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One-on-One with Matteo Sarzana, Founder and CEO of Avionerd

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 avionerd“Our goal is to connect frequent flyers with normal flyers and have the frequent flyers share their status privileges with them.”

– 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.

 

Wild (life) Travel Adventures: Part 2

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics: Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

Last week, Tania Segura from the World Wildlife Fund’s Travel Program, took us to the Namibian Bush and snowy landscapes of Manitoba, Canada, where we checked out some of the best vacations for travelers who yearn to get up close to lions, elephants and polar bears.  In Part 2, we visit the Galapagos and Komodo, Indonesia.  If you missed Part 1, click here to catch up.

GALAPAGOS

iguana in galapagosClassic Galapagos Adventure

Six hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador, surrounded by open ocean, a volcanic archipelago straddles the equator. The Galapagos Islands, forged of black lava and named for the giant tortoises that are among its most noted inhabitants, are like nowhere else in the world. Home to a profuse array of wildlife, the islands offer an immersion in nature that feels primeval, where iguanas and penguins and blue-footed boobies share the beaches with us, unconcerned by our presence. Herman Melville called the Galapagos “Las Islas Encantadas,” or The Enchanted Isles, an apt moniker for a realm that remains otherworldly, even today. Choose between two vessels: our distinctive yacht, the M/Y Letty, or the ultra-deluxe M/C Athala II.

What to expect:

  • WWF’s flagship itinerary is among the best week-long Galapagos experiences, with the islands’ most highly trained naturalist guides
  • Seal at GalapagosWith the best guide-to-traveler ratio in the islands, guests are ensured personal encounters with the extraordinary nature and wildlife of the Galapagos
  • Snorkel with sea lions, sunbathe with iguanas, scout for whales and dolphins, and spend a night among wild tortoises at an exclusive highlands camp

The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s premier nature travel destinations, and deservedly so: there may be no better place on the planet for close-up encounters with wildlife than this remote archipelago that’s home to an assortment of unique and gentle creatures. It’s thus essential to experience the Galapagos in a way that affords intimate interactions with wildlife, with personalized interpretation by top naturalists—something you don’t get with larger cruise ships and formal lectures, or less qualified guides.

Price tag: 11 Days / Year-Round, From $5,695

Komodo National Park, Indonesia

komodo snorkelerKOMODO SNORKELING

The Coral Triangle is one of the most biodiverse marine regions in the world. Komodo National Park is a place of raw natural beauty. Its islands are home to such exotic animals as the giant carnivorous Komodo dragon, and its crystal-clear waters are home to thriving corals and a variety of fish. WWF’s newest snorkeling adventure gives you an opportunity to see both.

What to expect:

  • Go on daily snorkeling outings in some of the planet’s top spots, including one consistently on experts’ top 10 lists.
  • Snorkel in search of electric rays, manta rays and big pelagic species.
  • Take a guided tour to look for Komodo dragons in the forests of Komodo National Park.
  • Live aboard a comfortable, small private yacht with just 12 fellow travelerskomodo dragon

Foray into the diverse waters of the Coral Triangle during snorkeling outings at the reefs surrounding the marine reserve of Moyo and the uninhabited volcanic island of Satonda. Huge sponges, healthy corals and massive schools of such fish as bannerfish and red tooth triggers abound.

The area around Gili Banta offers great chances to swim with the big guys. Sharks, mantas and dolphins are regular visitors to the current-bathed waters around Gili Banta.

Hike with the islands most famous inhabitants, Komodo Dragons! Because this region possesses geology unlike any other place on Earth, the three islands that comprise Komodo National Park have developed endemic species that epitomize nature at its wildest. Avid birdwatchers and others will enjoy an early hike on the beaches and trails around Horseshoe Bay to catch glimpses of several endemic species.

Price tag: 12 days / July 4-15, 2015  |  From $9,020 per person

 

 

Wild (life) Travel Adventures: Part 1

ExpertFlyer Hot Topics: Where the Rubber Meets the Runway

When you think about exploring places, like Indonesia, Galapagos, Namibia or Manitoba, what comes to mind? If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, these exotic destinations are likely on your bucket list, because they are home to some of the rarest and most beautiful animals in the world.

world wildlife fund logoWith help from Tania Segura, Associate Specialist of the World Wildlife Fund’s Travel Program, we take a special look at these unique destinations and their native wildlife.

NAMIBIA

Namibia is soul-stirring. Here on the southwest edge of Africa, orange sand dunes rise a thousand feet high against a cobalt sky. The coastal desert is washed by the relentless ocean, while inland the sun bakes the plains into a cracked puzzle of dried mud, pocked with grass and thornbush. There is water here, too, though its presence is subtle. It is the source of life in the stark Etosha salt pan, whose waterholes attract fantastic numbers of game, including feline predators. Springbok, oryx, kudu and dik-dik run to elude them, in a great and ancient desert dance.

Namibia Safari

If Namibia is not on your bucket list, it should be.   Only in Namibia can you experience breath-taking landscapes, vibrant populations of lions, cheetahs, rhinos, and elephants, and a nation of people whose livelihoods and future are bound to wildlife’s freedom to roam. Taking a Namibian Safari with WWF, you can expect the following highlights:

- Fly between secluded luxury camps on private reserves to maximize time for wildlife drives and exploration

- Track rhinos on foot and experience some of Africa’s most exciting wildlife viewing, with many uniquely desert-adapted species amidst Namibia’s striking geography

- See cheetah and leopard up close, and get a “behind-the-scenes” look at efforts to conserve them at the AfriCat Foundation at Okonjima

Price tag: 12-day tours from $11,895 – multiple departures June, August and September

polar bears, churchill, manitoba, canadaCHURCHILL / Polar Bear Expedition

If Namibia is too hot for your taste and your fascination lies with Arctic creatures, like the great Polar Bear, then look no further than Churchill in Manitoba, Canada.

The WWF’s Polar Bear Expedition brings you to the “Polar Bear Capital of the World.” Imagine looking out onto the snowy tundra, and spying them, white on white. Alternately regal and whimsical and always awe-inspiring, polar bears in the wild offer a natural encounter charged with drama and magic. The WWF expedition guides use Polar Rover vehicles, so parties can approach at close range without disturbing the animal, offering a chance for an incredibly moving wildlife experience. From heated confines – or standing on an outdoor platform – travelers may see mothers with cubs, young males play-fighting or a huge, solitary male ambling over the tundra. When you join a Polar Bear Expedition with WWF, here’s what to expect:

- See the world’s greatest concentration of polar bears in the intimacy of a small group, on WWF’s flagship polar bear tour

- The most comfortable vehicles, with innovative mesh steel flooring on the outdoor observation platform, get you safely up close to the bears

- Professional Expedition Leaders with unparalled experience, enhancing your polar bear adventure at every turn with their in-depth knowledge

Price tag: 6-7 Days / Oct & Nov, From $5,595

In our next installment, Tania Segura will show us intriguing highlights from their Galapagos Experience and Snorkeling Adventures in Komodo, Indonesia.

 

 

“Did you know…new theory emerges on how long Malaysian plane kept flying?”

(theguardian.com, Wall Street Journal and nbcnews.com)

malaysian airlinesAfter five long days, Malalysian Airlines flight MH370 remains missing and new theories and questions concerning the disappearance multiply.  The Guardian reports today that the plane may have flown on for hours beyond its last reported sighting.

“The Wall Street Journal, citing two people in the US familiar with the details, said US investigators suspected the Boeing 777 actually stayed in the air for about four hours past that time. The startling assessment was based on data automatically sent by the plane to Boeing’s engine department as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program, the Journal said.

In an NBC News story this morning, it was reported that Malaysia’s transport minister denied this report, saying, “A report in the Wall Street Journal – that the aircraft’s engines had continued to transmit data long after the plane’s last confirmed position – was ‘inaccurate.’” “…However, asked if it were possible that the plane kept flying for several hours, he said, “of course, this is why we have extended the search.”

See story links:

theguardian.com

NBCNews.com

Wall Street Journal

“Did you know…Airline passenger leaves nasty note to pilot?”

(ABCNews.go.com)

note to westjet pilotYou can’t make this stuff up.  A passenger (of unknown gender), left a nasty-gram for WestJet pilot, Carey Smith Steacy.  Decidedly sexist and rude, the note was posted by Capt. Steacy on her Facebook page – she has received nothing but support from WestJet fans.  Read the note and full story here: http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/airline-passenger-leaves-nasty-note-pilot/story?id=22784067