For the first time, gas savings and flight tracking apps appear in the 10 Most Downloaded Travel Apps, a sign of the times during this first half of 2022. FlightRadar24 ranks tenth worldwide, and Upside (cash back on gas) is the third most downloaded travel app in the U.S. The other changes in rank since our 2021 download leaders list shows up among ridesharing and online travel agency (OTA) apps. 

The top 5 travel apps worldwide so far in 2022 are the exact same as for the full year 2021 that we reported in January, but in the second half of the list new entrants include inDriver, AutoNavi Map, and FlightRadar24. FlightRadar24 uses augmented reality to let users scan a plane in the sky and learn the plane’s origin, destination, and schedule. Flight routes became interesting to people when Russia invaded Ukraine and the no-fly zone over the country sent planes on curious re-routes. So much so that FlightRadar crashed in March. More recently, it’s become a popular way for travelers to manage travel expectations amidst record flight cancellations.

Read more: Airlines with more cancellations are seeing a misleading increase in DAUs while those with less cancellations are growing their market share of new app installs.

What’s interesting to me is who fell off the list to make room for new names to appear: DiDi, Grab, and Lyft. All technically ridesharing apps, but DiDi and Grab expanded to becomes super apps offering delivery and payments. DiDi was recently banned in China, so that will contribute to the download drop, but Grab’s struggle could be a cautionary tale about what happens when you try to do too much. 

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In the U.S., the story we can’t outrun is inflation, and it’s apparent by the Upside app’s #3 rank. Upside provides up to 25¢ per gallon cash back on gas at 25,000+ gas stations across the U.S., and similar rewards at select restaurants and grocery stores. We know from our recent retail apps research that discounts are converting mobile app downloads these days: the top grocers in the U.S. experienced record growth in May, and the word “coupon” was mentioned 75% more that month than in April

Below Upside, the OTA apps rearranged. Notably, VRBO already has 10M new installs in H1 – the same amount that it had all year in 2021. Consequently, it leapfrogged Airbnb and Hopper to first place. Hopper’s 494% growth and succession over Airbnb in 2021 was the headline to our Travel Trendlines report earlier this year, so to see it already beat is a big deal. 

In the Top 10 Most Downloaded Travel Apps list, Airbnb fell the furthest, from fifth to ninth place. Within the Top 10 OTA Apps in the U.S. list, shown above, it ranks last among OTAs that offer short term home rentals. Not a great sign for the company whose name is the verb for renting someone else’s home. However, Airbnb holds on to its second place rank worldwide, so perhaps it is focusing on growth outside the U.S.

The reality is that pent up demand to travel at the lowest cost is causing fierce competition among OTAs, and we are witnessing them place their bets on growth. Airbnb bet on a significant redesign, Amsterdam-based confirmed its priority is mobile growth in the U.S., and Hopper reported its developing a Super App. From our view, Expedia looks to be streamlining its focus to growing VRBO and its own app instead of subsidiaries Hotwire, Orbitz, Travelocity, which made 2021’s top 10 list but do not appear here. 

Third quarter is the most active time for travel apps, so we expect more surprises over the next couple months. Catch up on our last benchmark from the Spring Break travel season at the link below. 

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