A new webapp has just hit the market that enables air travelers whose flights are cancelled or significantly delayed to book a new flight on any available airline with just three taps on their mobile device ... and at no additional cost.
Called “Freebird,” the tool provides travelers with instant notifications in the event of a flight disruption, and offers them the ability to rebook in less than 30 seconds.
“Freebird is a rebooking service,” Ethan Bernstein, the company’s co-founder and CEO, told TheTravelPro in an email. “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.”
An important aspect of Freebird is that it takes price out of the equation so travelers can pick the best available option and not worry about how much it will cost, Bernstein said.
How it works
Once travelers have booked their flights and their itineraries have been confirmed, they visit the company’s website up to approximately two days prior to travel and purchase the service. If a flight is cancelled or delayed by more than four hours, Freebird will send a notification to the traveler’s mobile device via text message, present them with available options and provide access to rebooking services via the company's mobile-friendly website.
The flight options will appear on three screens as shown below, which represent choices for a traveler whose flight from Boston’s Logan International Airport (BOS) to San Francisco International (SFO) was cancelled or delayed. The first two screen shots are from the first message and is where travelers select their option. The third shot is the booking screen and the fourth is the confirmation.
At present, Freebird is available only for domestic U.S. flights. To introduce the product, the company is offering a promotional flat rate of $19 for a one-way flight or $34 for a round-trip flight.
Following the promotion, Freebird fees will vary depending on the flights to be flown. The company uses a proprietary algorithm that takes into account factors such as the likelihood of a disruption and predicts the risk of flight disruptions for millions of flights per year. The cost per trip will typically be less than $30 for a one-way flight, the company said.
In a sense, Freebird has similarities to certain types of insurance in that it provides a “replacement” flight at no additional cost.
“Freebird will pay for your new ticket and won’t charge you any fees,” the company says on its website. “However, Freebird does not cover fees administered by airlines that aren’t include in the published fare – they’re confusing to us, too.”
There will be other aspects of dealing with the cancelled trip that will fall to the traveler.
For example, airlines are legally restricted from transporting unaccompanied luggage on passenger flights so if a traveler has a checked bag, Freebird recommends they speak to a representative from their original airline regarding how to transport the bag to their destination after rebooking via Freebird, Bernstein said. The company will also provide assistance if necessary.
Travelers will also have to make the arrangements necessary to retain the value of their unused ticket.
“In the event of a flight disruption, airlines are typically cooperative in accommodating the remainder of a traveler's flight itinerary if the traveler doesn't use the ticket for a significantly disrupted flight,” Bernstein said.
Travelers who rebook via Freebird should speak to a representative of their original airline – importantly -- before their original flight departs because airlines have rules regarding “no-shows” that could result in a significant impact on the value of the unused ticket. Again, Bernstein said the company is happy to provide assistance, if necessary.
The product’s launch came just ahead of the Thanksgiving travel rush when approximately 3.5 percent of Americans take flights and, on average, 250,000 travelers experience a flight cancellation, according to a Freebird analysis.
If you are planning to fly to family and friends during the balance of the holiday season, Freebird could prove to be the perfect present to give yourself.
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Screenshots by Carl Dombek
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