SpareFare CEO: “Around 6 Million Passengers Can Resell Their Flights”

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At least 600 million flights a year are transferrable. We spoke to Georgi Stavrev, CEO at SpareFare, about educating the market, the future of the travel industry, and what's next for his startup.

How would you describe SpareFare in a few words?

SpareFare is a travel marketplace. The platform connects people who have bought flights, holiday packages or hotel rooms but can no longer use them, with people seeking urgent or discounted travel options.

By transferring their booked non-refundable tickets to SpareFare buyers, sellers are able to partially or fully recover the money they paid for the trips, while buyers get a true discount of up to 50-60% by not paying the current price of the tickets. Using the platform, buyers may also find the rare opportunity to get onto a sought-after flight which has been sold out for ages.

What inspired you to create the platform? How did it all start?

It all started when I realized I would not be able to use a flight ticket due to unpredictable work commitments. Full of misplaced hope, I ended up changing the outbound date two times, until I eventually gave up. None of my friends wanted the ticket and there wasn’t a scam-free marketplace I could sell it on. I saw the need for a trustworthy service which salvages costly travel tickets and gives people the chance to fly when all other options dry up.

How did you discover the market need for SpareFare?

I researched all the airlines that allow ticket transfers (more than 40!) and found that there are at least 600 million transferable flights a year. Further market research showed us that around 6.000.000 passengers can resell their flights, but instead, their tickets go to waste. Travel insurance normally does not cover these situations, so there is a big market for such tickets.

Additionally, there are many European destinations with very limited flight frequencies, so around big holidays, all flights get fully booked. Thus, an increasing number of people looking to travel home get stranded due to a lack of capacity. At the same time, the plans of people working abroad change frequently, so many connections can be made on SpareFare just by introducing buyers and sellers to the possibility of recouping their flight expenses and seeing their families for Christmas against all odds.

Finally, SpareFare also caters to the environmentally-conscious by design. What we offer can be looked at as the airborne version of car-pooling, by reducing – albeit minutely – our buyers’ personal carbon footprint, and by reusing journeys that would otherwise be wasted.

SpareFare launched a little over a year – what have you learned during this year and what were the biggest challenges?

Our biggest challenge is educating the market, especially for flights. Many people are still unaware that they can resell their hotel rooms, holidays and flights if they are not able to use them. Or that they can buy someone else’s booking at a significant discount. Many airlines also allow passengers to change the dates and the departure and arrival destinations for flights. Travelers have to pay a fee to make the change, but if the flight is expensive enough it is worth doing.

With other platforms like yours on the market (e.g. TransferTravel) – what makes SpareFare stand out from the crowd? What is the key differentiator?

We do a few things very differently and our experience so far has shown that we have made the right choices for the platform. Our biggest advantage is that the site is scam-free. Not all airlines allow ticket transfers, and all flights listed on the website are operated by airlines which allow transfers. So, buyers know that if they want a flight listed on SpareFare, it can be transferred in their name. We offer fraud protection for buyers and sellers. We hold the money for the bookings with us until the travel date, to deter fraudulent sellers. And we have done a lot of research on the airlines’ ticket transfer rules & fees, so we can help our users in a very practical way during the ticket transfer process.

The site also incorporates a bidding system to help secure fair ticket pricing. This ensures that both buyers and sellers get the best deal based on the current market price of the booking at the time of the sale.

Are you using SpareFare internally? How does that affect the viewpoints of the development team?

All the time. In October, I was able to buy a flight from London to New York for 170€, which is an incredible bargain! Quite a few team members have also sold their flights and hotel rooms on the site. This has only strengthened our view of the need for such a service. We are currently working on making the website even easier to use.

The one-fits-all approach does no longer apply to the travel industry. From your perspective, what are impactful innovations this sector will experience in the near future?

I have seen some great ideas for booking platforms that use blockchain. Blockchain technology allows something of value to be transferred from one person to another without a middleman to verify the transaction. Among other things, that could include hotel and other travel bookings. We all pay up to 30% in commission fees to the middlemen, when we book flights or hotels. These commission fees could be eliminated. The results are lower transaction fees and a more efficient route between supplier and end user. In the future, a blockchain company could potentially replace Airbnb, and travel agencies as intermediaries.

As a London-based company – how has the startup ecosystem changed during the past year and what could be improved?

It is worth mentioning the elephant in the room – Brexit. London has all the ingredients for a successful startup ecosystem and, thankfully, so far Brexit has not been able to ruin that. However, Brexit has not really happened yet, so the true ramifications have not been seen. The regulatory implications of Brexit need to be better understood and this will take a while. Running a startup involves lots of uncertainties and Brexit has only added to the list. The best improvement would be for the UK government to realize that Brexit is a mistake and halt the process. The next best thing would be for the government to find a deal soon and explain to the business community what is going to happen before everybody starts moving to Berlin.

What will 2018 bring for SpareFare?

A lot of excitement, for sure! We aim to capture a significant part of the world market for unwanted transferable flights, holidays and hotel rooms. We recently launched four new languages on the site and will expand the platform for our non-English speaking users.

What’s one piece of advice you can give to fellow founders for their startup?

The best training happens on the job. It does not matter how many books you read, or how many courses you go to. Do not feel like you are ready to start, you may never feel ready enough. Even if your idea fails, the experience will be invaluable. And it will teach you a lot more than any book can. Success at anything will always come down to focus and effort. And we control both.



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