Flying Home? Airport Chatter Brings Airport Info To iPhone, Socializes Travel

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Airport Chatter, which debuted just in time to take advantage of the busy holiday travel season, is a new mobile application aiming to be the one-stop shop for everything related to air travel, from the time of departure to the time of arrival. The app includes venue profiles for the shops and services inside airports, allowing users to not only discover the hours of operations and other business info, but also post check-ins and reviews. That makes it something like a miniature version of Yelp, specifically designed for airports.

But co-founder and CEO Mark Wagner explains that the company’s goal is bigger than that – the venue listings feature is only one of many they have in store. The goal is to go beyond becoming the next “Gate Guru,” for example, in order to offer users a more complete travel platform that can help them with every aspect of their trip, including tracking flight status, booking ground transportation, tracking the progress of checked baggage, and most notably, socializing with fellow travelers.

airportsSome of these features are further along in development than others. For example, Airport Chatter’s website speaks of a forthcoming feature called “Radar” which will allow users to meet new friends to “make trips more exciting.” Radar, however, is not yet available in the current iOS release. Wagner says the team debated about the launch timing, but decided that it would be better to launch before the holidays to gain that early boost in new users.

That bet paid off, it seems. Since its late December debut, Apple has featured Airport Chatter on two of its lists – “New & Noteworthy” travel apps, and another featured list called “Traveling Home.”

Wagner explains he came up with the idea for Airport Chatter around a year ago, having always been a big aviation geek, who loved everything about airports, airplanes and travel. “For me especially, [it was about] ‘what can technology do to help the travel experience?’ because A) there are so many travelers, and B) everyone is on smartphones,” he says. He and his friend Izzy Kirsh began working on an earlier version of what is now Airport Chatter, and launched it as a web app this April.

Not surprisingly, they soon found that the majority of the traffic hitting their website, essentially a list of airport venues, was coming from mobile. After joining forces with Sydney-based Rab Memari, who had been working on a similar concept, Wagner then tracked down developer and CTO Ygor Lemos using AngelList, to help them move to mobile.

profileThe end result, created over six months of remote teamwork, is today’s iOS app, Airport Chatter. At launch, the app features 30 airports across the U.S. and 4,600 venue profiles offering the hours, phone numbers and other business listing details. Users can check-in and review these locations, as well as track the live feed for their airport, or the global feed for all airports within Airport Chatter.

The startup has also partnered with SITA, which provides air transport communications and info technology. This will allow Airport Chatter to integrate other flight-related information into its app in the future. For example, one of the more promising features the SITA partnership will bring is baggage tracking. “You’ll be able to enter your baggage number and we’ll provide you real-time updates throughout your trip,” says Wagner. This service is still in beta on SITA’s side, so it will be some time before it’s available in the app, however.

Airport Chatter is available for free from the iOS app store, and the startup plans to develop an Android version in the future. Eventually, the goal is to monetize by offering mobile coupons for the venues in the airports, as well as by helping users with bookings for ground transportation and hotels.

Airport Chatter is currently bootstrapping, but plans to start raising seed funding after the holidays.