Move over, Priceline and Hotwire. GetGoing comes out of beta with its fresh spin on opaque discounts
Today GetGoing came out of beta with a unique “blind booking” proposition: It asks travelers to pay for airfare first before finding out where they’re going.
In a fresh take on opaque booking, the San Francisco startup asks its customer to use its trip inspiration tool to find some surprising vacation ideas, pick two airfares from its selection, enter their payment details, and then be told which airfare they’ve bought.
Yes, that’s right. You click “purchase”. Then you find out where you’re flying. The risk of using the “Pick Two, Get One” platform comes with a potential reward of saving up to 40% off of airfare. If a user has picked two destinations, and one is more expensive than the other, both trips have an equal chance of being selected for the traveler, says the company.
As we noted in Tnooz’s profile of GetGoing, GetGoing launched in August. Since then, it has been accepting users by “invitation only,” to manage volume.
As of today, anyone can sign up either by creating an account or logging in via Facebook. (During beta, it added 27,424 likes to its Facebook page.)
GetGoing covers hundreds of major airports in more than 50 countries, but only works for trips originating from US airports. An international expansion is promised by the third quarter of this year.
The startup has landed deals with specific airlines to provide it with discounted inventory on certain routes or on certain dates. In some situations, it may have an exclusivity agreement with a carrier that requires GetGoing to promote its flights at the exclusion of others.
Will airlines play along?
Some analysts may dispute if there’s enough volume of seats that consumers truly want available for arbitrage. The company points out that nearly one in five seats on all flights in the US are empty, according to US Department of Transportation figures.
That’s true, but aren’t most of those red-eyes or mid-afternoon flights? Possibly so. But if GetGoing can convert some flexible leisure travelers into buying these otherwise unwanted seats, it’ll have come up with a niche not yet served by competitors.
You can almost hear the seductive pitch of a GetGoing salesperson to an airline exec. “Your airline has boosted your load factor to 87% on average? We can get you to 97%! Only GetGoing can squeeze fill up those last seats.”
Alek Vernitsky, co-founder and CEO of GetGoing, thinks the company can make a profitable trade-off of those empty airline seats by creating a unique customer segment that doesn’t cannibalize other sales or put a downward pressure on airfares. Says the company:
GetGoing is a technology platform that works seamlessly with airlines’ existing pricing and distribution systems, so the airlines get a new tool in their arsenal for more effective, targeted online sales.
GetGoing shares its extensive data with participating airlines, giving airlines additional tools to analyze what would work best for their routes and inventory. GetGoing also uses both historical data from the airlines as well as customer-provided data to personalize destination recommendations for travelers.
For example, if a customer takes an annual trip to a beach destination, GetGoing can suggest relevant locations and attractive deals.
“The GetGoing model will appeal to airlines because it provides tremendous revenue upside without disrupting their existing revenue segments,” said former airline industry executive and current industry advisor Al Lenza.
“This offering is structured in a way that produces incremental revenue for the industry, and does so with an airline-friendly distribution model.”
The company only sells flights for now, but it says it will begin selling flight-plus-lodging packages “in the coming months.”
The startup is a Y Combinator graduate, and is backed by a number of investors, such as Alexis Ohanian and Yuri Milner, plus private equity funds, such as Digital Collective and Lightbank.
One hurdle facing GetGoing is how to quickly and easily explain its “pick two, pay for one, buy what they give you” concept, which is pretty complex—possibly even more complex than Priceline was to explain to new users in 1999.
To solve that problem, the company hopes to become the first trip-inspiration tool to successfully convert customers, “like a Pandora for travel.”
To get the word out, it has cooked up a new promo video:
Sean O’Neill is a New Jersey-based reporter for Tnooz. He is also a daily contributor of consumer news to LonelyPlanet.com.
He used to work for BBC Travel, BudgetTravel.com, and Kiplinger's, and used to live in London, New York City, and Washington, DC.