SkySquad was developed in response to founder Julie Melnick’s need for an extra set of hands when traveling coast to coast with her toddlers (a feeling nearly every parent can relate to!)
Today, SkySquad is focused on providing that support to travelers where it is needed the most: in the airport.
FTA recently chatted with SkySquad Co-Founder Chris Tomseth about the SkySquad’s growth trajectory and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their business model.
FTA: Please briefly tell FTA members what inspired the creation of SkySquad originally?
CT: Julie Melnick came up with the idea for SkySquad after traveling with her young children and realizing how little help was readily available to families who might need an extra hand.
Whether that was assistance carrying heavy luggage, juggling too many things to manage, or making sure kids didn’t wander off, the need for some type of extra assistance to help with the stressful airport experience was clear.
FTA: How many airports do you operate in now and are there plans for expansion?
CT: We currently operate in three airports: Washington Dulles International, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, and Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
This year, we are planning expansion primarily along the East Coast corridor. So, places like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, as well as some of the Florida airports like Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. In the coming years, our plans are to expand to every major U.S. airport.
FTA: How was your service and business model been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
CT: Nearly every travel and tourism business was impacted by Covid. Ours was no exception since air travelers declined dramatically beginning in March.
However, we continued to see business growth over the summer, fall, and into the new year. This is partly because we cater primarily to the leisure travel market, which has been impacted less severely than business travel. In 2021, we expect a pronounced recovery in leisure travel over the next six to nine months, driven by pent-up demand, wider availability of vaccines, and eased travel restrictions.
FTA: What pivots did you implement during the pandemic in order to keep operating successfully, if any?
CT: The biggest was that Julie decided to go all-in on SkySquad, and really take advantage of the unique opportunity for dramatic growth coming out of Covid and the depressed travel levels of last year.
This involved building out the team, adding myself and Dave Osborne as co-founders, bringing on Megan Smith as head of operations, and putting structure and discipline into place around our hiring, airport processes, and technology development.
We’re currently raising a seed round of $1 million in funding, and have had an incredibly positive response from the investor community. We’ll be using the money for building out our technology platform, geographic expansion, hiring, and marketing.
FTA: You’re service seems more important than ever amid the growing complexities of navigating travel these days and getting through an airport, has that been the case?
CT: There’s a good case to be made that SkySquad is more important than ever for those who choose or need to travel during these times.
Having a dedicated and trusted SkySquad assistant means our customers can minimize their contact with numerous airport employees, worry less about their belongings falling on the floor or getting left behind at security, and benefit from the convenience of having SkySquad help them get food before a flight, or watch their belongings and/or other family members while someone uses a restroom or gets some work done prior to departure. If you’re on your own, there’s the possibility that more things can go wrong.
FTA: What advice would you give other travel companies about navigating the new normal in the travel industry and finding ways to survive?
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