Flyhigh – pay low

Created

August - October 2019

Technologies

  • Python
  • Docker
  • R
  • JavaScript
  • Svelte
  • D3.js

Where is the data?

When I lived in Stockholm, I used to fly from Stockholm to Frankfurt twice a year. I always wondered when I should buy the tickets though. Is it better to book a flight quite early? Or should I wait and buy last-minute tickets?

As a data scientist I have always been envious of Hopper. They collect millions of time-resolved flight prices to predict the most optimal date for flight booking. I also wanted to have this data! But how?

A Raspberry Pi with a docker daemon

Well, I had this Raspberry Pi lying around on the shelf. After an evening (or two?) of Python coding I had a dockerized web scraper, which collected flight prices from Stockholm to Frankfurt – every twelve hours.

After a month I rembered that I had this project running, downloaded the data (sh**, that was a lot) and loaded them in R. Unfortunately, it was really hard to see patterns. Flight prices are obviously dependent on loads of parameters. When I was close to have identified some patterns, SAS – one of the airlines serving the connection – started a promotional campaign… Nevertheless, one thing really surprised me: Flight prices are hell variable over time.

I decided to visualize exactly this.

-30 days until takeoff

So I had flight prices for a bunch of journeys in early 2019. For most of these flights I had the prices directly before takeoff until up to 60 days before departure. After fiddeling around with different time ranges, I had the feeling that prices start going up and down from 30 days before takeoff.

I took a pen and paper and tried different ways of how to plot the price trajectories. Once I draw a circle and it reminded me of a stopwatch, which fitted well to what I wanted to convey. Later I realised that the circle also looks like an airplane engine. Perfect!

Human signatures detail

JavaScript at its best

After adding interactivity the visualization got so complex that I was happy to have used Svelte from the beginning on. It allowed me to modularise the code in a straightforward way. Also it is able to handle the global state.

Human signatures detail
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