AirStudent Making Air Travel Easy, Accessible and Affordable – using technology to break down barriers, and create opportunities and experiences
AirStudent has just hit one of its biggest business milestones to date since joining E Squared’s Pathways Programme in 2021. The tech travel platform company co-founded in the dorm rooms of UCT in 2017 by then-students, Ndabenhle Ntshangase and Lwanda Shabalala, recently launched their latest travel booking platform powered by Travel IT. The successful launch was hosted at The Maslow Hotel and attended by various media companies and guests including E Squared and AGOF representatives. With the upgraded version of the platform, students, individuals and companies of all sizes easily and conveniently book their next trip, be it for business or leisure; the platform offers customers competitive rates, holiday packages and discounts on flights, accommodation and car rental at a click of a button.
It has been a long journey leading to this launch for Ndabenhle and Lwanda. Recognising the power of partnerships earlier on; the duo connected with Brian Kitchin during his time as an Executive at Comair who believed in the team and bought into their vision. Through strong partnerships with industry leaders and experts; AirStudent was able to grow its customer base and now venturing into new market segments.
The launch is just the beginning for Air Student; the team’s vision is to break barriers to travel for students. “The cost of travel is just one of many barriers that South Africans face in their quest for higher education and opportunity. If you live in KZN, but study in Cape Town, travel is an expense that takes away from other areas where you could spend. Or worse, it blocks the opportunity to study at all,” said Ndabenhle in an interview with Garget at the launch.
Pathways, E Squared’s flagship venture-building programme for Allan Gray Fellows with early-stage ventures, offers bespoke interventions in the form of direct funding and targeted advisory from industry and subject matter experts to systematically build robust, investable and impactful businesses. A ‘patient capital’ approach is adopted in order to help build commercially viable businesses through a partnership that advocates responsible entrepreneurship as a basis for long-term and sustainable success.
AirStudent‘s new partnership launch sees the brand reach a new level. We’re excited about the future growth prospects that this new launch will bring the team – congratulations to the AirStudent team.
From left: Allan Gray Fellow & E Squared Investee, Ndabenhle Ntshangase, CEO of AirStudent; Wonga Matebase, Business Development Executive of TravelIT; Brian Kitchin, Chief Business Officer of AirStudent; Lwanda Shabalala COO of AirStudent; and Wayne Muirhead, Sales Director of TravelIT.
A new online start-up retail agency, connecting users directly to bookings and cutting out GDSs, has launched in South Africa.
Ndabenhle Ntshangase, Co-Founder and CEO of travel platform, AirStudent, believes that the biggest trend – and the biggest opportunity – in the travel industry today is the rise of the so-called New Age traveller, who is driving change in the travel and tourism space in disrupting traditional ways of searching for, buying and using travel services.
As a result, the industry is seeing a wave of new entrants using smart technology to make tourism more inclusive and travel cheaper, and this is helping more people explore the world in new ways, says Ntshangase.
New Age travellers aren’t just younger travellers, like students, the team at travel booking platform AirStudent believes.
Lwanda Shabalala, Co-Founder and COO of AirStudent, says what sets New Age travellers apart is their savvy use of technology and social connectedness.
“There are a couple of reasons why this is important for the industry. Travellers are not brand loyal – they want the best price. To understand and service this market, we must lean heavily on technology, which will open up access to the tourism industry even more,” says Shabalala.
Ntshangase and Shabalala finalised the concept of AirStudent in a university dorm room with the initial aim of enhancing the student travel experience. By pooling students into larger groups, they found they were able to negotiate preferential deals with airlines to enable more affordable travel and a better overall experience.
They soon partnered with now Chief Business Officer Brian Kitchin, well-known in the industry from his days at kulula.com, British Airways, and Comair.
“I’ve spent my professional career building some of the most successful teams and brands in the South African aviation industry. Now I’m using my skills and experience to build a business that has the ability to change the way millions of South Africans experience and access travel,” says Kitchin.
If we can use technology to break down barriers, we’re creating opportunities and experiences that go way beyond buying the cheapest flight or bus ticket that you can find,” says Ntshangase.
Blacky Komani, Chairman of the TBCSA, says by connecting travellers with service providers, these platforms are making it possible for small businesses and start-ups to reach wider audiences and to compete with larger, more established players.
Since its student days, AirStudent has extended its services to all travellers – a boon for airlines and for travel agents. And the travel tech start-up does not plan to stay limited to domestic travel: ultimately, say Ntshangase and Shabalala, AirStudent aims to give travellers affordable access to a range of travel solutions, including accommodation and car hire.
Read more about AirStudent here.