Freebird takes flight to rebook disrupted passengers

Fresh from raising $3.5 million in funding from General Catalyst Partners, Freebird has launched to help air travellers in the US.

Accomplice and Slow Ventures also participated in the funding for the concept which works in a similar way to insurance. Travellers pay a single or return trip price, currently $19 and $34, to cover their flight in the event of a significant delay (four hours), cancellation or other mishap.

However, instead of having to go through the process of claiming the insurance, Freebird sends travellers an alert about the flight to their mobile device and then enables them to rebook via the alert.

Travellers also retain their original ticket.

The service uses Google-owned ITA Software to present travellers with available alternative flights and claims to enable them to rebook in three taps. The company is not sharing at this stage how it all works at the back-end.

Freebird is the brainchild of Ethan Bernstein who gave up his studies at Harvard Business School last year to pursue Freebird full time and over the past year has been building the team, product and customer traction.

Bernstein is no stranger to the travel industry having spent time on the corporate development team at Expedia working on both the Travelocity and Trivago deals.

Freebird has grown out of personal experience and he believes it is an “unmet need” with nothing available to put “power back in the traveller’s hands.”

When questioned on whether it is a product or a business, Bernstein says both and adds that it can be a very big business. Figures shared by Freebird show that around Thanksgiving when about 250,000 travellers experience a flight cancellation.

While other startups and existing travel companies are taking different approaches to managing disruption, Bernstein believes his company is the only one trying to empower the traveller.

“It’s allowing them to make quick decisions. In three taps they can book any airline of their choice which helps them skip the line and get to where they need to go at no extra cost.”

Another benefit, he says, is that the service is redistributing passengers more efficiently by offering available options across different airlines which should reduce queuing times at airports.

The $19 and $34 fees are introductory and as time goes on the plan is for pricing to be dynamic based on various risk factors such as adverse weather.

Bernstein’s co-founder is a data scientist and the plan is to build up a predictive service through machine learning with accuracy key to the success of the business.

freebird insert

Challenges ahead

In the short term the company needs to try and get over the huge mistrust from consumers surrounding insurance.

“We are a rebooking service, helping to streamline the process and enable them to make quick decisions.”

Going forward the company will seek to have the service offered everywhere – via airlines, online travel agencies, travel management companies but Bernstein acknowledges the relationships will take time to build.

In a year from now Freebird wants to have grown significantly which explains why it raised the $3.5 million round.

“We wanted to put the foot on the accelerator. There is enormous opportunity and enormous unmet need so the single biggest goal is to grow as quickly as possible. We’re building out the team rapidly as well as new ways of helping people understand who we are.”

A version for the European market is under consideration but the company wants to bed the service down in the US first.

“We want to make sure we are appropriately responding to needs and the regulatory environment and growing in a way that makes sure we really do right by the customer.”

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About the Writer :: Linda Fox

Linda worked at tnooz from September 2011 to June 2018 in roles including senior reporter, deputy editor and managing editor.

 

Comments

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  1. Michael Collins

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wpiKCOG-_yo&index=21&list=PLQKpBY3IbsMoy_rvts2MdyjAhiQ8RPKZO

    Hi Linda, just an FYI, see above link, an interview with Ethan from Phocuswright last month.

     
  2. Valentin Dombrovsky

    I wonder if service might be restricted to offering flights from specific airline (or alliance) and thus used by airlines on their websites as well.

     
 
 

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