breaker to plan a trip to a specific location, Kirvida said.

The group also suggested using some advertising on the Web site. For example, when a shopper looks at prices for a certain destination, there could be a tool to bring up information about the area. Team member and second-year graduate student Olson found this aspect quite important.

“On a Web site, if you want to make money, you have to have advertising,” she said.

Instead of just reading and reviewing case studies, the teams got to take part in a real world situation, giving them a taste of what they’ll someday be up against.

“We learned more about what experiences entrepreneurs go through. When we read a study, we’re so far removed from it,” Kirvida said.

Metcalf couldn’t be happier with the decision to enhance his Web site with the help of younger minds.

“It was utterly fabulous to have ideas come from students,” he said.

And some of those award-winning ideas are currently being incorporated into the Web site. For the past nine months, flyspy.com has been in a “proof of principal” state, meaning Metcalf is testing the waters of the site and putting the opinions of the customer into perspective.

“The feedback is 99 percent thankful for lifting a curtain on a problem that’s befallen on many,” Metcalf said.

This curtain can also be lifted from the stressed shoulders of students trying to book a last-minute trip. Metcalf says flyspy.com provides ticket information from Minneapolis to 50 different cities, including spring break hot spots such as San Diego, Miami, Fort Myers, Fla. and many others.