A couple months back, my trip to CES in Las Vegas almost didn't happen. As I was walking to the gate, I received an alert that my flight had been delayed. A few minutes later, another alert: my flight had been canceled.
What followed was a long series of calls to the airline and visits to various airport counters. What was supposed to be a quick and easy direct flight turned into three flights, each one of them a hope-for-the-best standby affair.
I can't help wondering if flight-rebooking service Freebird might have made my day a lot easier.
Freebird helps you rebook a canceled flight, a missed connection or even a delay of more than four hours. And this doesn't mean getting on the phone with a Freebird operator or anything like that; the entire process transpires on your phone -- usually in about 30 seconds, according to the company.
It works like this: You receive a text-message alert when your flight has been cancelled or delayed. Tap the accompanying link and you'll land at a page listing available replacement flights. Choose one, tap "Book it" and you're done.
Interestingly, Freebird will rebook you on any airline and covers the full cost of doing so -- for an actual ticket, not a standby option. What's more, you get to keep your original ticket, meaning you might be able obtain a refund or apply that ticket to a later trip.
However, despite the name, and despite all the proclamations of "no additional cost," Freebird is not free. Rather, it's just another form of travel insurance, currently priced at $19 for a one-way trip or $34 for round-trip. And you can purchase coverage separately for each leg of your trip (i.e., you don't have to buy round-trip Freebird just because you have a round-trip ticket). The only requirement is buying the coverage at least two days in advance.
There are no additional costs beyond that, and as the Freebird FAQ page rightly notes, "travel insurance doesn't typically cover cancellations, delays, or missed connections -- and it doesn't help you find a new flight when a disruption occurs."
The service is currently available for US domestic flights, with international flights "on the radar, but not likely in the near-term," according to a Freebird rep.
According to FlightStats, well over 15,000 U.S. flights were canceled in just the last 30 days. If you're taking an important trip that could potentially be ruined by a cancellation or major delay, Freebird seems like an awfully good deal for convenience and peace of mind.