Required Reading for Frequent Flyers
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60 Seconds with Matteo Sarzana, CEO & Founder, avionerd.com
[Jan 2014 Issue]
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Avionerd is a new mobile app with the goal to connect frequent flyers who have elite status with other travelers so that the elite members can share their status privileges with the not so frequent flyers. We recently had a conversation with Matteo Sarzana, CEO & Founder. Visit http://www.avionerd.com to learn more.

InsideFlyer
How did you come up with the idea of Avionerd?
Sarzana
We were on a Delta 757 heading to the SXSW in Austin after a quick stopover in Kansas City. The trip was enjoyable, having been able to bring my companion with me in the marvelous world of the frequent flyer’s perks: no queues, lounge and preferred exit row seats. Mid-flight my companion turns to me and says, “Flying with you is always a great experience. It’s nothing like the travel experience I have when flying solo.” I answered, “It takes me 90 flights a year to keep the perks. It’s great, but it also takes a great commitment.” The idea exploded, “What if you could share those benefits with any one?” Avionerd was born.

IF
Can you give us a description of what the app offers?
Sarzana
The baseline is that the app connects people on the same flight to share frequent flyer privileges. The mechanism is pretty much 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 via a push notification. The users can then connect and share privileges. 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.

IF
How long have you been working on the app?
Sarzana
We started actively working, not full time, in July on the user experience and design. The iOS app development was started in September.

IF
How does the points system work and what will users be able to do with the points they earn?
Sarzana
For each action performed by users, 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.

IF
Why do you think elite members will be willing to share their status benefits?
Sarzana
There are three main reasons. To meet new, interesting people. 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. Be part of a global community, and in the future, be able to get even more airline miles.

IF
Do you think enough elite travelers will sign up to provide benefits for all of the non-elite members who are looking for status perks?
Sarzana
Based on our research, there are 150 million elite flyers and 1.8 billion flyers each year. We hope to have the same percentage of elite flyers offering privileges.

IF
What kind of research did you do to determine if there was a market for the app?
Sarzana
After a lot of research, we know there are no competitors at the moment. The closest thing, which is also reassuring there’s a market for it, is the Flight Connect page at FlyerTalk where people post their flight schedule to try to connect. Also, market research tells us that frequent flyers will spend an average 18 percent more to buy tickets to stay with the airline in which they have elite status. 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.

IF
Why did you choose the name Avionerd?
Sarzana
We were actually on a flight, trying to decide if the best name was “Avionerd” or “upgrade”. We wrote the name on a sick bag and did a test with the passengers on the flight. Ninety-nine percent of them liked Avionerd and also understood it had something to do with flights and people who know a lot about flying sharing their experiences. Not a proper market test, but since we loved it too, we decided to go for it.


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