By DAVID KOENIGAP Airlines Writer
DALLAS (AP) - Former American Airlines chief executive Robert Crandall has joined the board of travel-search startup Hipmunk Inc.
The company's website sorts flights on a visual timeline with graphics that show at a glance whether connections are involved, the plane has Internet access, and other details. It does something similar with hotels, showing a map with nearby alternatives and links to TripAdvisor reviews.
It also sells a service called "Business Class" for $9.99 a month that lets a corporate travel coordinator integrate employees' online calendars to help plan trips. The traveler gets an email listing flight and hotel options for approval.
The San Francisco company was launched in August 2010 by reddit.com co-founder Steve Huffman and Adam Goldstein, a 2010 MIT graduate who also started Booktour.com.
Crandall retired in 1998 as chairman and CEO of American Airlines parent AMR Corp., where he oversaw the modernization of the Sabre computerized-reservations system. In a statement, Goldstein called Crandall "a legend in the airline industry." Crandall said Hipmunk asked him to add airline and travel experience to the board.
"It's kind of a mutual-education society," Crandall said in an interview. "I try to stay in contact with people on the cutting edge of electronic commerce because I'm not there anymore."
Crandall conceded that travel-search is a field crowded with competitors including Google Inc., and it might not be difficult for someone else to replicate the appearance of Hipmunk's site. But, he said, Huffman and Goldstein deserve a shot at finding out if they can make money from travel search.
"Whether or not Hipmunk will break through, I can't tell you," Crandall said, "but I don't see any downside for them or me."
A company spokeswoman said Hipmunk has raised $21.2 million. Investors include several venture-capital firms, Rich Barton, the co-founder of travel site Expedia Inc. and real estate site Zillow, former Expedia CEO Erik Blachford, and actor Ashton Kutcher. Crandall said he did not invest.
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