Overbooking hassles could be decreased for both passengers and airlines with a new machine learning platform.

Most airlines regularly overbook flights because a small number of passengers don’t turn up. If flights are full, airline staff will ask for volunteers at the gate to switch flights, and usually offer to pay them. Last year, United Airlines hit the headlines when a passenger was filmed being forcibly removed from an overbooked flight, leading to many carriers pledging to change their policies. Machine learning technology could help tackle these challenges.

Atlanta-based Volantio has develoepd Yana, a platform which uses machine learning algorithms to allow airlines to proactively identify flexible passengers on high-demand flights, make them offers to move to lower demand flights, and automatically rebook them once they accept. Passengers are notified via mobile, days in advance of departure, minimising last-minute hassle and providing enough time to change plans accordingly. Offers can include upgrades, travel vouchers and frequent flier points.

The company has just announced a $2.6 million funding round for the platform led by Ingleside Investors and strategic investors International Airlines Group (IAG), JetBlue Technology Ventures and Qantas Ventures.

“We are extremely proud that the investment arms of three key global aviation leaders, spanning three distinct geographies, have chosen to back Volantio and its market-leading technology” said Azim Barodawala, Volantio’s CEO.

Maximising capacity

“Our platform provides a rare triple-win,” he added. “Flexible passengers receive a benefit for changing their travel plans, last-minute travellers are able to access flights that otherwise would have been full, and airlines can better maximise network capacity and unit revenue, while putting greater predictability and control back in the hands of their customers.”

Bonny Simi, president, JetBlue Technology Ventures, said: “At JetBlue Technology Ventures, we like to invest early in innovative solutions to travel industry challenges. We are impressed how much early traction Volantio has received for its approach to optimising revenue and customer satisfaction through improved capacity utilisation.”

Qantas Group Executive, Strategy, Innovation and Technology Rob Marcolina, commented: “The travel industry and customer needs continue to evolve and investments in innovations like Volantio are important to ensure we keep exploring ideas, disrupting the status quo and discovering new ways of working to deliver better outcomes for our business and our customers. As a participant in Qantas Ventures’ first AVRO Accelerator program, Volantio is a great example of the impact that investment in scale-ups can make.”

Volantio has launched Yana with Qantas, Iberia, Volaris, and Alaska Airlines, and it has a number of additional carriers in the pipeline.