The air travel industry is increasingly becoming a hot target for startups looking to improve the overall experience by making inconveniences like waiting at the airport more interactive through a user’s smartphone. One such startup, Airport Chatter recently launched its iPhone app just in time to take advantage of holiday travellers to initially tackle the discovery of places within airports like ATMs, duty-free shops, food places, and the social experience by giving users the ability to check-in, read reviews, while sharing their own ratings and photos with others. Within 10 days it saw upwards of 10,000 users and will be looking to add key features to be a complete travel solution.
Co-founder and CEO Mark Wagner spoke with BetaKit about how he teamed up with a friend to launch a web app six months ago only to discover that most of the traffic was coming from mobile. The team, which consists of four founders currently remotely located in Toronto, Miami, Sydney, and Brazil then pivoted to start developing the mobile app. “We got a lot of feedback and started talking to frequent travellers more…we focus on a lot of pain points that travellers have, the two main things being lack of information and lack of time,” said Wagner.
Currently, the app features 4,600 venue profiles across 30 major airports all over the U.S. listing things like business hours, phone numbers, and other details for retailers, duty-free shops, currency exchanges and others. Users can then check-in at the different venues, add and read reviews, in addition to being able to access a live feed of activity for the airport they are in, as in where others are checking in and posting, and a global feed of activity in each of the airports currently supported by the app.
However, that’s only the beginning, according to Wagner the company’s vision is to be an end-to-end travel app that provides users with features that take them from departure to arrival. The product roadmap will have Airport Chatter add not only more social features but utilities that will support the ability to track flights, baggage, ensure quick access to the entire travel itinerary and eventually provide the ability to book rental vehicles and hotels. In terms of monetization strategies, Wagner said the two streams in mind for the free app are offering mobile coupons for venues within airports and revenue sharing for bookings done through the app when those features are added.
The company will have to iterate fast to catch up with companies like GateGuru that also bill themselves as ‘door-to-door’ travel apps and provide a full suite of tools that let users track their flights, access a list of stores around them, book rental cars, and have an entire analytics dashboard that provide insights into their travel patterns. There are also other startups like RouteHappy, a search engine for flights which raised $1.5 million last year, that focus more on helping travellers rate their inflight experience and book their next flights accordingly.
Where Airport Chatter looks to stand apart is by combining all the utility of a travel app with an underlying social layer. Users will soon be able to follow others and the company will soon be launching a feature called Radar early next month which will enable travellers to discover others through social data and provide the ability to initiate chats or meet in person. It also plans to expand globally with the number of airports that are supported and will aim to raise a seed round early this year. With a wide range of existing utility and social apps already available for travellers, Airport Chatter will have to move fast in order to keep afloat and gain loyalty with travellers.