caravelo changeyourflight

03.04.2015

Interview with Caravelo, the Spanish startup that wants to disrupt the airline services sector

Image | ChangeYourFlight

They won first prize in the 4YFN competition in the “Disrupted by Mobile” category because after five years they have found their niche in a traditional industry. And it’s a niche that, like flights, has a lot of room for change. Now Caravelo – formerly known as ChangeYourFlight – is marketing seven different products for airlines, and that’s how they plan to keep growing. Founded in Barcelona with investment from the Fundación Entrecanales, we spoke with the company’s founders, José Luis Vilar and Iñaki Uriz, to learn about the its past, present and future.

How and why did ChangeYourFlight begin?

In 2009 we came up with the idea for ChangeYourFlight.com, a web service that not only allows passengers to get a refund on a plane ticket that they’re not going to use, but at the same time allow airlines to resell the seats. The idea came out of a situation where some of our friends lost their airplane tickets. We looked for a solution to the problem and created the company in 2010.

Why did you change the business name to Caravelo?

ChangeYourFlight has become just one out of seven products that we are currently marketing. The best known of our products is the Upgrade service (an upgrade to business class), for which we won the 4YFN prize. The name change was necessary to be able to offer more products without confusing the sector with a very specific name. It also serves to mark a new stage in the history of our company, and our openness to working in new sectors.

How does the Upgrade service work and what is its added value? What does it provide to the customer and the airline or shipping company?

The Upgrade service consists of improving the customer’s flight experience by upgrading the class in which their seat was previously reserved. We allow the passenger to choose the price that they would pay, and if there are free seats (that would otherwise go empty), we make the change. Emails are sent offering an Upgrade to passengers that are flying in economy class and meet a certain profile. If the offer seems interesting to them, they arrive at an auction page in which they can make a bid on the upgrade.

A few hours before takeoff, the system automatically accepts or denies requests and informs each of the users of the final results. The whole process is completed under the name of the airline; we facilitate the technology, ‘powered by’ Caravelo. We launched with the low cost airline Scoot, and with Singapore Airlines almost a year ago, and we have more releases to announce. We are in the process of implementing the service with European airlines, as well as airlines from the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

caravelo

 

Image | ChangeYourFlight

What is your business model?

Caravelo charges a commission on revenue generated through the platform.

Do you have an app or a mobile version?

We still have not launched our own app because the airlines we work with are adapting their own apps to incorporate the service. We are making sure that the product is accessible through the web and mobile devices, since nowadays over 50% of web traffic is via mobile.

Over the past five years, has it been easy to negotiate with partners and explain the product to them? Did the name change make things more complicated?

The beginning was like a roller coaster, with some very good moments and others that were really hard. We frequently asked ourselves if the idea made sense or not, if the airlines would be willing to work with us, if people would use it, if they would understand it… However, thanks to meetings with airlines throughout the world, we were able to identify the real pain points of our partners, and we focused on resolving them and creating the solutions that they were increasingly demanding.

However, the process of selling and implementation can be long, for various reasons. We are talking about a big sector, historically conservative, and that is in the throes of change with great commercial pressure and limited resources. Despite this, the new model is much simpler and allows us not only to get customers faster, but also to help them sell more.

What is the biggest misunderstanding people have when they hear about Change Your Flight?

We have had to clarify what we do on many occasions, but today everything is much clearer thanks to Caravelo: provider of technological solutions for the travel industry.

What are the next steps for your company?

We will continue doing what we call stand-by sales, selling products that improve the experience of passengers at a discounted price at the last minute (if there is availability). To be able to offer this to end customers is a great opportunity to generate income. We will continue to work with more airlines, but we are also closing similar deals in other areas.