Airlines think the value of a flight changes as its departure date comes closer, its seats fill up and Jupiter aligns with Mars. But variable pricing makes travelers like me insecure and aggravated about paying too much for flights. Yapta, a little Seattle-based startup, helps users track changes in flight prices so they can make better purchasing decisions (and get the refund they’re entitled to if a flight they bought becomes cheaper).
You’d think that would tick off the airlines, and Yapta CEO Tom Romary — who previously ran marketing for Alaska Airlines (s alk) — said initially it did. But since Yapta has shown in the last three years that it brings in regular paying travelers and pushes them towards actually buying the trips they’re researching, it’s become looked upon more fondly, Romary attested. On the consumer side, Yapta says it finds price drops for 45 percent of the airfares it tracks and refunds for 15 percent of the flights customers continue to track after they purchase them, amounting to an average of $375 in alerted savings per year per Yapta member.
Microsoft (s MSFT) bought Farecast — which predicts price fluctuations rather than tracking them — for $115 million in 2008, and the startup helped define the central decision-making metaphor of Bing. Yapta is much smaller — it raised $2 million in Series B funding from Bay Partners, First Round Capital and others in 2009, bringing it to $7.7 million in total capital raised.
We like companies that use real-time data to help customers battle variable pricing, so we brought Romary in for an interview. Here’s the video: