Each month, ExpertFlyer sits down with an executive in the travel industry to provide insight to changes in the landscape and how it affects the way you do business. It’s another way ExpertFlyer is providing additional information to empower the business traveler.
This month ExpertFlyer sat down with David Pelter, founder and CEO of InsideTrip . In addition to high value pricing, InsideTrip provides the industry’s first ever trip quality ratings. Redefining metasearch and aiming to change the way consumers evaluate and buy travel, InsideTrip’s breakthrough TripQuality score evaluates 12 unique elements of every airline itinerary and lets shoppers determine if the trip is right for them.
“I’m an airline guy who wants to share industry secrets with consumers so they can maximize their travel experience.”
— David Pelter, CEO, InsideTrip
1) As an airline industry veteran, what led you to create another travel search engine with a different twist?
There are some great airfare shopping sites out there where you can find pretty reliable schedule and pricing information. As useful as many of these sites are in terms of graphical interface and the speed to return hundreds of flight results, somewhere along the way, the industry concluded that price was the only factor that mattered in the selection of airline tickets. Whereas, Stars and Diamond ratings have been in the hotel world for decades. We’re the first guys who believe passionately that quality matters similarly in the air travel experience. Things like legroom and layover times DO matter and our mission is to arm consumers with this type of information.
2) InsideTrip offers the first “airline trip quality ratings.” What exactly is a TripQuality score and how did you come up with the 12 elements that comprise that score?
We’ve looked high and low at the air travel experience to determine how we could bring to life the significant differences between itineraries that simply make for a better trip. Call it “draining the swamp” or just “turning on the lights,” we developed a rating system called “TripQuality” to provide consumers an insider’s view of the quality of a given air itinerary. The score itself is based on a 100 point scale and evaluates 12 unique elements including not only impactful things like the number of stops, on-time performance, and lost baggage rates, but also really cool stuff like leg room, aircraft age, TSA security wait times, and more.
3) How do your trip quality ratings help raise the bar for consumers and business travelers who are buying solely on lowest price?
What we advise folks to do is to simply buy the product that works for them. Because everyone has their own personal value equation, we’re just exposing customers to the price/quality tradeoff. In other words, Marge and her bowling team from Tacoma might be OK with a connecting flight with a four-hour layover in Atlanta if that trip has the lowest price. On the other hand, we’ve found that people really appreciate the ability to see the price/quality tradeoffs and are often prepared to spend just a little more to be on a new airplane flown by an airline running a good operation who doesn’t tend to lose their passengers’ luggage.
4) Do additional fees (or lack of fees) factor into the score?
No, we consider fees as a separate issue. Similar to airfare pricing, we’ve chosen not to include this in our TripQuality score because everyone has their own price/value equation.
At this time, we provide a free service of estimating the most popular types of fees so people can see the total price they can expect to pay, inclusive of airfare. We call this our “FinalAirfare” which takes into consideration the cost of the airfare itself plus expected fees.
5) What are the industry trends that have gotten us to a place where something like an InsideTrip is required?
That’s a great question. We have two huge macro factors colliding at once, which help make InsideTrip a requirement in the air travel process. First, airlines are both merging, as well as pulling planes out of service domestically. Generally speaking, for consumers this means: (a) less US industry capacity and (b) higher airline ticket prices. Second, given the current economic conditions, every dollar counts and the days of excess/frivolous purchases are likely a remnant of the past. So, with virtually every purchase now being evaluated for its true worth, InsideTrip plays a critical role in helping folks make the smartest travel decision possible.
6) Do you find that the airlines are welcoming or resistant to the TripQuality scoring?
The feedback thus far has been overwhelmingly positive from airlines, particularly from those flying new planes and running great operations. Prior to the inception of InsideTrip and our TripQuality rating, these airlines had no way to “tell their story” so this is a new platform for them. In fairness, we’ve also had good dialogue with some of the “fixer” brand airlines who, while they aren’t thrilled about exposing their current brand deficiencies, are supportive of InsideTrip in helping to change consumer perceptions as they tackle things, like buying new aircraft and improving lost baggage rates. These improvements don’t happen overnight, but we are able to provide a real time scoring system that allows consumers to see their progress as they fix things.
7) What is InsideTrip’s Quality Pick?
Our Quality Pick might best be described as an “Editor’s Choice” or “Best Value” flight option. We take a look at both the TripQuality score and the price of a given itinerary and when we find a low price combined with a high TripQuality score, we flag it for folks as a “Quality Pick.” This helps people save the time and effort involved in evaluating hundreds of flights and suggests a no-brainer pick.