This month, ExpertFlyer talks with Matteo Sarzana, Founder and CEO of Avionerd, an interesting and soon-to-be-released travel app that relies – literally – on the kindness of traveling strangers. Sarzana explains how – and why – elite frequent flyers can share their status privileges with the rest of us.
– Matteo Sarzana, Founder and CEO of Avionerd
Since Avionerd isn’t even available yet, can you give our readers an overview of what this app is designed to do?
Avionerd is a mobile app which will help everyone fly in a better way. Our goal is to connect frequent flyers with average flyers and have the frequent flyers share their status privileges with them.
There’s nothing like it on the market today and we’re sure it’ll be a killer opportunity for both travellers and airline companies.
How exactly does an elite status flyer pass on perks, like Lounge Access, Priority Checkin, Priority Boarding & Upgrade to a stranger booked on the same flight?
The baseline is that the app connects people on the same flight to share frequent flyer privileges.
Once you attain frequent flyer status, you’re allowed to share your privileges with another companion or your family. Avionerd is putting this under-utilized opportunity to more use by linking a frequent flyer solo traveler with a non-frequent flyer to let him or her experience the perks.
The app will let you know, with a push notification, of the possibility to get in touch with the frequent flyer and connect to organize the meeting or the other way around. We like to call this “sharing economy for the airline industry.”
The mechanism is pretty straightforward. Users sign up and create a profile inserting their frequent flyer information, if they have it, or they can skip this step. They then input their flight information and if on one of the flights there’s someone willing to share their privileges and someone without them, the users will be connected.
After the flight, they will be prompted to share their feedback and points are awarded based on the actions and privileges shared. Users will also be able to see their friends’ activities and search for flights with the most people willing to share their privileges.
Have you piloted or test marketed the app? What makes you think that frequent flyers will be open to sharing their privileges with complete strangers? What’s in it for them?
After a lot of research, we know there are no competitors at the moment. The closest thing is the Flight Connect page at FlyerTalk where people post their flight schedule to try to connect.
Market research also tells us that frequent flyers spend an average 18 percent more when buying tickets to stay with one airline for the frequent flyer miles and privileges. Proving to airlines that Avionerd is a marketing tool for them when normal flyers experience frequent flyer perks will be the key success factor to involve them in the project.
There are three main reasons we think frequent flyers will want to share their privileges:
1- To meet new, interesting people.
2- To be the one getting the privileges when they are not able to fly with the airline they have status with. Sort of a karma situation when a Delta Platinum is forced to fly American Airlines.
3- Be part of a global community, and in the future, be able to get even more airline miles.
How do you think the airlines will react to this? Airlines haven’t always looked kindly on those that try to game the system. Do you expect push-back from them?
I don’t think airlines will push back on Avionerd. We think the airline industry will see our app as a marketing opportunity to educate more consumers about the benefits of becoming frequent flyers. Turning a typical flyer into a loyal frequent flyer means more money in the long run; our research tells us that frequent flyers spend up to 18% more to fly with the airline they have status with.
Also, every airline frequent flyer program offers companion sharing benefits. If an airline changes this rule, people will switch to a different program. Here are some key reasons we believe the airline industry will be interested in the app:
- Frequent flyers are a minority of the people who fly each year
- Frequent flyers usually spend 18% more than people without a status to keep flying with the airline they have status with
- We believe airlines are not exploiting the opportunity of educating more people about the benefits of being a FF, thus they are not leveraging the marketing opportunity
- Educating more people about the FF privileges could lead more people to sign up for FF awards programs, thus making them high spending people
- If airlines can understand that, they should be happy we are actually doing the work for them.
You also employ a points system for users who offer feedback based on their experience. How are points earned and what rewards do flyers gain them for?
For each action performed by users, such as priority boarding, lounge access or upgrade, there will be a score awarded to them. In the beginning, points will be aggregated in a global ranking. We’re working with partners to give users the chance to convert their aviopoints into airline miles.
How soon can travelers expect to find Avionerd available for iOS and Android mobile platforms?
We are planning to submit the app to apple for approval by end of April. If successful, we’ll start working on the Android version.