KC pilot launches mobile app to aid ‘stressed and frustrated’ passengers
Airline captain Dan Stratman of Kansas City knows the frustrations of airline travel firsthand.
"As a captain for a major airline for 23 years, I encountered many stressed out and frustrated customers on my flights," Stratman (left) said on Tuesday. "My uniform is like a magnet for people who need help and I'm very sympathetic to that and thought 'I'm going to put all my inside knowledge to work into (an app) and include all the features people need.' "
Stratman lauched his app, Airport Life, in the Apple App Store four months ago and as of Tuesday, he said it's been downloaded more than 16,000 times. The free app offers terminal maps for more than 100 airports, an itinerary tracker for flight details and weather information for a user's departure and arrival cities. It also offers an "Airport Wall," a feature that lets users interact and share information with other users.
For those who subscribe to the app's "1st Class" upgrade (ranging from $1.99 for one month to $19.99 for one year), the app provides notifications for flight changes – Stratman said these often beat the airlines in notifying passengers – a "Where's My Car" feature for both personal and rental car and an expense tracking feature. Stratman pointed out that these features are most relevant to high-frequency business travelers.
Airport Life's features include airline and airport information and a "Where's My Car" to pinpoint where a user has parked his or her car.
The idea for the app came to Stratman more than two years ago, when he himself was using a slew of apps to keep track of the different information he needed when traveling. Tired of bouncing back and forth, Stratman came up with Airport Life and his vision finally took flight with the help of Twentyseven Gobal, a software development firm.
The app faces competition from other travel apps, such as FlightAware Flight Tracker, Trip Deck and USA Today Autopilot. While these apps were released a couple of years ahead of Airport Life, Stratman believes Airport Life has many advantages that will quickly put it on top. One of the advantages is its multifunctionality, with all of the information in one place rather than having six different apps to bounce back and forth between.
"After being in the industry for 23 years, I know what passengers go through and that gives us a big advantage because passengers know it comes from an industry expert so the information has more credibility," Stratman said.
"I know what passengers go through and that gives us a big advantage." - Captain Dan Stratman
To launch Airport Life, Stratman put forth $100,000 of his own funds, the Kansas City Business Journal reported, but after recent participation in the Kauffman Foundation FastTrac program, he is searching for angel investors to help fund an Android version and employees.
Stratman said thus far he has no plans to charge for the basic download of the app as he wants it to be available to those looking for a helpful airline travel app. Future plans include generating revenue through another service to the user, deals from airport merchants and vendors. He said he hopes to begin contacting merchants regarding advertising.
Airport Life was designed from the beginning to be used world-wide. It currently includes information for about 20 foreign airports, with more airports on the way, such as Tokyo, Dubai, Madrid and Bangkok. For future additions, he said they're waiting for data on how many downloads come from different countries in order to determine which languages translating the app into make the most sense.
While the app has taken two years and thousands of hours, Stratman said he's willing to put in the time. "It's been a lot of work but I see it really helping passengers so that's what keeps me going."