Talking TechPassengers can do last-minute bidding straight from their mobile devices.

Seatfrog leaps ahead with airline upgrade technology

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A mock up of the Seatfrog mobile interface.
A mock up of the Seatfrog mobile interface.
Iain Griffin, Seatfrog co-founder and CEO
Iain Griffin, Seatfrog co-founder and CEO

”It’s unlike any other upgrade technology in the market,” said 
Iain Griffin, Seatfrog’s co-founder and CEO.

“Our technology keeps in mind the airlines’ continual need to evolve their ancillary strategies through intelligent use of data, and the passengers’ need for an intuitive, mobile-first platform that fits with their busy lives and takes the pain and confusion out of upgrading.”

It’s the end of a tough business trip. You’re slumped in the departure lounge, exhausted, patiently waiting for the Economy Class passengers to board before you join the end of the queue.

The Business Class passengers begin arriving from the lounge, pausing only briefing to have their boarding passes checked before heading to the front of the plane for the 10-hour flight ahead.

That’s when you remember Seatfrog, a new mobile application that allows fliers to bid for an upgrade – all the way to the boarding gate.

You tap the Seatfrog app. There are still two people left in the bidding for the last available seat in Business Class. The current price seems okay. You think about the 10 hours ahead in Economy.

You make a bid. You’re successful.  You turn left instead of right as you enter the plane and the airline sells an otherwise empty premium seat with a few hundred extra dollars in its pocket.

Seatfrog says it is transforming the future of airline upgrades through live bidding on mobile devices “right up to the gate”. 

”It’s unlike any other upgrade technology in the market,” said Iain Griffin, Seatfrog’s co-founder and CEO.

“Our technology keeps in mind the airlines’ continual need to evolve their ancillary strategies through intelligent use of data, and the passengers’ need for an intuitive, mobile-first platform that fits with their busy lives and takes the pain and confusion out of upgrading.”

Using Seatfrog, a passenger can tell how many others are bidding to upgrade and how much time is left to bid, while the airline can nominate its reserve prices for Business or First Class upgrades. “The airlines has complete control of the process,” said Griffin.

Seatfrog has been designed around customer behaviour, an area, Griffin said, where airlines have much to learn. “The airlines will benefit from great behavioural insights and rich profiles of their passengers.”

Passengers can enter their flight details once they are confirmed and upgrade bidding will open anything from six hours to three hours before a flight is due to leave.

For successful bidders, in-app payments and new boarding passes are issued direct to the passenger’s mobile device for scanning at the departure gate, in one transaction.

Seatfrog says it is in discussions with major airlines to launch the app.

“For airlines, ancillaries are currently estimated to be worth around US$60 billion. Seatfrog’s technology broadens the scope of this market opportunity by making upgrades seamless for passengers and maximising efficiency and profit for airlines.”

Strong support for Seatfrog has come from a seed funding round led by London-based venture capital firm, HOWZAT Partners, the investment team behind hotel metasearch business Trivago, which sold to Expedia Inc in 2013 in a deal worth US$1billion. 

The Australian startup, which launches globally this year, has already attracted the likes of former Qantas International CEO Simon Hickey, as an advisor. “Every year, millions of premium class seats fly empty across the globe, representing billions of dollars in unrealised revenue opportunity,” said Griffin.

The technology ensures airlines can close off sales and award frequent flyer upgrades first, before any remaining premium seats are opened up for passenger bidding.

“Airline ancillary revenue strategies are fragmented and there is a lot of untapped potential, particularly in relation to the same-day upgrade process,” said David Soskin, co-founder and partner at HOWZAT. “The industry is positively ripe for disruption, and this represents a significant opportunity.”

Singapore Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines have each introduced a limited form of bidding for premium upgrades but Seatfrog claims its system is more attractive to fliers. And it says as a performance based model, “there is zero risk to the airlines to invest”. Seatfrog makes money off the sales of the app.

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