Fare Tracker Yapta Launches Public Beta

Yapta, which went into private beta a month ago, had a bad day today. The company’s Pioneer Square office in Seattle caught fire this morning. CEO Tom Romary’s car got a flat tire. And, unsurprisingly, it rained.

But Yapta is celebrating anyway, because they just launched the public beta of the service. The fire was a problem, Romary says. But they were able to move all employees to their investor’s offices and finish things up for the launch.

Yapta is very different from other travel sites we’ve covered. It is not hooked up directly to airlines’ systems (as Expedia and Oribitz are), nor is it essentially a search engine for low fares like Farecast. Instead, they’re using some of the ideas behind del.icio.us and bookmarking to create a potentially compelling new way for people to search for cheap flights.

The core of the Yapta service is a browser bookmarklet or addon that lets users “bookmark” fares that they find on major travel sites. At launch, ten airline and travel sites will be supported, many more will be added over time. See a flight you are interested in and bookmark it. The flight and fare information is then stored in your account at Yapta.

If you make a purchase by clicking through to the airline or travel site from Yapta, they’ll continue to monitor the price. If it falls, they’ll ping you and suggest you contact the airline for a refund or flight coupon. All airlines offer these on price drops but few consumers follow up. Yapta will help by reminding you.

Yapta grew to 5,000 users in private beta and is funded by $750K of angel financing.

Being a web site, the team is somewhat lucky. Their office is in Seattle, but their servers are out of Seatac (WA) and Texas. The engineers will surely be spending a sleepless night at the data center tonight.