Thursday - Feb 23, 2017

Exclusive interview- James Filsinger, President & CEO of YAPTA


James Filsinger, President & CEO of 'YAPTA'

Tracking airfare fluctuations can result in fast and substantial savings, plus considerable airline refunds, helping you to streamline your travel budget. We found out more by talking to James Filsinger, President & CEO of ‘YAPTA’, a price tracking technology for consumers with its FareIQ Intelligent Price Tracking™ services for corporations.

Lorraine Eyre: Would you like to begin with a brief overview of YAPTA which stands for ‘Your Amazing Personal Travel Assistant’ and explain FareIQ for our readers?

James FilsingerJames Filsinger: Yapta is the only consumer price-tracking service that will monitor the cost of a specific flight and alert travelers when the price drops. Using the free service, consumers can save on their airfare by tracking prices before they decide to make their airfare purchase – or if they’ve already booked their flight, they can monitor the fare to see if it drops below their purchase price. A number of airlines – such as JetBlue, Alaska Airlines, Southwest Airlines and AirTran – will actually refund you the full difference in price if you call and explain that the price of your flight is now available for less. Other major carriers will charge a fee upwards of $175 to re-book your ticket at the lower price. However, Yapta takes these fees into account before alerting travelers to potential savings. To date, Yapta has alerted leisure travelers to well over $500 million in airfare savings.

In 2012 Yapta launched FareIQ, the first independent price tracking service for the corporate travel industry. Using the same fundamental technology that Yapta developed for consumers, the company innovated FareIQ to help companies reduce their travel spend and extend their travel and expense budget by constantly tracking booked airfares and flagging lower rates when they become available. The technology is currently being used by a number of travel management companies and Fortune 500 organizations, helping them identify millions in airfare savings. For example, a company that spends $10 million a year on air travel could see savings of more than $30,000 every month.

Lorraine Eyre: What is it that separates FareIQ – Industry Dynamic Pricing Capability from your competitors?

James Filsinger: FareIQ is much more sophisticated than any of other price tracking technologies available to corporations. While other technologies, primarily back-office and mid-office solutions, check prices once per day and only in the same fare class, FareIQ monitors corporate airfares multiple times each day, 24 hours a day, every day of the year across all available fare classes in the same cabin of travel. However, FareIQ also examines pricing at a much deeper level, offering corporate travel managers a number of highly configurable views into airfare pricing. For example, FareIQ will not only examine fares on the same itinerary – including the same carrier, same cabin class, same departure date and time – but it also looks at fares that are specific to the corporate market, such as negotiated rates versus public rates, refundable tickets versus non-refundable tickets, and the fares across various seat classes. FareIQ also effectively monitors tickets that are within the true void window (defined as the time from ticketing until 11:59 pm the next business day), where airlines grant ticket changes without any penalty. It’s this added level of sophistication and analysis that separates FareIQ from other technologies.

Lorraine Eyre: At the moment, we are seeing a 3.6% identified savings of total air spend. Are you expecting to see an increase in that figure?

James Filsinger: The 3.6% savings figure is representative of an average across our entire customer base, representing a significant figure with which our clients are very pleased. We do have customers that see even higher savings, based upon their spending profiles, ie a higher average ticket price, greater percentage of international travel, etc. We also continue to invest, refine, and enhance FareIQ to ensure we’re bringing the greatest value possible to our clients. So while we’re clearly the leader in airfare price tracking and pleased with our historical results, we’d love to see that figure increase.

Lorraine Eyre: According to your experience and information, what factors play a role in the fluctuation of prices and when are they most likely to drop?

James Filsinger: It’s no secret that airfare prices are determined by sophisticated yield management systems developed by the airlines to maximize revenue. Essentially, these systems are designed to adjust pricing according to supply and demand. There are things that airlines can do to stimulate demand, such as dropping prices or conducting airfare sales. Alternatively, they could choose to restrict supply by eliminating flights or certain routes. Any combination of these “levers” will have an impact on price volatility.

That said, Yapta recently published the findings of its benchmark study examining corporate airfare prices tracked by FareIQ across 34 large and mid-sized corporations. The study looked at corporate air travel itineraries from July 2013 to December 2013, revealing pricing volatility around various ticket classes, specific days of the week, airlines and origin cities. The study also examined price volatility both inside and outside the void window, and inside and outside of normal business hours. Lastly, the study also compared volatility across penalty versus non-penalty fares, negotiated rates against pubic fares, and tickets over and under $500.

A number of key findings were revealed by the study:

  • Corporate flights originating from San Francisco, New York (JFK) and Denver showed the greatest proportion of price volatility, while flights from New York (LGA), Houston and Minneapolis were least volatile in price.
  • Airlines with the greatest proportion of business airfare price volatility included British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa and American Airlines. Alaska Airlines and US Airways indexed the lowest proportion of price volatility.
  • The most frequent airfare price drops occurred early in the week, specifically on Tuesdays (21%) and Wednesdays (19%).
  • The average net identified savings (defined as savings available less airline change fees and associated travel management company change fees) was $306 per ticket for those over $500. For tickets under $500, the average net identified savings was $58 per ticket.
  • 73% of all price changes in the data set were on negotiated fares. The average net identified savings alert (defined as savings available less airline change fees and associated travel management company change fees) was $204 on negotiated fares, and $291 on public fares.
  • 46% of price drops occur within the business travelers’ standard business hours, while 54% occur outside of business hours.
  • 68% of price drop alerts issued by FareIQ were for tickets in different classes of service within the originally ticketed cabin, and 32% were for the same class of service in the same cabin.
  • 60% of total dollar savings opportunities (as measured in dollars) occurred inside the void window, during which rebookings can be made without penalties. The remaining 40% were outside the void window.
  • 78% of tickets with savings opportunities (measured in number of tickets) were inside the void window, and 22% were outside the void window.
  • 87% of penalty ticket “alerts” were sent within the void window – while 13% were outside of the void window. Meanwhile, 40% of non-penalty tickets that were eligible for saving were within the void window – while 60% of non-penalty tickets that were eligible for savings were outside of the void window.

 

Lorraine Eyre: What has been the reaction to Fare IQ from world airlines and travel agents?

Interview-James-Filsinger-President-&-CEO-of-YAPTA-3James Filsinger: While it may at first appear that airlines would oppose FareIQ, that’s not exactly the case. Airlines want to provide the best value to their best clients, those being corporate travelers. So having a solution in place that ensures their best customers travel at the best fare is a strong marketing and customer-savvy value proposition for airlines. Additionally, depending on the type of ticket purchased, the airline may issue a voucher for future travel. That voucher helps ensure customer loyalty.

Meanwhile, Travel Agents, including some of the largest Travel Management Companies in the world – e.g., Carlson Wagonlit Travel – are distribution partners for FareIQ and have embraced the solution to identify savings for their customers. These companies have found that by using FareIQ, they can distinguish themselves as true service providers and distinct from their competitors that do not offer dynamic price tracking capabilities to their customers.

Lorraine Eyre: What are you doing to continually upgrade your services and technology?

James Filsinger: Our sole focus is to save our customers money. As a result, we’re continually investing in our core technology and pricing capabilities. We are dynamically reading fare rules from the itinerary upon import into our system, and pricing differently based on different characteristics. This patent-pending approach differentiates FareIQ and ensures we bring optimal savings to our clients. Additionally, what was once a service that was hosted in a datacenter is now entirely hosted in the cloud, enhancing our scalability and giving us the opportunity to become more efficient and cost effective.

As for specific technology projects, we are currently completing development of a hotel price tracking service called RoomIQ – which will be released in beta later this summer. We’ve taken our years of expertise with intelligent price tracking and built a solution specifically for corporate hotel bookings that will be a seamless addition to customers using FareIQ and a compelling offering for new customers as well. More specific details will be available at a later time, and we’ll make sure to let you know.

Lorraine Eyre: Am I correct in saying that there are around 100,000 daily changes in airfares?

James Filsinger: It’s safe to say that hundreds of thousands of specific itineraries shift in price each day.

Lorraine Eyre: As the travel industry grows more competitive, are you becoming more consumer-conscious?

James Filsinger: Yapta was launched in 2007 as a free service that was entirely focused on helping consumer travelers save on airfare – and a few years later hotels. While we’ve successfully built a loyal base of consumer users, it became apparent that Yapta was able to deliver far more value to businesses looking to reign in their travel expenses. Today we are squarely focused on acquiring corporate users of FareIQ – and soon, RoomIQ. So, to answer your question, are we becoming more consumer-conscious? The simple answer is no, we’re becoming more business-conscious. However, we’re still loyal to the consumer business that got us to where we are today.

Lorraine Eyre: With the overwhelming number of sources for travel information, why in your opinion should consumers choose your services?

James Filsinger: Consumer travelers want to fly at the lowest price. There are myriad of competitive OTA options for travelers to “book” the lowest fare. But prices fluctuate between the time you buy and the time you fly. Yapta’s consumer offering protects the purchase price for consumers and gives them the assurance they’re getting the best price possible for their seat.

And for businesses looking to reduce travel spend, it’s hard to argue with the results FareIQ has delivered to date:

  • Savings opportunities on 11.2% of all itineraries tracked
  • When savings are found, the average savings are $260 per ticket, even after accounting for airline change fees and TMC/agent rebooking fees
  • Customers recognize an average savings per ticket of 14.4%

 

Lorraine Eyre: Finally, what advice do you have for our readers, especially for those who are seasoned business travellers?

James Filsinger: Recommend FareIQ to your company’s travel manager and CFO. They’ll probably reward you with a big raise and a corner office.

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