Offering cheap and flexible multi-destination flight packages is helping the platform become the go-to reservation agent for budget travelers
For European school and college leavers, the Interail experience of traveling to several destinations is a decades-old institution. Today, multi-destination flight reservation platform Airhopping aims to replicate the experience by air and, in the process, capitalize on the growing number of millennials and Gen-Zers seeking foreign travel to more remote and exotic destinations.
More than 300,000 young people use an Interrail pass every year. The pass is available at bundle prices that range from €160 to €600 and can be used for train travel across 30 European countries. But as budget airline services in Europe continue to expand, Interail is facing increasing competition for the hearts and minds of young travelers.
Designed by two recent college leavers, business graduate Carlos Montesinos and computer engineer Gonzalo Ortega, Airhopping was born out of frustration. In 2016, Montesinos wanted to plan a post-graduation trip to various European cities by air, an endeavor that turned out to be complex and expensive. Spotting a gap in the market, he and Ortega decided to create an algorithm that would combine multiple travel destinations at the best possible price.
It took over a year of MVP iteration and technology development before Airhopping was officially launched on the market. Since then it has been used by 18,000 clients. The first trip offered was Berlin, Budapest and Copenhagen for just over €100, and the package remains one of the bestselling combinations. In 2018, Airhopping's first full year of operation, the company generated €1.6 million in revenue.
Validation of Roig's ecosystem
Airhopping is the first startup to complete the full cycle of the Marina of Companies (Empresas) created by businessman Juan Roig, owner of Spain's largest supermarket chain, Mercadona. The Marina of Companies consists of three separate entities; EDEM Business School, incubator Lanzadera and the investment vehicle Angels Capital that together encourage and facilitate young talent to undertake entrepreneurial projects.
Montesinos initially enrolled in the Business Administration course at EDEM developing Airhopping as his final degree project. The idea was then selected to enter the Lanzadera Campus acceleration program where, along with co-founder Ortega, he started to build the first MVP. The cycle was completed in November 2018 when the company raised its first seed funding round of €271,000 from Angels Capital. Airhopping is the twelfth startup backed by Angels Capital, whose current investments amount to some €13 million.
Airhopping works directly with airlines, aggregating mainly low-cost flights to offer combinations that depart from Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Alicante, Malaga, Palma de Mallorca and Oporto. To date, the platform has sold 40,000 flights and generated a total €3 million revenue. Airhopping's business model is based on a 15% commission that is charged to the customer as part of the final package price.
Montesinos sees Airhopping as winning the virtual battle with Interrail in terms of price, speed and comfort. At times, he says, the site has been saturated.
"We have created a new search engine powered by a unique algorithm that calculates the cheapest price, the most affordable destinations and the period of time that you can remain in each destination," Montesinos says.
Speaking the millennials' language
Created by millennials for millennials, Airhopping’s value proposition is designed to meet the needs of budget travelers aged between 18 and 30 by offering cheap and flexible travel, a combination not usually associated with low-cost air travel.
By using a language and tone familiar to target clients, the company has attained significant organic growth across social media, building a community of 78,000 followers on Instagram and 27,000 on Facebook.
"We didn’t have a huge budget, so we had to try out a series of creative actions to gain visibility," says Montesinos.
In April 2017, the team used Instagram Stories to launch a competition in which community members posted their favorite Airhopping routes; the prize was an Airhopping flight combination ticket. The campaign had an impact of three million impressions and increased followers from 4,000 to 20,000.
"The key is not only to be where your target is, but to learn to communicate with them and become one of them,” comments CMO Itziar Oltra.
After experiencing 140% revenue growth between the start of 2017 and the end of 2018, the company aims to close 2019 with 100% annual growth. New destinations to Asia and North America will be added to the platform by the end of the year.
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