Posted on: 01 February 2018
With an abundance of digital initiatives dominating the aviation sector, Stephan Uhrenbacher, CEO & founder of FLIO, reveals why a single airport app adds more value than hundreds of individual apps put together.
How has FLIO progressed since launching in 2015 as a global airport app and what are its primary functions?
FLIO covers the full passenger experience. It provides up-to-date flight information directly from airports, as well as commercial offers via vouchers from food and beverage (F&B) operators and retailers. It can also be used to integrate airport services enabling passengers to book parking and lounge access or fast track through security. Our main progress lies in the number of airports which work directly with us. We provide information on over 3,000 airports, but have officially partnered with 11 airports in Europe and will be growing our partner network with four more airports in the first quarter of 2018.
What was the inspiration behind the app?
I am a serial entrepreneur with a background in online travel, but I also built Europe’s largest local review website, Qype, which was acquired by Yelp in 2012. The inspiration for FLIO was my realisation that all airports fundamentally fulfil the same functions when it comes to the passenger journey, but with very different approaches. Having a state-of-the-art digital infrastructure that works at every airport solves two problems… It essentially lowers costs for airports, but it also de-stresses passengers as they have a reliable way to get information.
It’s easy to see how passengers benefit from FLIO as a one-stop source of information, but what’s in it for the airports?
Nearly every airport which has their own app is totally disillusioned about the usage it gets from passengers. While airports love the idea of being in control of their own app, they are totally unaware of the immense costs involved to get passengers to use their apps. Keeping apps up-to-date and maintaining a mobile presence for Apple, Android and the web is expensive. FLIO offers a cost-effective solution for airports so they can keep content fresh. But fundamentally it eliminates the need of having to install an app for each and every airport visited.
Typically, you’ve partnered with large airports. Is FLIO scalable for smaller airports too?
We have actually partnered with smaller airports too, for example Vilnius and Bremen airports, and we are currently in discussions with many others. While it took a while to convince larger airports like Amsterdam Schiphol and Athens to work with us, the pitch to smaller airports, who are understandably super cost sensitive, is much easier. We have a pricing model that makes our app very affordable for smaller airports to work with. Plus, because of our expertise, they can be live within weeks, not years.
What is your revenue model?
We charge airports a small fee to maintain content and connect to their system, but our main revenue stream is from advertisers such as L’Oréal and Estée Lauder. We also work with global F&B operators like HMS Host and SSP too.
Where are you looking to expand your reach in terms of airport partnerships?
In 2016 and 2017, our focus was mainly on Europe, but now we are looking to grow in North America and Asia. We have a team in place that can build a digital experience for any airport in the world and we are getting interest from all over the globe.
easyJet backed FLIO last year as part of an initiative to support the growth of embryonic travel technology start-ups. What is the next step for you in terms of strategic investment?
We have recently secured investment from AviAlliance (partial owners of Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Athens, Budapest and San Juan airports) and are very happy to have expert investors from the airport space. We are always open to discussions with partners, but we are not necessarily looking for additional investment at the moment.
What are the main challenges you have faced?
A global digital infrastructure project like ours can be hugely successful commercially, but that success doesn’t come easily. It took determination and a lot of hard work to convince the first three airports to come on board with us. Now that we have 11 (soon to be 15) airports working with us, it’s becoming easier each month to grow our partner network.
What have been your greatest successes?
Winning Amsterdam Schiphol was crucial for us, but also being able to prove that local couponing actually works with HMS Host was stellar. Another of our greatest achievements was to convince advertisers like L’Oréal to work with us.
What’s in store for FLIO in 2018 (and beyond)?
Our strategy is simple! We want to get as many airport partners on board as possible and ensure they are happy with the service we provide.