60 Seconds with Yapta.com's CEO, Tom Romary

60 Seconds with Yapta.com's CEO, Tom Romary

The airfare tracking service, Yapta.com, recently added a frequent flyer award seat alert service to its Web site. We were able to ask a few questions of Yapta’s CEO, Tom Romary, about how the new service works and what changes site users can expect to see in the future.

InsideFlyer
Yapta recently introduced a frequent flyer award seat alert service. Can you tell us how the service works?
Tom Romary
Yapta’s frequent flyer award seat alert service enables travelers to be notified when they can use their frequent flyer miles to book an award seat that becomes available on a specific flight. The award seat alerts are provided in tandem with Yapta’s airfare price change alerts that, to date, have notified hundreds of thousands of travelers to more than $100 million in airfare savings.

Once a traveler performs a flight search for airfare on Yapta.com, they will find within the search results the option to “track” both the airfare and award seat availability on specific flights. When the traveler indicates that they want to “include award ticket” alerts along with pricing alerts, Yapta will begin monitoring that flight’s award seat availability in addition to the price. So if a flight costs 50,000 miles initially, for example, you will get an email alert notifying you that you can redeem 50,000 miles for the flight. If the price drops to 25,000 miles, then Yapta will send you another email alert, and link you directly to the airline Web site to book your flight using miles. If either an award seat becomes available or the price drops, Yapta will alert the traveler via email. Yapta always sends travelers directly to the airline Web sites to book their tickets so that travelers can avoid booking fees, have more flexibility to change plans and benefit from the guaranteed airfare policies of the airlines.

IF
How does the back end of the Web site work–how do you get the information from the airlines about when an award flight is available?
Romary
Yapta uses a combination of proprietary technologies that allow us to know when prices change and when an award seat is available.

IF
Do you plan on someday adding a feature that will allow members to select alerts for when business or first class seats become available?
Romary
Travelers currently receiving Yapta’s award seat alerts are notified when award seats are available for the minimum mileage possible, regardless of seat class or program mileage level. So, if business or first class award seats are the lowest mileage award seat available, Yapta will alert the traveler. However, travelers are not yet able to establish alerts specifically for business or first class award seats. We do plan on making incremental improvements to the service and have considered giving travelers the option to choose more specifically the class of award seat they would like to be alerted to.

IF
Are there plans to add an award tracking service for upgrade awards as well?
Romary
Yes, we do plan to include tracking for upgrade awards. That’s definitely something frequent travelers want to know about.

IF
It looks like you have to search for specific dates to get award seat alerts for those dates only. Do you have plans to offer a calendar search feature so that Yapta users can put in a range of dates for award seat notification?
Romary
You’re right, travelers currently do need to search for and identify (via “tracking”) specific flights to get award seat alerts for those flights. In the future, we do plan to offer the capability to search for flights using a range of dates and provide travelers who have flexible travel plans with pricing data and award seat availability.

IF
Do you have other projects/partnerships in the works that would be of interest to those who collect frequent flyer miles?
Romary
We will continue to innovate services that help frequent flyers–helping them to find the right itineraries, find a better value fare, upgrade their seat or use their miles. Given that there are 17 trillion unused miles in people’s accounts, Yapta’s new service is not only a win for the traveler, but also for the airlines. The foundation of airline loyalty programs is based on whether people can successfully redeem their miles. Yapta helps to facilitate this transaction directly with the airlines, and therefore helps build loyalty between the traveler and their favorite airlines. Over the coming weeks and months, we will be adding more airlines to the “beta” service and will also be working to help travelers use their miles in more ways.

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