Imagine a marketplace for buying cheap airline tickets that would otherwise go to waste: now meet Jetta
On a recent trip to Istanbul, I found myself unable to make my flight back home. While enjoying the hospitality of the benches at Sabiha Gokcen airport overnight, I was left with the frustration of knowing that my non-refundable ticket had gone to waste.
It makes perfect sense that the airlines cannot start issuing refunds for everyone who misses their flight from circumstances that are not the company’s fault. I only wished that somebody else could have used that ticket and that I could have found a way to make my situation not a total loss.
The crew over at Israel-based Jetta may have found a solution for cutting down on wasted tickets by people who are unable to make their flights. Everybody is familiar with websites that offer great deals on unsold tickets that the airline is trying to unload before they are left with empty seats.
Jetta comes at this equation from a different angle, both to help people who have bought tickets in advance and then have to cancel, and from the flipside, others who are looking to buy discounted seats for their next trip.
The flight crew
Jetta is a young project that is still waiting to take off fully. While they are in the process of founding their company officially, CEO Karin Savitsky and COO Mika Shatz began collaborating on their idea back in May. The two are both immigrants to Israel: They moved from Ukraine when they were teenagers without their families. The pair met through the scholarship organization Heseg and clicked. After a series of brainstorming of different ideas for a startup, they decided to investigate the need for reselling tickets.
By June, the two had begun conducting market research and reviewing the terms and conditions associated with ticket sales. As a practicing lawyer, Shatz was able to provide valuable insights regarding the project’s feasibility before they had invested any serious resources. After receiving positive feedback, they connected with their CTO Alexey Zatzepin, another immigrant from Ukraine who is currently developing their platform and the algorithms necessary to handle the large number of users once their service is in the air.
Building an active community
While waiting for the launch of their platform, the team has already started building a receptive market for their service through a social media campaign. They have a closed but active Facebook group where tickets have already been exchanged for the past few weeks.
“We’re not waiting for our technology to be ready before building our community. Already people are coming to us to find great prices on airfare,” Savitsky explains to Geektime. “In the meantime, sellers are coming to us and we are helping to connect them with potential buyers.”
For now, team Jetta is carrying out all of their work manually, which they say is fine for them during the pre-launch period.
Disrupting the ticket industry
Jetta’s approach to how the public interacts with their tickets is noteworthy in a number of ways. Off the bat, they are not a scalping service and they never at any point take ownership of the tickets. Unlike going to see a concert or a game, airlines require that the ticket be in the name of the person boarding the flight. Shatz explains that they have already found a way to swap names on tickets through the airlines.
At its core, Jetta wants people to see that they can break away from the old model of dealing with an unusable ticket. “When a person is stuck with a ticket that they can’t use, the first thing that they will do is call the airline to check what they can do, either to cancel or receive a refund if at all possible,” says Savitsky. “Instead of going through all of this process, a user can contact us and we can give them a straight answer as to whether or not we can put their ticket up for resell. If the ticket isn’t usable for our platform, we can tell them automatically for some of the airlines.”
This process of verification they say can generally take up to 48 hours, although they have found cases where they returned an answer to their client in as little as 30 minutes. “We want users to know that they don’t always have to call the airline first,” adds Shatz. “We can start working with them using their reference number.”
On the other end of the line are the potential ticket buyers, for whose benefit Jetta is also looking out. Before purchasing a ticket from the seller, Savitsky says that they check not only whether the terms allow for the resale, but also that they can resell it at a competitive price.
“It’s important to us that the potential customer will receive an attractive price. This means a saving of up to 60-80% for the buyer,” explains Savitsky. “We can also help people who need to fly on a specific date and time and can’t find the right ticket from the airline. In cases like this, we might be able to help since we have access to tickets that the airline can’t show the buyer since they’ve already been marked as sold.”
Looking towards the horizon
Jetta is hoping to launch their platform to the public later this month. Savitsky says that they expect that much of their traffic will come from mobile users, and are gearing their development to be very mobile friendly.
As a part of the Heseg Innovator’s Program (HiP Hebrew), the accelerator that is being run by Tel Aviv University’s StarTAU and backed by the Heseg Foundation, the Jetta team is looking forward to presenting their project at HiP’s annual Launch Evening event on November 23.
They have begun the search for investors and hope to start raising their seed round after the event.
However, even after their platform launches, the team has their work cut out for them both on the technical side, as well as in approaching the major airlines, who they hope will be receptive to their business.
While I don’t think that this crew could have swooped in and saved me during my last trip to Turkey, I see a lot of potential here for scaling up this service from a small community to an extremely viable business on an international level.
Jetta is not the first company to venture into this type of reselling of tickets. Germany’s JumpFlight has been offering a similar marketplace since 2010. Upon closer look, there are some key differences between the two. JumpFlight provides its users what is basically a forum for posting their unusable tickets where others can see them, allowing the commerce to take place. The site is funded by advertisements, meaning no margins for JumpFlight.
In speaking with Shatz and Savitsky, they say that they foresee needing to be more involved than JumpFlight in managing the operations. This will be important both for customers to feel that there is someone there to help them through a stressful situation, and for general quality control. The two say that they will stay on as curators even after the algorithm has taken over most of the day-to-day operations. Proper oversight will definitely be needed to keep unusable tickets off the market and building users’ trust in them.
As far as their business model, the women say that they hope to become the “Airbnb of airline tickets,” eventually taking a fee for facilitating the transactions. This transition to the “finder’s fee” model will likely only come further down the road.
So for now, the sky’s the limit for Jetta as they head down the runway later this month.