In 2007, Google launched a directory inquiries free-phone line. All you had to do was stop playing snake on your Nokia and dial 1-800-GOOG-411. It then connected you with the US business you wanted.
Google did not do this because they saw phonelines as the future (Blackberries and smartphones were already starting to take off in 2007) but to collect voice data. They needed to record people with different accents and tones. GOOG-411 laid the foundation for voice search and Google Assistant.
Thomas Flohr’s motivation for launching VistaJet in 2004 was to make money. But in the last 15 years – by flying to more than 180 countries – the global business jet operator has collected a lot of valuable data. Flohr is now using this data to get close to instant charter booking – something that many companies have been working on for years.
There was a lot of surprise when Flohr announced he was buying JetSmarter earlier this year, but his plan was to combine VistaJet and XOJET’s (which he bought in 2018) data and experience with JetSmarter’s booking technology. “The JetSmarter algorithms basically allow us to do calculations that have relied on brain power, market knowledge and 10 years’ of experience in less than a second,” says Flohr. “We can price charter with a very high degree of accuracy by combing our experience with JetSmarter technology.”
Customers can use the new XO app or website – FlyXO.com – to get instant quotes and reserve flights – although these are still confirmed later. The platform allows charter buyers to share flights (as JetSmarter did) and also allows XOJET programme or card members to book their flights.
Flohr stresses that he is not looking to service flights only using VistaJet or XOJET aircraft. The site has access to 1,500 jets that have already been approved by XOJET (which has been a significant charter broker for years).
“We are building a true marketplace for operators,” says Flohr. “As soon as we have a booking, the reverse option becomes available for operators to bid on. It is completely independent and there is no preference for our aircraft. We are building a transparent marketplace.”
After 15 years in business aviation, Flohr seems even more excited about the launch of XO than the acquisitions of JetSmarter and XOJET, or any large order he has placed. “We are talking about true digitalised global mobility,” says Flohr. “We are truly putting power in the hands of consumers.”
Google shut 1-800-GOOG-411 in 2010. Now it collects voice data from Google Assistant.