Imagine traveling over the holidays to see friends or family, and your flight is delayed or, worse, cancelled. Or traveling to a business meeting, and because of a flight delay, you miss your connection. Now imagine a service that, for only $19, will alert you of the upcoming delay or cancellation, and that will automatically find you alternate flights, and book them for you at no extra cost to you, all from the privacy and hassle-free convenience of your smartphone. No standing in lines, no calling around to other airlines, no waiting on hold, no having to frantically surf travel sites.
Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not – it’s a service called Freebird.
Freebird promises that for your $19 per one-way trip ($34 for round-trip coverage), you can “Skip the line and book a new ticket on any airline at no additional cost in the event of a flight cancellation, significant delay, or missed connection. (And keep your old ticket, too!)”
In fact, it took longer, and more effort, to type that above paragraph than Freebird promises it will take you to get that free rebooking, which Freebird says will take fewer than 30 seconds, and with only three taps on your mobile device.
(See the little footnote mark next to “Free Ticket”? That’s just to let you know that “Freebird will pay for your new ticket and won’t charge you any fees. However, Freebird does not cover fees administered by airlines that aren’t included in the published fare — they’re confusing to us, too,” by which they mean things like fees for checking baggage, etc.. And we at the Internet Patrol think that’s fair, don’t you?)
Even though Freebird avoids calling the service “insurance”, you can think of Freebird as the way travel insurance should be: guaranteeing that if something happens to your original flights, you’ll still end up getting where you need to be with no extra cost, and a minimum of hassle.
Basically, for your $19, they will buy and book you a new ticket, on any airline necessary to make sure that you get to your destination (and only direct or one-hop flights!), at no additional charge to you.
(Note that the $19/$34 rates are their winter promotion, but they say that their future rates, which will depend on specific flights and likelihood of disruption, will typically be less than $30 per one way).
Oh, and with nothing to download (no app or anything)!
And you get to keep your original ticket (in case that airline will make good on it).
And you can Freebird a given flight (yes, we just verbed a proper noun) any time after the flight is confirmed, up until two days before departure. Which means that if the weather forecast for the week of your flight has you worried, you can Freebird it up to 48 hours before your flight.
And get this – if your original airline themselves books you on the best alternative flight, or if none of the alternative flights work for you, so that you don’t end up using the Freebird option, Freebird will give you a $100 gift card instead! As they explain in their FAQ, “If you are eligible to rebook through Freebird but choose to not rebook for any reason, you can opt to receive any $100 gift card of your choice in lieu of rebooking. It’s the least we can do if we can’t find a way to make your travel experience better via our rebooking service.”
How can Freebird possibly afford to do this? You pay $19, but they pay potentially hundreds of dollars to get you on that rebooked flight?
Well, first of all, they have just closed a $3.5million round of funding. But also, no doubt they have determined the number of flyers using Freebird in a day at $19 versus the number likely to need rebooking in a day, allowing them to know the number of daily users needed to break even, and then the number to make an acceptable profit.
We tested it out (they offer a simulation), so here’s exactly how Freebird works:
When you sign up, you give them your cell phone number (that’s it – remember there is no app to install), and your flight details. If your flight is going to be delayed in such a way that you can’t make your connection, or for more than 4 hours (even with no connection), or cancelled, you get a Freebird alert via text message:
That text message contains a link on which you click:
Clicking on that link immediately starts the process of Freebird finding you new flights to replace your delayed or cancelled flight:
And they will find you lots of alternative flight options – lots and lots and lots:
We actually were offered several more screenfuls of flight options than this!
After you select the flight you want (remember, you don’t have to even worry about cost!), you confirm your information:
That’s all there is to it! Once you confirm your flight, Freebird gives you a confirmation number,
Pretty nifty, eh?
You can check out Freebird for yourself at GetFreeBird.com.
If you use Freebird, be sure to let us know how it goes!
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