Ask people why they favour a certain airline and you’ll likely get a different answer each time. It could be down to affordability, the destinations they serve, or their safety reputation. Others are more concerned about the amount of legroom they’ll get on a lengthy long haul trip, or the quality of the onboard food.
Bearing this in mind, a new flight-rating app called Fllike allows flyers to rate individual aspects of their journeys to build a holistic view of the flight experience. Placing an emphasis on sharing those experiences, the app features a slick Instagram-like interface where users can post photos taken on journeys both within the app and to social media.
Founder and CEO Chris Holmes believes that the battle to become known as the go-to flight rating app is one that’s very much alive. The Leeds-based entrepreneur hopes to steal a lead by joining a startup incubator programme in a bid to secure mentorship and realise Fllike’s full potential.
We spoke to Holmes to find out more.
What’s your startup story?
Christopher Holmes: I’ve been in my current business development role for around eight years, flying all over the world – especially to the states – up to 50 times a year. Airlines would email me a huge survey asking about my flight three days later that would take up to 15 minutes to complete. I thought that the flight rating experience could be improved using an app.
The other problem is that existing flight booking platforms don’t have any sort of community feel. There are two metrics when it comes to flight discovery: price and availability. The missing bit in the middle – one that services like TripAdvisor, Airbnb and Uber cater for – is being able to share your experiences.
I sketched out Fllike on a napkin while travelling and thought it could be the start of something cool. People in airports use mobiles to track their bags and boarding passes, see maps of airports and track delays. It’s great, but none of this is capturing customers’ experiences
So Fllike is a bit like a TripAdvisor for flights?
It’s a bit like TripAdvisor meets Foursquare Swarm, but for aviation. I actually met Foursquare founder Dennis Crowley for coffee in New York and showed him the app. He thought it was interesting and a great idea, and he gave me some insight into how Foursquare pivoted in terms of geolocation and advertising, which was very cool.
There’s a potentially huge user base out there…
That’s right — more than 15 million people fly every day. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), passenger numbers are going to double from 3.6 billion air travellers in 2016 to 7.2 billion in 2035.
Today, 55,000 flights take place daily in the US, which is the largest domestic market and the one we want to be focusing on. When people say to me that Fllike is ahead of its time, or that they won’t use the app, I don’t worry — there’s enough people flying every day for it to have value.
What success have you had so far?
We have more than 3,000 users all over the world reviewing flights pretty much daily, and Fllike has been featured in the ‘New Apps We Love’ section on Apple’s App Store. Nobody else is doing what we are – not even the airlines – which is interesting. Even if they did, they can only ask their own customers to rate them – Delta couldn’t ask their customers to rate Easyjet, for example.
How does the app and its scoring system work?
You start off by scanning your boarding pass to bring up your flight number, which we achieved by partnering with airlines and using their APIs. You can then rate your flight by scoring individual aspects of it out of 10 to create an aggregate score, which we call a Skyscore.
You can rate your seat, the crew, the aircraft, whether the flight was on time, and more. All of the elements are weighted equally. We considered having different weightings, but people prefer different things – and making them equal keeps things simple. You can also tag between economy, business and premium class before you board.
How do Fllike’s social features work?
After you’ve created a score, you can submit it and post it into the social feed. Fllike records your travel, which appeals to many frequent fliers who are interested in how far they’ve flown and how many airlines they’ve been on, and how many airports they’ve been to, etc. People can also take and share pictures of their travels.
Allowing people to share these things with the flying community is important, because just like on TripAdvisor people are compelled to help themselves and others become more knowledgeable. On the flip side we are able to provide data and insights to the aviation industry and partners that they can’t otherwise get.
What challenges have you faced to date?
I went through the laborious task of finding a developer on what was a shoestring budget. Fllike has moved through a few developers now, and our current guy is working 50 per cent on our app as well as his own stuff, which is going really well. Three of us are now working on it but we all have other commitments too.
Have you had any investment?
We’re bootstrapped, and we have enough money to do what we want to do right now – within reason.
How will you monetise Fllike?
We’re a free app whose value comes from its data, which we won’t get if we start charging users. We could monetise by generating leads for travel partners and giving airline partners subscriptions to use their scores within their booking sites. Then there’s sponsored location-targeting ads, redeemable points that users could get after rating flights, and other ways. We’re talking to SkyScanner at the moment about integrating live pricing and booking that we can then get a commission for.
What’s next for you?
We’re interested in undertaking projects with airlines to get mentorship and understanding, and we want to get onto startup incubator programmes like Hangar 51.
Given our experience, we’re also looking at building apps for clients worldwide with our new agency in Leeds called North Project. North Project is a mobile strategy and design studio that supports startups alongside large-scale commercial organisations to innovate, explore and develop new ventures within the digital and mobile space.
We’re looking at everything from innovation and solutions consulting to product and brand strategy, R&D, rapid prototyping, AI and AR, app marketing and digital planning.