Fenn Bailey, who has a background in software engineering stretching back to the days of the dot com boom, is the co-founder and chief technology officer of travel technology company Volantio.
Fittingly for a company that assists airlines, it is global having been founded in Melbourne Australia in 2014 but now based in Atlanta, Georgia in the US.
Volantio’s main proposition is its Yana platform which launched in 2017 to help airlines to accommodate overbooked passengers.
Bailey said: “It is a very dynamic industry. Pricing changes, availability changes and aircraft move around. Often flights would fill up far quicker than the airline had estimated and they had no way to reach out to customers in a way that was connected to their system and see if they were willing to move to another flight.”
The Yana platform proactively identifies flexible passengers on over-capacity flights and provides them with an incentive, such as frequent flyer miles, or upgrades to voluntarily move to lower demand flights. The platform also able to inform the passenger of the incentive to switch well in advance with five or six days’ notice. This means they can avoid the inconvenience of arriving at the airport, only to be turned away because the airline had to unexpectedly switch from a 186-seat to a 180-seat aircraft.
Bailey said that analytics is used to have a good view of the performance metrics of all campaigns to see how successful they are, and find out if not, why not. “With the data science stuff, we’re investing quite a lot into machine learning to optimise the sorts of offers we sent and who we send them to,” he said.
Essentially, it is used to target the right people with the right offers, so that frequent flyers are more likely to be offered airmiles as an incentive than people who don’t travel with that airline often, for example.
Volantio began by helping airlines with marketing automation, specifically related to accurate pricing within email marketing campaigns. Bailey said: “We built a solution that is able to query the API in real time and then generate personalised marketing campaigns for individual people. We can give them very accurate personalised campaigns with the flights, destination and dates they are interested in.”
Through working on the original platform and getting a detailed look inside the airlines and working with key stakeholders Bailey and his co-founder Azim Barodawala saw there was another challenge the aviation companies were dealing with that they could help to solve; that of not being connected to passengers booked on to a full flight.
Volantio is now soaring having signed a deal in early June to receive funding from the Amadeus Ventures investment programme and is working with airlines including Alaska Airlines, Iberia and Qantas.
Bailey said that going forward, there is the possibility of working on analogous challenges in different industries. He said this would be: “any industry that operates under the basis of varying supply and demand with perishable inventory. By that I mean that if no one is on a seat when an aircraft departs you can never reclaim that lost seat. In trucking, shipping or the cargo part of an airline, you have the same problem where it is hard to manage capacity.”