FlyinAway Travel Technologies is a membership travel site that offers airfare savings by enabling users to bid the price they'd like to pay.
Users vote for the route they'd like to see on sale and the technology puts that route up for auction once it receives a volume of votes.
Once purchased tickets are fulfilled by Colorado-based Cain Travel Agency and FlyinAway covers any difference between the winning auction bid and the cost to purchase the ticket which it says it is able to do because of membership fees.
The startup likens it to the Costco model which offers better prices on consumer goods such as TVs because it has a revenue stream from memberships as well as the sale of goods.
FlyinAway was founded to put consumers back in control.
"We think customers have been forgotten in the industry. You rarely find sales to places you actually want to visit, and then its not on days you can actually fly. Or you always wondered if there was a better deal out there somewhere else."
The startup currently has a team of nine led by CEO and founder Eric Lanier and co-founder Lowell Miller who have invested about $30,000 in the business to date.
The team is rounded out by former Frontier Airlines boss Jeff Potter who acts as an advisor along with Bill Schlanger, who is acting finance chief but also runs his own CPA business. Other staff include technology boss John Brunnings, UI developer Galim Kaudinov and UX and design boss Keith Amodio.
Target market is travellers who 'understand the power of social interaction with pricing' and the startup estimates it to be about 27 million people.
FlyinAway hopes to draw revenue from memberships, auctions and partnerships. The startup hopes to become profitable by attracting more members, adding value and keeping the churn rate low.
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves (differently to what is already out there) and for whom?
We offer members the opportunity to truly take control of their air travel. It is rare to find a flight to the cities you want to visit, for a price that is within your budget, on dates that work for you. We change that by allowing the crowd to determine the sales that go live. This flips the traditional airfare model on its head by putting high demand routes during high demand times on sale more often, with prices starting up to 65% lower than published fares. No other site can offer fares this low while delivering exactly what fliers want. And, saving our members big on flights is just the beginning. We exist to make travel better and cheaper for our members, so we will add value throughout the travel experience.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
Because we all want to make the travel experience cheaper and easier. FlyinAway members enjoy airfares up to 65% off, the comfort of a company who cares about members, and the peace of mind in knowing you have control over the travel experience. Plus you receive all the great perks of being a member as we grow.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
We’re offering a product that no one else has. We’re using face-to-face interactions and word of mouth marketing to help inform travellers of this new option. Satisfied members will be the best brand ambassadors. Co-marketing agreements with partners will add value to memberships. We will be high touch with our members, making sure they understand FlyinAway is about more than just another cheap flight – we’re about making your life better while you travel.
How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?
We initially were looking at a pay-per-bid style business model, but realized that the model simply did not scale. So we pivoted into a white label strategy—trying to pitch the technology to airlines. While we got some traction, it is never a good time to sell technology to airlines if you aren’t a GDS. We just weren’t getting on anyone’s technical roadmap.
The last pivot came after our initial launch in 2012. We were dictating our own sales at the time, and quickly realized we needed to turn control over to the marketplace. That’s what led to the current version of the site, where the marketplace actually decides what routes go on sale, rather than waiting around hoping for a sale to the cities they care about. Along with that pivot came the renewed focus on members over airfare. We intend to do all we can to make being a FlyinAway member about more than just finding amazing airfare deals.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?
In three years we think we will have a sizeable, dedicated membership base. We will be challenging the industry paradigm, with its push further and further away from customer focus and transparency in pricing. With a dedicated membership in the US market we will start offering US-originating international flights. We will continue to add value for our members, by partnering with vendors throughout the travel experience. We will also be building out our platform, while allowing other distribution points to integrate to our API.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Fundamentally speaking, the technology that powers the entire ecosystem is handcuffing every company to old ways of thinking. And the industry has lost focus on the needs of its customers. In our combined 50+ years of experience in the industry, we’ve seen the cyclical patterns of “innovation” that are ultimately all stonewalled at the same point – distribution and technology. The space needs startups to disrupt the current model which is broken.
The travelling public wants something different but doesn’t know how to define it. We are putting travellers in control by flipping the model on its head, using a technological solution to offer travellers what they want.
Lots of promise here and it's an interesting take - letting members vote for the route they want and hope that it makes it into an auction so they can bid for it. Although that's already quite a bit to think about, savings of up to 65% would make it worth a punt.
For example, Boston to San Francisco from 6 to 12 May is $430. The corresponding search on a large OTA is $652 so a definite saving there and some room to bid.
Building up a trusting membership base which does not feel it has to search three OTAs to ensure it is getting a good deal compared with FlyinAway will be one challenge as will scale in terms of enough members to make the auctions worthwhile and attract the necessary revenue.
The concept of putting customers in control will help here and it's interesting that the company does not rely on airlines in the process and will make up the price if what is bid is less that the price of the ticket via the travel agency. If it gains traction, you wonder if airlines might get involved.
Let's also look at the idea of putting customers first. The newbie says it will be 'challenging the industry paradigm with its push further away from customer focus and transparency in pricing. But isn't this what many in the sector are trying to do right now - move away from the cheapest price and more towards personalisation and improving the experience.
FlyinAway also wants to improve the experience by making 'life better when you travel', again something many airlines, airports and tech companies are striving towards. The startup doesn't say how although presumably this is where its partnerships will come in.
We'll be watching this one with interest to see what sort of partnerships it negotiates, how quickly the membership grows and what margin it manages to get from the auctions.
It would also be good to see some current popular auctions in case you're just looking for a bit of inspiration and a good deal.
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.