"Flying", the app that brings elegance back to air travel

I have come across a new app for fliers, Flying,  that looks absolutely promising.

At first sight its design and ease of use are really amazing, you can really feel this team really "breathes design"! and what's more...the more I learn about it, the more excited I am to use it on a real trip...read the interview until the end and you will see why...!

What follows is the interview I conducted with Andrew Spitz of Flying's founding team:

Q:  Andrew, please, tell me: whatis Flying?

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Andrew: Flying is an iPhone app for all your air travel. It is useful, insightful and social. Being on a flight used to be an amazing experience; sadly today it has become an impersonal commodity. Our goal is to make the act of flying feel special again and, along the way, to bring some of the elegance and panache back.

We want Flying to be:

Useful – You can keep track of all your flights and receive useful information such as the departure time, terminal and gate number, your airtime, and more.

Insightful – Revisit past flights and view insights about your travel patterns with beautiful visualizations. How amazing is it to get stamps in your passport when you travel? Whether you have crossed the equator or taken your 100th flight, you will receive stamps in Flying!

Social – Follow your friends’ flights, share your flight details online, and compete to see who’s flown the most. You can share your flight details to anyone on Facebook, Twitter, email or anywhere using the web view.

Q: Who is the team behind the project? how it started?

A: What connects us as a team is a sense of nostalgia for the way flying used to be. Katie Kindinger, Markus Schmeiduch and Andrew Spitz while at The Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design created a concept iPhone app for logging flights.

Panos Meyer, now the managing director, saw the video online and contacted the trio to turn this concept into a product. With Sebastian Schuster, part of the initial concept and now doing the iOS development and Johannes Lerch doing the backend development we’re a team of six.

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Since December 2012, we've been at full throttle to get Flying into people's hands and into the skies. We’re working on Flying from six different cities ­ Hamburg, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna, Chicago, and Palo Alto.

Q: If I am a traveler, why should I be using it?

A: We are airline independent, which means we can really care for our user's best interest without the pressure of pleasing the airline industry. This gives us the flexibility to not only adapt quickly to needs but also create a trust with our users that we're really looking out for what's best for them.

Flying brings together all the important elements of air travel to create something that feels right, works well and mostly importantly, is useful. We want Flying to be a trusted travel partner. We put considerable thought and effort into the overall user-experience, not only in the design but also by in using the best possible data sources that passengers can reliably trust.

Q: What is your business model?

A: This is all very dependent on what our users want! We don't see them as consumers, but as a co-creators. Together, we are continuously evolving Flying and we're listening very carefully to what their needs are :-)

We're looking at various ways we could monetize, but our main concern is that whatever we do, it must genuinely better the experience for our users. We will not sell data to airlines! For the immediate future, we want to create more data visualizations like the Distance to the Moon in the 'Lounge', which will be sold as in-app purchases.

Also, the more users we have, the more interesting things we can do within the app as we can start creating valuable relationships between users, airlines and generally have more intelligent use of data to create appropriate content for our users.

On the long run, we could start looking at "advised booking" where instead of just offering the cheapest option as many services do, we offer something that is suited to the traveller's habits. For example, a user may want to upgrade to business class if it's only an extra 200$. Or maybe offer them a ticket that gives them more miles on their frequent flyer program.

Q: At what stage are you now?

A: We have just launched in public beta. This means that we are ready to have people come on board, but it's important to keep in mind that we may still have some bugs and user-experience issues that will crop up. So please give us feedback!

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As more and more people use the service, we will be able to know what should we focus our attention on. We have started with what we think is the essence of Flying, once we have our first user base, we will be able to see what features are the most important for us to focus on and develop.

That said, we have plenty of amazing features in the pipeline! For example, we want to get Tripit sync so you don’t have to add flights manually anymore.

Q: Thank you very much, Andrew, and all the best with the project!

By the way, there is another aspect of this startup that I also found very interesting and unique, and, once more, you can see the founder's taste for design: they love blurring the line between the digital and the physical.

As Andrew told me: "Flying used to be a very tactile and physical experience, where every touchpoint had a certain quality and ‘weight’ to it".

True, think, for example, those paper boarding passes that are becoming scarcer by the day...I even know some people that collected the small stripe that fliers used to keep, so they could keep their flight history literally in a drawer...

So, Flying is integrating, or replicating, these tangible aspects wherever possible, for example making real passport­-like stamps that were scanned into the app.

To see what I mean you just need to check this video out where the process of making the "passport stamps" users are going to get for their travel milestones is shown. As an avid stamp collector myself, I can't wait to get them!

They have also created some prototypes of physical goods that will be based off people's flights. To see what this means, you can check the following video of loci 3D printed sculptures that let you have a "tangible" representation of your flight history.