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Have you ever flown to an important event only to find that your flight is delayed or canceled? Then you find out that the next available flight for the airline means that you’ll miss your important event? If so, then you might be interested in using Freebird on your next trip!
Flying to an important event is always risky!
A few years ago, I went to a friend’s wedding in Iowa. I flew on a discount airline early on a Saturday morning but then got stuck when the flight was canceled. The airline rebooked me for a later flight, but it meant that I missed most of the wedding that evening. Luckily, I wasn’t a groomsman. Though in retrospect, I should have taken additional time off from work and flown a day earlier to be safe.
I’ve heard stories from others about getting stuck at the airport when traveling to a critical business meeting or even starting an expensive vacation. Some airlines only operate one or two flights per day to certain destinations, which can pose a major problem if your flight plan is disrupted. For most of us, we are at the mercy of the airlines to help us find a new flight. And that process can take time, especially if you’re flying in economy.
What is Freebird?
Freebird is a service that’s been around since 2015. It’s an interesting concept. It’s not an insurance company, but it functions like one. The concept is that for a flat fee, the service will rebook you on a new flight once it detects that your current flight is canceled or delayed for over four hours. The service connects to the airline data systems and detects a change in flight status, which then triggers the service and alternative flight search.
How does Freebird work?
In the event that you experience a disruption, you’ll receive a text from Freebird notifying you of the situation and providing a link to rebook your flight. You’ll then be presented with different flight options. Just select the flight that you want, and Freebird will book it without any additional fees. Also, the platform is airline agnostic, so you’re not stuck with flights through your current booked airline.
The cost of the service is $19 per one-way flight or $34 for roundtrip flights per traveler. The system requires the traveler to register their flights at least 48 hours prior to departure. This includes award ticket flights and companion ticket flights, both of which work with the service. And if your flight itinerary has changed, you can still update it with Freebird as long as it’s outside the 48-hour departure window.
What about my credit card’s trip delay and cancelation protection?
Many of you have travel credit cards that offer trip delay and cancellation benefits. These perks are great and can reduce the stress of air travel disruptions. However, while these benefits are valuable, they usually won’t help you to get to your destination any faster.
Things to keep in mind when using Freebird
Freebird seems like a great way to maximize the odds of getting somewhere important. Though as I was researching the service, I did think of a few things that could be problematic or challenging.
1. Transferring checked-in baggage:
If you’ve checked-in any luggage on your original flight, there might be issues getting your bag transferred to your new flight from Freebird. Freebird says that their support team can assist with this issue. However, I wouldn’t expect an airline to delay any of their processes to accommodate a special bag transfer, especially to another airline. If you’re traveling to an important event, it’s worth packing only carry-on luggage to avoid this complication. This is a good rule-of-thumb regardless of whether you use a service like Freebird.
2. Slow airline notifications:
I’ve had experiences where the airlines are slow to report a delay or cancelation in their system. Freebird claims to link to the airline data system, but I imagine that there are still situations where it takes a while for the airline to report the delay or cancelation.
Another scenario is where your flight is repeatedly delayed in short increments, which would not trigger the Freebird service. For example, if your flight was delayed under the four-hour threshold, then delayed again, you would have already wasted the time waiting when you could have been rebooked on another flight. I don’t think the four-hour rule from Freebird is unfair. Though I can see the airlines being a source of frustration in this situation.
3. Service only works with major US airports:
Freebird says that the service only works with major US airports. This could be an issue if you are flying to a smaller airport. For example, when we recently visited Arches National Park, we learned that many people were visiting the park by flying into Moab airport. However, due to the limited flights into the airport, it’s not one of the airports supported by Freebird.
I asked Freebird if they had a list of support US airports. They replied within minutes that a list wasn’t available, but that the system will alert you when an airport isn’t supported.
4. Weather delays may keep you grounded:
If your delay or flight cancellation is weather-related, you might struggle to find another flight. Weather conditions can usually affect other airlines, so it’s hard to escape it. It’s something to keep in mind and acknowledge as a limitation. Though on the flip-side, if your flight is canceled a few days in advance of a large storm, Freebird can help you to find an alternative flight. I confirmed with Freebird that their service does “kick-in” if the cancelation occurs ahead of your departure date (i.e., not just on the day of your travel).
5. Rebookings are only in economy-class:
If your original flight is business or first class, you would likely expect that an equivalent ticket would be rebooked. However, Freebird only books economy class tickets. While this makes sense since the point is to get you to your destination as fast as possible, it could be frustrating if you’ve already paid for an upgraded-class ticket.
6. Rebookings only cover non-stop and one-stop flights:
If you happen to have a multi-stop flight, you won’t be able to use the Freebird service. The service only supports non-stop and one-stop flights.
7. You need to verify returning flights with the airline:
One thing to keep in mind is that if you have a roundtrip flight and fail to board a part of it, the airlines may assume that you did not complete your trip. This can affect your returning flight. The policy varies with different airlines. You’ll want to contact them if you end up completing your trip using a Freebird booking to confirm that your returning flight itinerary is still intact. Also, you’ll want to see if you can get any credit or refund for the lost flight from the airline.
8. Support is via email:
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I asked Freebird simple questions, they responded within a few minutes to my messages, which was impressive. However, I think it would be useful for the service to offer phone support as well. I may be old-school, but I’d rather have the option of speaking to someone over the phone, especially if I encounter a complicated issue.
I think Freebird is a great service to use when you’re traveling to an important event. It reduces some of the risk when using a smaller airline that may not have as many flights as the larger airlines. Whether it’s a wedding, job interview, or expensive vacation, $19 could be worth the peace of mind and convenience of getting another flight quickly and without the cost of last-minute bookings.
What do you all think of Freebird? Have you used it for your flights?
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