It seems that flight delays could turn into a big business. FlightCaster, the startup that helps predict flight delays long before the airlines themselves usually do, has just landed a $1.3 million funding round led by Tandem Entrepreneurs and Sherpalo Ventures. FlightCaster previously recieved money as part of the Y Combinator program. Today the company is also launching a new API, which developers can learn about here.
FlightCaster’s goal is simple: it wants to let you know when your flight is delayed as early as possible. Using a variety of data sources and complex algorithms, the service will alert you whenever it thinks one of your flights will be delayed, along with an explantation of the factors that contributed to its prediction. And so far, it seems to be working — co-founder Jason Freedman says that four hours below takeoff, Flightcaster manages to predict ten times as many delays as the airlines do. And they manage to stay 90% accurate (which is on par with the airlines).
Back when I first wrote about the startup, I questioned how helpful knowing about a delay in advance really was. After all, FlightCaster’s notifications state that a flight will probably be delayed. But sometimes they’re not, so it isn’t wise to show up at the airport a few hours late. Freedman says the FlightCaster team had the same concerns, but that there are two discrete sets of users who value the service. The first group of users (which is where most people fall) just like having a heads up that their flight is delayed, mostly so that they can warn friends and co-workers that they might be late.
The second group loves FlightCaster for a different reason: they will change their plans if there’s a possibility of a delay. Freedman says these tend to be frequent fliers (likely business travelers) who don’t want to get caught in delay limbo and are willing to pay to swap flights even if a delay isn’t certain.
It’s this second group that will likely prove most valuable to FlightCaster. The company is currently in talks with a number of major travel sites (and even some airlines) to integrate their predictions. Freedman won’t get into specifics yet, but he says some of these partners are interested in helping frequent fliers rebook their flights as soon as there’s a delay alert.
Along with the parters FlightCaster is already talking with, other developers will be able to tap into the Flightcaster API for a fee.