Avoid Flight Cancellation Worries This Holiday Season with Freebird
Image via Freebird
The holiday rush has begun in earnest. While there is no way to guarantee that your flight will never be canceled, you can infuse a tremendous amount of peace of mind into your itinerary with Freebird.
The innovation allows travelers to purchase what is essentially flight insurance up to two days before their flight.
Now here comes the super cool part: If your flight is canceled or suffers from a significant delay, you can tap a few strokes on your smartphone and you are instantly booked on another flight for free. (The fee you paid for Freebird covers this very scenario).
Here is a brief video illustrating the power of Freebird:
As for the specifics: You must purchase Freebird at least two days prior to your departure. At the moment, it’s offering a winter promotion, which includes $19 for one-way coverage and $34 for a round-trip journey.
TravelPulse was fortunate enough to lob a few questions at Ethan Bernstein, who just so happens to be the co-founder and CEO of Freebird.
What follows are his answers, which might illustrate the immense value for something like Freebird.
TravelPulse: Freebird is a great way for people to have some peace of mind traveling. What was the spark that led to the innovation?
Ethan Bernstein: In February, I was returning to Boston after a weekend trip to Colorado — most of my friends were booked on one of two non-stop flights leaving at the same time (around noon) on the same route (Denver to Boston) on the same day, operated by different major airlines. One flight was canceled due to maintenance issues. I needed to be home on time, so thankfully I wasn’t on that flight — I arrived home without any problem — but many of my friends weren’t so lucky.
The canceled airline notified passengers that they had been automatically rebooked on a red-eye flight the next night — nearly 35 hours later! Mayhem ensued. One hundred and fifty people jumped out of their seats and ran to stand in line. My friends, along with other passengers, tried desperately to reach the call center, without success. One friend eventually paid thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to switch airlines. Another walked away and booked a hotel room, also paying out-of-pocket.
When the dust settled, two things were clear: (1) everyone on the canceled flight had a stressful experience that lasted for hours; and (2) there were available seats across a number of different airlines to get passengers to Boston, but those flights were difficult to find and even harder to book without paying a small fortune. I knew there was a better way. That’s why I dropped out of Harvard Business School to build Freebird.
TP: Now it seems like something truly remarkable. What is taking place behind the scenes to get consumers a re-booked flight quickly and for free?
EB: Freebird connects into airline data systems and will notify customers immediately via text message as soon as a disruption occurs – often before the airline makes an announcement and other passengers are made aware of the disruption. We require zero paperwork, promptly notify users the moment their flight is disrupted, streamline the complex rebooking process, and automatically empower them to book a new ticket to get to the people and places that matter most.
TP: Are the flights offered as convenient as possible? Meaning, will they be as soon and with the least amount of layovers as possible?
EB: Freebird customers can choose from any available non-stop or one-stop flight we receive from our airfare search engine with the same intended destination as their original itinerary. Freebird is powered by the same search engine as leading travel sites such as Kayak, Orbitz, and Hipmunk, as well as airlines such as United and Delta. Although Freebird will never purposefully limit search results, the search engine may not provide us with availability for certain airlines and/or unpublished fares. At this time, we serve up availability for 10 of the top 12 US airlines.
TP: What are the limitations a user should be aware of? I know they have to purchase Freebird two days before the flight. Are there any other stipulations we might need to be aware of?
EB: In order to use Freebird, customers must be flying on a U.S. domestic route, possess an internet-enabled smart phone, and purchase Freebird at least two days before departure. We provide services to flights that are either non-stop or one-stop; multi-leg trips can be purchased separately, but will not include rebooking services for missed connections.
TP: I see that it allows for layovers. Does it matter how many on my itinerary?
EB: In order to access Freebird rebooking services for missed connections, a traveler's itinerary may only have one layover.
TP: Cancellations and missed connections are featured. How do you define significant delay for the service to kick in?
EB: Today, we define a significant delay as a departure delay of more than four hours, as measured by the difference between the scheduled departure time and the expected departure time. We are exploring the possibility of offering higher tiers of services for travelers who are more time-sensitive and want to use Freebird services after a shorter delay.
TP: Lastly, is there anything you think travelers might need to know about this exciting new innovation?
EB: Travelers can purchase Freebird via www.getfreebird.com at any time after their itinerary is confirmed, up until approximately two days prior to departure. Currently offered for domestic U.S. flights only, Freebird is available for a flat fee of $19 for a one-way flight or $34 for a roundtrip flight during its winter travel and launch promotion. Following the promotion, Freebird fees will vary flight-by-flight, based on factors such as likelihood of a disruption, and will typically cost less than $30 for a one-way flight. Prices are determined by Freebird’s proprietary algorithm that predicts the risk of flight disruptions for millions of flights per year.
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