FLYR alerts you before your air fares go up
The variability of airline fares is a recurrent topic of conversation among frequent fliers and, despite some initiatives to take this variability away, likely to get even more refined with the increasing role of big data technologies that allow airlines to further segment passengers.
But technology can also open up new ways to search and book tickets that, by better matching preferences, capacity and budgets, end up benefiting everyone.
One such technology is fare prediction, the field that FLYR aims to lead with its own proprietary algorythms.
FLYR is a big data technology company that takes billions of data points related to the air travel market (prices, flights, dates), crunches them, and is then able to predict with remarkable accuracy how fares are going to evolve over time for a specific flight.
Where FLYR claims to have an edge is in being able to propose an specific course of action to potential travelers. It has launched two major products to the market: Farekeep is a fare protection product, a sort of insurance, if you wish, that allows people to lock in a specific fare for a flight by paying a certain "insurance" premium.
This is a feature that some airlines, like Vueling, have already been offering for some time, however, FLYR's technology is able to price this premium dynamically by taking into account the probability of prices changes and the scope of their variability. That is, the "insurance premium" that you pay to lock in an adantageous fare can be calculated in real time depending on market conditions.
The other product is Farebeacon, that is a service that allows people to track specific fares and get email alerts *before* the prices change.
I wonder whether airlines would be interested in empowering potential customers in a way that somehow neutralizes their fare optimization activity, but the people I spoke with at FLYR dismiss this notion, pointing that the key here is that you allow people to lock-in at the top prices they are willing to pay, "for some segments of passengers, a fare going up means simply they won't buy it, by letting them buy insurance, both the traveler and the airline are ensuring that that trip is going to take place".
FLYR is the brainchild of Alexander Mans, a Dutchman that has been working already in the field of fare prediction for quite some time and was interviewed by this blog back in 2013. It is based in San Francisco but has also an office in Paris, to cover the European air travel market.
The business model is based on licensing the technology to airlines, online travel agencies and other operators, that will then be able to offer them as options within their own booking processes. FLYR also aims to provide analytical services that help these operators make better use of the large amount of data generated by their customer's behaviour, allowing them to craft more personalized offerings.
The technology is now available through Tripadvisor in the US and sources at the company confirmed they are about to close a couple of deals with major industry players.
UPDATE: while this post was being written, news arrived that FLYR will become the first investment of JetBlue Technology Ventures, the venture capital arm of the airline of the same name. The creation by JetBlue of a fund to invest in promising travel technology startups is part of a broader trend of major aviation industry players investing directly in potentially disruptive technologies at an early stage. We documented quite a few of these initiatives in this other post back in November.