Freebird Will Get Rid of Your Cancelled Flight Nightmares
It’s the last thing travelers jetting home for the holidays want to see as they crane their necks to look at a flight screen:
The millions of Americans boarding planes this month will have delays and cancellations looming in the backs of their minds. But Freebird, a Cambridge-based travel app, wants to make worst case scenarios disappear. It’s a mobile web app that allows travelers to instantly rebook trips without spending a fortune on last-minute flights.
By paying $19 for a one-way flight or $34 for round trip, Freebird users can have peace of mind when it comes to flight disruptions. They’re alerted to the disruption via text message, and are given the option to rebook on any airline. According to Freebird founder Ethan Bernstein, the whole process of rebooking requires three taps on a mobile phone and takes less than 30 seconds.
The former senior manager at Expedia saw potential for a service like Freebird after a ski trip gone wrong in February. His group of friends was scheduled to leave Colorado for Boston on two different flights, and one of them was cancelled. Half of his fellow skiers were rebooked for a redeye flight the following evening after much waiting in line, telephone hold music, and frustration.
“When the dust settled, two things were very clear,” says Bernstein. “Everybody had a miserable experience. And second, availability existed to get people back to Boston. It existed on the airline they were traveling on and it existed on other airlines. It was just very difficult for them to gain access to that information and rebook without paying a small fortune.”
Freebird is notified any time a flight schedule is changed by being “plugged into the back end of the airline industry.” When a scheduled departure time differs from the expected departure time by more than four hours, it pushes out a notification to alert customers. Users can sign up for Freebird’s services up to two days before departure.
“It gives customers the ability to skip the line and get where they need to go,” says Bernstein. “It just so happens we also take price out of the equation so that they can pick the best outcome, rather than worry about how much it’s going to cost.”
The $19 and $34 fixed rates are a holiday promotion—once the winter promotion ends, pricing will be based on factors like the underlying riskiness of a flight.
“For example, if you were flying between Phoenix and LA in the middle of summer, it would cost less than if you’re flying between Boston and Chicago in February,” Bernstein explains.
This isn’t exactly great news for those who bounce between Boston and New York. Freebird looked at data from January and February over the past 12 years and found that New York City’s LaGuardia airport is the worst airport to travel to and from Boston, as 9 percent of these flights are cancelled. The company also found that in flights coming to and from Boston during winter months, there are two and a half times more cancellations per day than during other times of the year.
Freebird started helping people circumvent the rebooking process in November.
Bernstein says, “It puts the power back in [travelers’] hands.”