From flight itineraries and vaccine passports to augmented reality suitcase measuring and loyalty scheme integrations, App In The Air is transforming the way frequent flyers manage their own travel. Globetrender speaks with Bayram Annakov, the company’s founder and CEO, to learn more…
What is App in the Air?
“App In The Air is an all-in-one personal travel assistant application, designed to make the modern frequent flyer’s travel seamless and enjoyable. We help business and leisure travellers to plan, book, track and manage every single aspect of their travels, from start to finish.”
When and why was it founded?
“I founded App In the Air in 2012 with a mission to seamlessly transform travel for frequent flyers everywhere. After watching Up in the Air, the 2009 George Clooney film, I had a lightbulb moment and set out to address the issues of a very specific group, the million-mile traveller. From there, App in the Air’s concept (and name) was born. I have a fantastic and very passionate team and, together, we advocate for the modern flyer and focus on making the process of travel efficient and enjoyable for all.”
How many users does it have? Who is your target audience?
“Our audience has grown rapidly to over six million active users around the world. Our key markets are the USA, UK and EU, but users join us from every country around the world. Our main audience is the business and leisure traveller who generally flies more than six trips a year.
“We have historically had more male than female users, although that is changing and we’re seeing a more even split, and the dominant age bracket within our community is 25 to 34-year-olds.”
What is the business model – how do you make money?
“In addition to simplifying travel, our key focus is to give our community access to the very best deals and options that suit their personal requirements. Last year we moved across to an NDC utilisation so that we could connect directly to airlines, removing the middleman and fees for users. This has allowed us to offer better content, access to ancillaries and the best possible prices to our community.
“Our business model provides us with two key revenue streams. The first is via subscriptions. App In the Air is free to download but we offer a Premium version of the app, which unlocks additional, useful and popular features such as flight alerts, offline access and auto-check in, for £29.49 for 12 months or £48.99 for a lifetime subscription.
“Our second source of income is via commission. As a one-stop shop, users can search and book their flights and accommodation through our app, so we receive a small commission from our industry partners for each seat, bed and car that our community purchases.”
How is it innovative?
“When we first launched it was into a space that no one else was occupying in the same way, and our objective was to address travellers’ challenges with an exciting new, user-centric approach. We wanted to build a travel app that was powered by the community. With that, I felt that we got our founding vision right, evidenced by the speed with which we grew, the increasing ubiquity of users around the world, and the loyalty and engagement of our community.
“However, it’s not enough just to have a great initial idea and the challenge for any tech company – and particularly one in the travel space which, as we know, is changing constantly – is to remain relevant, to predict trends and respond to them in a meaningful way, and to react nimbly and swiftly to shifts in the landscape.
“Thanks to the excellent team we have in place, we can evolve our functionality quickly to pre-empt travellers’ emerging and changing needs. The most notable example of this is when Covid-19 turned aviation on its head and our users needed expert guidance to unpick the complexities of flying during a pandemic, we were able to develop a series of tools to keep our community informed and help them travel safely and seamlessly.
“These innovations included search filters for airlines’ Covid policies, tools to minimise time in high density airport areas, live security queue waiting times, information about terminal social distancing policies, details about the airport restaurants and facilities that most successfully follow Covid protocols, and updates about changing government restrictions and destinations’ regulations on a standalone information platform, covid.aita.travel.”
What are the key features of the app?
“We offer a single place for users to track their flight itineraries, boarding passes and manage miles across airlines. We help our community avoid hours of searching for the best times, prices or airlines with our sophisticated AI booking system that understands each user’s flying needs and loyalties.
“An augmented reality baggage measurement tool ensures fliers are never caught out with excess luggage charges again, and real-time flight updates and crowdsourced information about security wait times and airport facilities help users to optimise their time at the airport.”
Tell us about the digital health passport you have launched?
“This was a critical piece of the puzzle in our journey to simplify travel in the pandemic, and I’m really proud of the integration. The new digital health passport enables users to upload their Covid tests and vaccine certifications digitally, and to keep everything they need for travel in the current climate together in one place.
“The top features include the ability to upload and scan PCR tests and vaccine cards digitally ahead of the flight, and real-time alerts will notify travellers if they need to upload a test for their specific destination.
“We give users a personal QR code, like we do with our boarding pass feature, so that the digital passport will easily scan for approvals in the airport. It also assists with finding and booking lab appointments, and the app utilises a technology that enables authenticated health test results within seconds. The digital health passport really cuts through the confusion and streamlines every element of travel in the pandemic.”
Describe how the social features of the app work?
“The app includes fun and socially interactive gamification elements. Users’ flight statistics are entered into a global leaderboard so that they can compete with friends around the world and unlock achievement badges for everything from countries visited and airplanes flown to the number of trees planted with our carbon offsetting scheme. The app provides creative graphics for these achievements that can be easily shared on social media.
“We are also community in the truest sense of the word. Our popular ‘Nearby’ feature allows our users to meet for a coffee, network or share lounge access while waiting for their flights; and travellers can send their live itineraries and keep connected with those at home.
“We also host meet ups for users in different cities around the world (actually held one in London in 2019!). They are extremely popular – we continued to run them virtually during the pandemic, and we are very excited to resume in-person events for our fellow aviation-lovers soon.”
How does it help users to travel more sustainably?
“Our users care about the environment, and as the founder and CEO of a tech company for frequent flyers, airlines and airports that service them, these are also concerns that keep me awake at night. While clearly the most sustainable choice is not to fly, that’s just not possible or practical in many situations. So, what then?
“Given the scale of our audience, I believe that App In The Air has an important role to play in a sustainable future for aviation, and we have developed innovations that will help our community move closer to carbon neutrality. My view is that the easier we make things, and the more awareness we can build, the more likely travellers will be to implement positive changes in behaviour.
“We’ve kicked off our journey towards carbon neutral travel with four app developments. We allow users to filter their flight searches by carbon emissions, so they can see the potential impact upfront and choose the least polluting options. Then, in partnership with One Tree Planted, we also plant a tree for every flight booked through the app and have a goal of planting a million within the next two years. The app calculates the carbon footprint of our users to help them understand their personal impact; with that awareness can come the necessary step change.
“Lastly, we have removed any confusion and the heavy lifting of emissions offsetting, which our users can do directly through the app, making it as easy as possible for our users to do the right thing when they travel.”
What are your ambitions for growth?
“Put simply, we would like all unmanaged travellers to be using App In The Air to help them streamline the process of flying, and we have ambitious growth targets for uptake of the app. We want to be your go-to-travel app. We’ll keep innovating our product offering, particularly as we help our users to navigate this third cycle of the pandemic, and their travel beyond in what will inevitably be a permanently changed environment.
“We will continue to place great value on helping users to make positive choices and minimise their impact. My end goal is that App In The Air will enable frequent flyers to become fully carbon neutral. We are always on the lookout for new sustainable partnerships to help us achieve that, including organisations that focus on renewable energy and carbon capture.
“We also plan to integrate solutions designed during our recent win at the International Air Transport Association (IATA) AIR Hackathon, a global series of challenges to find solutions within the aviation industry. Among our award-winning innovations were an augmented reality globe that shows a more-polluted versus less-polluted Earth based on the amount of carbon neutralised, and an Apple Watch functionality that shares personalised tips to become more eco-friendly, with challenges to go vegan and to use public transport instead of taxis.
“Lastly, we will certainly expand beyond aviation to offer alternative travel methods with a train planning and ticketing integration. Our vision is for App In The Air to become the go to platform for all our user’s travel needs, via whatever mode of transport is the best fit for the individual and their particularly journey.”