Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Text2Fly: Flight Schedules by SMS in Nigeria

Timi Agama was frustrated with his experiences in trying to get information about flights in Nigeria. It just didn’t make sense that there was no electronic means to track flight schedules. About five years ago he set out on a path to create a mobile solution for the problem. Out of that came Text2Fly, a mobile service that let’s you search for flight schedules by sending an SMS.

Text2Fly Nigeria

“The simple task of finding the next available flight is an inefficient and labor intensive undertaking for the Nigerian business traveller. Nigerian airlines don’t operate call centers and the Internet is slow. So the business traveller must assign staff to search all airline web sites or even send them to the ticketing office through stifling traffic.”

How it Works

A user sends in a text message to +447786201082 with a simple command, like “From Lagos to Abuja on Monday at 8am”. In response, the system gathers the information about all of the flights in Nigeria that fit your requirements, and sends them back to you as an SMS message.

As Timi states, this is ” A Nigerian solution to a Nigerian problem”. Interestingly, it’s not only useful in Nigeria, and I could see this same application being used elsewhere, not just in Africa but in the developed world as well.

I’m curious as to why the service is only available via SMS. It seems that if you have the data, then it’s easy to make it web-accessible. The advantage there is that you also can start creating ways for people to purchase tickets and thereby have another revenue stream.

The Business Behind Text2Fly

Text2Fly QuoteIn terms of business model Text2Fly is paid for by premium SMS once it officially launches. It’s free right now though, so definitely worth testing out to see how much it helps in your daily life.

User numbers are still modest because the site and backend system was only flipped on 3 weeks ago. There has been very limited marketing to this point, but there is a plan to launch a real-world and digital campaign once the service is fully tested and stable.

When I asked Timi about how local Nigerians are taking to the product, he stated:

The reactions from people who have used the service has been far better than I could have imagined. One chap I spoke to on the phone enthused about how Text2Fly is not just for busy business people but for “everybody”. Another told me a story of how he showed it to some friends while they were having a drink and all 7 of them stored the Text2Fly number.

[Note: David Ajao has also done a review, worth reading as he’s a fellow Nigerian.]


  1. Thanks for a great write up Hash. You raise an interesting question.

    I’m curious as to why the service is only available via SMS…
    Text2Fly is SMS-based because that’s how we can offer a genuine upgrade in user convenience.

    Consider the travelling businessperson’s lifestyle in Nigeria.

    The Internet is slow in Nigeria. I would even argue that it’s not that reliable. SMS, on the other hand, is generally fast and reliable.

    Meetings often start later than planned, run late and are changed unexpectedly. It is also not uncommon to spend an indefinite amount of time waiting to see a senior public sector official. Culturally that’s just the way things are. So the best time for your return flight is often a moving target.

    That’s why having access to travel information on your mobile phone is more convenient than having it on the computer.

    Another issue is that from a growth standpoint Text2Fly would like to move beyond servicing the core business traveller to helping leisure travellers too. This market has limited access to the Internet.

    Finally, I’d argue that mobile is where the African tech entrepreneur needs to concentrate. It’s a much larger market than desktop. If there are any additional revenue streams to be tapped as a result of Text2Fly I’m convinced that the mobile is where they will be.

  2. @Timi – “I’d argue that mobile is where the African tech entrepreneur needs to concentrate.”

    Nice one. I’ve always argued that Nigerian start-ups should leverage on the mobile subscriber base, if they are to create a meaningful and valuable impact.

    See link: http://www.startupsnigeria.com/2009/05/can-any-nigerian-social-network-stop-the-facebook-surge/

  3. There is actually a commercial Swedish service doing the same thing and they have plans of expanding the service to other regions. They cover 90% of all world’s flights and the service is both available online and via SMS. Find it at http://www.traveas.com

  4. @WeLove – Actually Traveas is not the same thing as Text2Fly. Firstly, with Traveas you must book via a travel agent. Virtually nobody does that for domestic Nigerian flights. Secondly, there is no way to search for flight schedules by SMS. Traveas does interesting stuff, but it solves a different problem for a different market.

  5. @Timi: Thanks for your reply. You are right that its a solution designed for a different market but the Text2Fly solution could used some of Traveas functionalities to empower it even more, for instance constant updates in case a flight from Lagos to Abuja is delayed or so. I will be following you to see how you developed further.

  6. This looks great but why do we have to SMS a UK number?

  7. BE useful if someone can develop this for other countries as well eg here in UK

  8. Sure this is a great idea view from any angle, it could be improved upon just like any other human endavor, after all ‘Rome was not build in a day.

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