Talking Travel Tech: Arnaud Bilquez of Air Valid
Tnooz node Claude Benard secures another exclusive interview, this time with Arnaud Bilquez, Air Valid CEO.
Unlike some other airline review sites, Air Valid has a trusted certification process for their reviews.
This is thanks to partnerships with some of the leading European online travel agencies, including sites like Go Voyage that process customer reservations online.
But, now, Bilquez is claiming to lead the way and has created the new concept of NOW Reviews for the airline market.
Just as Twitter offers real-time news, searches and messaging, Google is now thinking about following the trend to provide users with more and more up-to-the-minute news.
Arnaud explains more about his mobile airline news application and the NOW Reviews for the airline market.
What is the name of your new ‘Velociraptor’ application for NOW Reviews on airlines?
EezeeRATOR. It’s an android and iPhone application that facilitates access and participation in the Eezeer community.
With EezeeRATOR, you can view airline information that is searchable by airline name or IATA code, but you can also access information and ratings for over 45,000 flight numbers from 260 airlines.
How does it work? Does the application also facilitate UGC (user generated content) for the site?”
Once you’re on the page of an airline or a flight number in the application, it will allow you to tweet directly or send a photo. The photo goes through your Twitter account or Twitpic, but it also feeds to your user account in Eezeer and puts your tweet on the Eezeer home page. Participation by the community is a key part of this service.
How can we be sure that the content is coming from an actual customer that has flown with the airline being rated or tweeted about?
All messages are moderated by the EezeeRATOR team, and there is also a GPS function that allows us to position the user at the airport.
This is the case for comments on flight delays, for example. Thanks to the application, everything is automated and the messages are structured based on a template. You add your text or your picture, but the rest of the message is pre-written.
More specifically, EezeeRATOR builds on the concept of NOW Reviews. There are many technical barriers for sending up-to-the-minute photos from your iPhone or android mobile to the community site. And, our application is devoted to destroying those barriers.
The way it works is you take a photo while on-board your flight, open the EezeeRATOR application, choose the airline or flight number, and post; the application does the rest.
Thanks to our GPS module and an agreement with boarding.fr, there is also a function called “buddy meet at this airport”.
And what will the lovely stewardess on the plane [;)] say about all this new communication? Imagine half of the passengers tweeting about the quality of the meals or the air conditioning being too cold or not working! How will the airlines respond to the posts on Eezeer?
The airlines will have to reckon with Eezeer and will no longer be able hide behind their advertising and the stars they’ve been awarded by SKYTRAX.
Are further synergies also possible through partnerships with airlines, airport services or travel services? That is, services before, during and after a flight?
On synergies, we have entered into an agreement with a US company that provides on board wi-fi units. We have also partnered with JP Morgan ClimateCARE in order to purchase CO2 offsets.
But, the ultimate goal is to provide airlines with the opportunity to promote their flight services for free in the NOW ecosystem using photos, video, and real-time interaction between the passenger and the airline on Eezeer.
Can you provide some figures on the Eezeer community since its launch?
Since its launch on July 6, Eezeer now hosts a community of 41,200 members. This number is made public and appears in real-time on the site. Eezeer’s Twitter account has grown at the same time to 6,000 followers.”
Could you imagine Eezeer producing a white label product for airlines?
No. Eezeer must remain financially independent from the airlines and be influenced primarily by the users.
Don’t passengers generally feel that they are unable to influence airlines when they have a claim or even want better service?
Do you remember the recent story about United Breaks Guitars and the buzz on YouTube?
We want airlines to recommend that their satisfied customers visit Eezeer and use our platform for new, real-time feedback.
What do you think about the trends that are governing the dynamics of the NOW Reviews market? (For example: Wi-Fi on planes, mobile-phone applications, people searching for information in real-time, community dynamics, etc.)
The wi-fi connection on board is a key factor. But, so far, the development has been on the US market.
A second factor is the rate of ownership for the iPhone and Android phones and also the increased interest in and use of applications.
Finally, users are tired of how TripAdvisor and other review sites are operating. They don’t offer detailed highlights for the most recent events on behalf of users wanting real-time interaction and fresh reviews on products and services.
Is the NOW Reviews concept also applicable for other sectors of tourism?
The NOW Reviews concept is applicable to other markets. Other areas of tourism will be addressed by Eezeer before the end of the year. Our basic line is NOW Reviews From Travelers.
The users have interesting things to say and also photography and films to share, and they’re not just about flights! But, the key is the structure of the data boxes, which makes the content useful and interesting for the end user and keeps the information well-organized. The power of detailed, well-organized flight reviews is demonstrated on Eezeer.
SKYTRAX will give an airline a passing grade for their on-board service, like with Singapore Airlines or Alitalia… But, Eezeer informs passengers about all the airlines offering flights between two cities, and then for particular flight numbers.
The service on-board a flight will differ according to the type of aircraft and the flight duration, in addition to the ticket class. We will keep working to provide more useful benefits and surprises for the travel market!”
How do you expect to reach out to an international audience?
“With our partner Mobissimo in United States and others around the world, we’ve been able to build this community in a sustainable manner, but step by step.
It is clear that the community’s growth can be accelerated by an agreement with another powerful social network or through the integration of our application with other mobile phone brands.
Eezeer enjoys the support of Air Valid traffic, with nearly 750,000 visitors a month worldwide. I believe the future of consumer opinions is in mobile technologies that capture the moment!
NB: An Eezeer live application download will be available from 10 October 2009.
Claude is a contributing Node to Tnooz, consultant and seasoned blogger hailing from Marseille, France. Claude started his career in tourism as a technical sales manager for a Marseille-based tour operator.
He then spent six years as a sales executive at Louvre Hotels group, before discovering the tremendous potential of the internet for the marketing of hotels and tourism.
Claude then became the sales and marketing manager for a regional booking engine for the Marseille Chamber of Commerce and DMO’s.
He now handles consulting and training for hotels and other DMOs. Claude manages his blog HoteliTour.