Q+A: Heidi Brown Discusses Flexible Airfares and Up-and-Coming Website, OptionsAway.com
At Travel + Leisure, we love hearing about services that bring a refreshing level of ease and flexibility to booking travel. Enter OptionsAway.com. Started by Rob and Heidi Brown, a team of financial experts-turned-travel addicts, the site was born from their frustration over missing great travel opportunities because of fluxuating airfares. They used their knowledge in options pricing and applied it to air travel—and it's working. We sat down with co-founder Brown to find out more.
Q: How is Options Away disrupting travel?
A: Options Away is offering an opportunity that has never been available to consumers before—the ability to lock-in airfares while they finalize their travel plans, and do so across multiple airlines. It is disruptive in the sense that we have actually begun to transform the way people plan and book travel. Travelers can hold prospective flights by paying a small fee and eliminating the need for immediate booking. With such a low cost and no commitment to purchase plane tickets, Options Away travelers can hold several flights at once.
Customers never pay more than the locked-in price, but the best part is that if the price of the flight decreases, customers can get the lower fare. This service is available on most domestic flights and new routes are continuously added. Canada and Mexico will be offered soon and international flights will be sure to follow.
Q: Beyond Options Away, what digital travel services/resources do you think are smart?
A: I like the companies that are taking the commitment out of travel planning and giving customers the ability to be more spontaneous or last-minute with their decisions without breaking the bank. A company like Hotel Tonight has removed a big part of the stress related to hotel booking, allowing procrastinators to avoid exorbitant last minute rates. Uber is making the old decision of limo vs. flagging a cab down irrelevant by creating a solution that is a bit of both. At Options Away we’re trying to create this type of stress-relieving service by giving our customers peace of mind and time to decide in the booking process without it affecting wallets.
Q: What current digital travel trend do you see as being the most relevant?
A: I think we are going to see a further move towards mobile. Initially we saw a migration of travel products from the web to mobile. More recently, we’ve seen companies launch with mobile-only solutions driven by consumers’ constant connectivity and the expectation that they get what they want, where and when they want it. Where there is still room for improvement is how these solutions make consumers feel comfortable about finalizing their travel transactions via mobile.
Trips are expensive and, for leisure, exciting purchases that people want to feel comfortable about. Options Away speaks to this by making it easier for travellers to make impulse decisions that they won’t regret. The data shows us that people are willing to spend $10 to hold a flight when they’re not necessarily ready to book a $400 ticket. You can imagine how nervous someone might be booking $600 flights for a family of four while riding on a busy train or in line at the bank. Our app is really about peace of mind.
Q: What’s your best travel tip?
A: I would seriously consider the popularity of your destination, the season, and the size of the local airport. These variables significantly impact supply and demand and therefore the price of your trip.
Also, booking too far in advance or not far enough can have a huge impact on flight prices. A general rule of thumb is never to book outside of the 25 to 75 day window, the average here is about 50 days which is the approximate industry sweet-spot. And of course I recommend that if someone does find a bargain that they lock in the price for a few days via Options Away. There is nothing worse than waking up and seeing that your flight price has skyrocketed over-night.
Adrien Glover is deputy digital editor at Travel + Leisure.