In our latest Meet & Greet we chat to Vlad Protasov, founder of personalised flight search service Flystein. A seasoned traveller, flight geek and software engineer, Vlad co-founded Flystein with his partner Roman in 2015, and in this interview he tells us all about this interesting new concept…
Hello Vlad! Firstly, tell us your elevator pitch for Flystein.
There are hundreds of flight meta-search sites online, all missing one important component and that’s personalization. Regular meta-search sites are unable to provide value for complex itineraries as they’re tied to strict systems.
Flystein employs some of the world’s best travel hackers who help clients save an average of $250 on their flights for a small service fee.
What would otherwise take a person hours if not days, is done in a fraction of the time by one of our experts.
How and why did you come up with the Flystein concept?
Me, and my co-founder Roman are both avid travelers and have been enjoying some epic flight deals for years. A year ago, the number of friends that we’re asking for our advice got so big that we thought – why not share our knowledge with our friends and everyone else?
How did you personally get involved in the travel industry?
Flystein is actually both of ours first involvement in the travel industry. Until now, we’ve only been in the part of a traveler.
Every day we read about new travel booking/planning startups. How do you differentiate yourself from the competition and thrive in such a crowded marketplace?
First of all – it’s not easy. Travel is one of the hardest industries to succeed in, and one of the reasons is the fact that the competition is so big. However, we believe that when you stick to your thing and do it well then you will succeed.
I think that what separates Flystein from our competitors is our service which is highly personalized and human-powered. We always have one expert tending to one client so that they’ll get to know the preferences and needs of the said client.
Flystein is a classic example of how, somewhat counterintuitively, the web is increasingly enabling people to “go analogue” when it comes to trip planning, using human experts instead of doing everything themselves using booking sites. Why do you think human travel assistants are becoming more & more popular?
There is only so much a computer can do – even at this day and age. Luckily, if we may say, the airline industry is so complex that even the biggest meta search engines can’t make sense of it all as well as a human can.
Also, people’s lives are getting more and more busier and a lot of us are looking to get things done with minimal effort and less time. That’s actually where an online travel assistant comes into play. Yes, they won’t display a number next to your itinerary in 2,3 seconds, but they’ll do it so that you don’t have to and apply their accumulated knowledge of the industry to get you the best deal. And it’s all online where most of our lives are today.
Many people are predicting that chatbots and digital assistants are the future of travel booking. Do you envisage a time when Flystein’s services will be provided by bots, or will you always have the human touch?
Flystein will always have a human touch to it, that’s for sure. There are too many automated search engines in the world and we don’t want to lose our biggest benefit – personalization.
All of us think we’re good at hunting down the best deals online. What do your flight experts know that we don’t?
Our flight experts are travel addicts and I mean that in the best way possible. They spend hours upon hours in different travel forums, reading on different fare rules, loopholes, and testing different strategies. The airline industry is a maze that is almost impossible to get through if you’re not in it on a daily basis.
Also, our flight experts don’t need deals to save you money. They will find you the best prices no matter the season, day, or route. They don’t rely on error fares or seasonal discounts.
What’s the most you’ve ever saved someone on a flight?
The biggest amount right now for economy trip is $1,100 for one person and we even have written proof of it Our client Alexey wanted from Tel Aviv – NYC – San Francisco – Tokyo – Tel Aviv and wasn’t loving the over $3,000 tickets he was finding. So, he came to us and voilá!
Finally, what are Flystein’s plans for the future? Are you sticking with flight booking or broadening your scope?
We are surely going to broaden our scope with other travel services as well. The first thing that we’re launching very soon, is Flystein for Teams. We’re aiming to help small and medium size businesses cut back in their travel costs. Another travel service we’re working on adding is hotels. Chances are that when you’re traveling to a foreign country, you’ll need a place to sleep. Our experts are known to help people save on flights AND on hotels, but we haven’t really promoted that side of our service yet.
There’s a lot more that we can offer our clients, but we try to take it step by step to make sure that we are able to provide the best care and service that we’ve become known for.