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Taking on the travel giants

Frustrated Icelandic execs build 'ultimate' trip planner

By Barry Neild for CNN

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Dohop's creators say they are working on the 'ultimate' free travel site.

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- A group of Icelandic executives, tired of wasting hours looking for low-cost flights on travel Web sites, have taken matters into their own hands by building their own portal, which now looks poised to challenge the industry's giants.

Born on a chilly night in Reykjavik, Dohopexternal link began it's life as a backroom experiment to see if dozens of unconnected budget airline sites could be brought under one umbrella.

The site proved so successful, attracting tens of thousands of hits, that its makers are now redeveloping it into what they believe will be the "ultimate" free travel Web site -- the first to unite all the world's Internet-linked airlines.

Dohop founder Frosti Sigurjonsson, an IT consultant now based in France, began work on the site after becoming frustrated by the lack of cooperation between airlines and Internet travel firms.

"I like to go with low cost airlines, but planning a journey from the south of France to Iceland was proving very difficult on the Internet," Sigurjonsson told CNN.

"Low cost airlines, which are up to 30 percent of the travel market, do not collaborate with anyone to sell their tickets, they work on different platforms to the main airlines."

Few budget carriers are represented on mainstream travel sites such as Orbitz or Expedia as they do the bulk of their trade through their own dedicated Internet portals.

The main travel sites instead focus on the premium rate flights and services they are paid to sell, leaving many routes uncovered.

"As soon as you want to travel somewhere outside the main hubs, it becomes time consuming and you have no help anywhere.

"So I got together with a few of my friends to see if we could make a little search engine, it was a bit selfish.

Labor of love

"We were very happy to find out we could solve it and so we made it available to everybody."

Dohop now brings together more than 80 low-cost carriers, covering Europe, the United States, Asia and Australia, allowing users to plan worldwide itineraries. It also features hotels and car rental.

Sigurjonsson says the Web site has received fan mail from both customers and airlines, but has yet to earn its creators a single cent.

"It has been a labor of love, we haven't made any money off it yet. We've all been giving our time and work for free in the hope that some day it will pay back," he said.

Dohop plans to pull in advertisers by drastically scaling up their site, covering more flights than their rivals -- a project that is edging nearer completion.

"We have been secretly creating the ultimate travel search engine which includes all the airlines. It's now running in a laboratory environment and it is working fantastically," Sigurjonsson added.

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