These great friends have launched an app to make train journeys more comfortable

  • Iain Griffin and Dirk Stewart wanted to improve train travel in the UK.
  • They sneaked into first class or negotiated with ticket keepers for cheaper upgrades.
  • They realized there had to be a better way, so they decided to launch the Seatfrog app in 2017.

Iain Griffin and Dirk Stewart spent a lot of time on trains while working for a global advertising agency. They often tried to compete with each other to see who could get an upgrade by haggling with a driver looking for a more comfortable ride.

Griffin said traveling standard class is “terrible” when you’re almost 6ft 4in tall – so is Stewart.

“Most of the seats are tiny, so the amount of space for someone whose body is mostly legs is obviously a bit of a challenge,” Griffin added.

They found that the first class cars were often empty, so they tried to “fight” for an upgrade. In the UK, with a standard train ticket, you can still sit in an unreserved first class seat once you board a train and simply pay the fare difference when a flight attendant come and check the tickets.

“There were times when Dirk would get an upgrade and sit in first class and text me saying ‘where are you? It was a good, wholesome joke between us trying to talk to the guard and get a better price.”

Trying to get a cheaper upgrade from a ticket keeper on a train, the pair pushed back against the price differential by arguing that the first class carriage was empty and the keeper could upgrade them for less cost due to lack of demand.

Bargaining can be awkward

“It’s never been easy. Sometimes it works, but it’s pretty opaque and not a great experience,” Griffin said. “You probably need a lot of confidence to own this script and try to negotiate.”

He added: “Nine times out of 10 they would agree to make a better price for you than just charge you the difference because they have some leeway in how they can value things on board.”

Griffin said he often wins the contest because his negotiation skills are “just a bit better” than his co-founder, who has a background in software engineering.

At the end of 2017, they decided to launch Seatfrog, an application that allows travelers to make offers for cheaper upgraded seats. They negotiated directly with train companies so users could get great deals on tickets and upgrades through its auction feature. Train companies can also fill their most expensive seats.

“The cheapest price we will sell an upgrade for is £5, but the average price for a ticket upgrade in the UK is around £22 to £23,” Griffin said.

Cheaper upgrades

Passengers can use Seatfrog to book tickets to 2,400 destinations in the UK. Users can upgrade their ticket at any time, from booking until they are on board. They can also download tickets purchased elsewhere in the app to access discounted upgrades.

24 hours before a train departs, Seatfrog holds an auction for all available first class seats. Customers can also purchase their ticket at its “buy now” price, but Griffin says it’s cheaper to bid at an auction.

“If it’s during off-peak hours, there may be less than 10 people bidding, but during peak hours we’ve seen over 60 or 70 people bidding for an upgrade,” he said. declared.

The volume of the capacity depends on the frequentation of the trains: sometimes it is five places, other times it is 45.

time for change

Seatfrog has more than one million users and is on track to generate more than £20 million ($24.3 million) in revenue this year, according to Griffin. Next year, it also plans to start offering trips to Europe.

Griffin told Insider: “The consumer experience in the rail industry hasn’t been good for a decade and it’s time someone changed that. Regulation of the market, and the industry where it is , means we are in the best position to lead this charge and make this money.”

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