Seatfrog

When it launches later this year, Seatfrog will be the world’s first mobile booking-to-gate platform to allow passengers to bid on seat upgrades in real time, right up until boarding. Image via Seatfrog

APEX Insight: Seatfrog, a Sydney-based startup, has received a $862,200 investment from HOWZAT Partners to bring a new app to fruition. Launching later this year, the technology will let passengers bid on last-minute seat upgrades right up until departure time, while boosting an airline’s ancillary revenues.

As with web check-in and self-service luggage drop-off, empowering the passenger is the order of the day. When it launches later this year, Seatfrog will be the world’s first mobile booking-to-gate platform to allow passengers to bid on seat upgrades in real time, right up until boarding. HOWZAT Partners, the investment team behind trivago, which was bought by Expedia in 2013, has anted up AU$1.2 million (US$862,200) to open a round of funding for the startup. With a few taps, passengers will be able to snag seat upgrades, and new boarding passes will be sent directly to their phones or tablets for scanning at the gate.

“Every year, millions of premium-class seats fly empty across the globe, representing billions of dollars in unrealized revenue opportunity,” said Iain Griffin, CEO and cofounder of Seatfrog. “For airlines, ancillaries are currently estimated to be worth around US$60 billion. Seatfrog’s technology dramatically broadens the scope of this market opportunity by making upgrading seamless for passengers and maximizing efficiency and profit for airlines. Upgrading should be effortless, but somehow it’s become complicated. We’re here to change that.

“Upgrading should be effortless, but somehow it’s become complicated. We’re here to change that.” — Ian Griffin, Seatfrog

The ease of use for passengers is mirrored by the ease of setup for the airline, with airline booking system integration taking only a few days. “For airlines, effective ancillary strategies need to employ a combination of the right product, through the right channel and at the right time,” says Griffin. “Airlines can manage this with our highly intelligent dashboard where they can create a consistent policy around ancillaries, allowing the automation of rules, from frequent flyer priority to more complex business rules.”

Simon Hickey, former CEO of Qantas International, is on the startup’s board of advisors. “Seatfrog brings a level of intelligence and capability we haven’t seen before, and I’m excited to see them drive innovation with airlines,” he said. Joining Hickey on the advisory board are aviation lawyer Richard Davis, financial-tech entrepreneur Mike Aston, and the executive team at HOWZAT Partners: Hugo Burge, Sascha Hausmann, and former Cheapflights CEO David Soskin.

David Soskin, Seatfrog cofounder and partner at HOWZAT, said, “The industry is positively ripe for disruption, and this represents a significant opportunity. Seatfrog is a great example of an outstanding founding team, a superior user experience and powerful technology. Essentially, it’s that wonderful confluence of the right idea, and the right business, at the right time.”

Seatfrog’s website is currently in pre-launch mode, but curious flyers can sign up for early access.

Jordan juggles deadlines across various time zones as he writes about travel, culture, entertainment, and technology.