In recent years, the business of flight search has become a race to the bottom. Transparent prices on websites make it easier than ever for travelers to choose the cheapest option. Enter 30k, a flight search engine for frequent travelers. It's the first platform that displays multiple fares side by side with accruable miles.
Founded by veteran executives Rui Bom, Alex Jawad, and Vitaly Pukhalski, 30K allows users to maximize their mileage earnings and benefits without losing value. The way it works is that users are encouraged to activate their frequent flyer programs upon arriving at the site. When they search for a flight, they could then get the results with the schedule, price, and potential miles to be earned.
Interviewed by L’Atelier, co-founder and marketing head Rui Bom shared this insight: “For most frequent flyers, cheapest does not necessarily mean best value, as it likely wouldn’t earn you much miles. More often than not, the miles you earn are greater than the price difference between 2 flights. With 30K, users get incentivized to go to the next level.”
For airlines, 30k offers higher profitability and increased customer loyalty. According to the startup’s research, frequent flyers are willing to pay 5-7% more for tickets that earn more miles. This equates to an estimated 5.5 billion USD in additional revenues, a number equivalent to the industry's combined profits in 2011.
This creates a win-win situation - giving travelers a platform to find deals that matter to them, and airlines a chance to pull their customers away from the lowest cost.
A HYBRID BUSINESS MODEL
So what's in it for 30K? The startup employs a hybrid business model with three main revenue sources. The first is referral fees, which it gets by driving the site's high-value customers to travel suppliers for bookings, frequent flyer programs for new memberships, and credit card companies for new members. The second is advertising. Not only will 30K display banner ads on its website, it will also sell best deal sponsorships which will be shown on the homepage.
The third and most interesting revenue source for the website is research and analytics. Given that the customers it targets are the most profitable bracket of travelers, it gains valuable information on customer behavior. The platform then aggregates and compiles the data into industry reports which it could sell to airlines and marketers.
30k is entering a very big market. There are 500 million frequent flyer memberships in the world, and 43000 new registrations everyday. Most of them remain underused due to the lack of transparency, but 30K is coming into the market to change that. Since launching its beta site last November, it has been raising funding, creating more partnerships, and developing innovative and gamified ways to gain users.
The team is currently based in Shanghai, but it is initially going to focus more on the US market since that’s where the majority of frequent flyer programs are located. Looking ahead though, being situated in Asia gives 30K a huge advantage in capitalizing the burgeoning travel market in the region. The startup has grand plans of becoming the #1 website for frequent travelers. With its win-win business model and focused vision, it looks poised to achieve that.