Startups

Freebird flies off with $8M to rescue passengers after flight cancellations


There are few things more irritating than a canceled flight, whether it’s on your way to a friend’s wedding, a conference or to celebrate a holiday back home. Wouldn’t it be nifty if technology could put an end to our travel woes? Freebird, a travel rebooking service, has raised an $8 million Series A to do just that.

The startup charges a minimum of $19 per flight — more depending on distance, time of year, location and more — to independent travelers and companies that partner with the service to help travelers rebook flights after cancellations or other “disruption events.” Most of the time, flights are on-time and without issue, which means that most of the time, Freebird pockets all of its customer’s cash. But if there is a disruption event, Freebird guarantees it will rebook you with just three taps of your phone and without any additional charge.

American Express Ventures has led the round, with support from Citi Ventures, PAR Capital Ventures, General Catalyst and Accomplice. Freebird is currently in discussions with Amex and Citi, as well as other banks, to roll its travel benefits into their corporate card services. To date, the startup works with 100 corporate clients and 10 corporate travel agency partners, including BCD Travel. Freebird says it expects to support 250,000 travelers this year.

Founded in 2015 by Ethan Bernstein, Cambridge, Mass.-based Freebird aggregates data on flight patterns to predict the probability of a flight disruption. If the probability is high, Freebird chargers more for access to its mobile rebooking tool.

“If you’re flying out of Buffalo in the winter, it’s going to be a higher risk flight,” Freebird chief executive officer Bernstein told TechCrunch. “If you’re flying out of Phoenix in the summer, you’re at a very low risk of being disrupted. We understand those risks and we are able to price our product differently based on those factors.”

Freebird has raised a total of $16.5 million in funding to date. It’s one of many travel technology startups to bring in venture capital this year. IfOnly, a marketplace for experiences, secured $20 million in April; luggage startup Away brought in a $50 million in June; and travel activities platform Klook raised $200 million in August, to name a few.

Freebird, though focused specifically on flights, says its experiences are at the forefront of its business model.

“There are a million different products that will help you automate your life but one of the things we are focused on is transforming personal experiences,” Bernstein said. “Do they go through these disruption events tearing their hair out or do they go through it knowing that they have control, agency, support and information? It’s funny what happens when people deal with uncertainty; uncertainty is the worst. As soon you give people information, human support and technology to help them solve their problems, they experience the event so much differently.”





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