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Flight Canceled? Freebird Helps You Book a New Flight for Free

(Photo: Michael Duxbury/Flickr)

Stop us if this has happened to you. You’re flying home for the holidays, enjoying all the comforts that cheesy airport lounge or cramped coach cabin offers, when a voice comes over the loudspeaker announcing that your connecting flight has been canceled or severely delayed.

Suddenly the holidays have turned into the hell-idays.

Your options aren’t pretty. You can a) wait on endless hold with your travel agent or airline to find out if there are any other flights; b) wait in an endless line with several hundred other discommoded travelers for the opportunity to speak to a surly and equally frazzled customer service agent; c) buy an insanely overpriced replacement ticket online just to get the heck out of Dodge; or d) camp out on a comfy stretch of airport carpeting until sanity is restored. 

Freebird taps directly into the airlines’ reservation systems. When a flight is canceled or delayed four or more hours, it sends you a text alert with a link to alternate flights. (Photos: Freebird)

Freebird offers a fifth option. For a small fee, you can search for an alternate flight on your phone and book it with a few taps of your fingers — without waiting on hold or on line or paying through the nose for a new ticket.

The service, which debuted last week, works a bit like trip insurance. You pay a small fee ($19 for one way, $34 for round trip at press time) up to two days before your departure. If your flight is canceled or delayed by four hours or more, Freebird sends you a text message with a link to its website listing alternate flights. Select the leg you want to fly, click “Book Flight,” and you’re done. The ticket is delivered to your phone, paid for by Freebird. Your original ticket is also still valid, so you could try to turn it into the airline for a refund (good luck) or keep it as a backup.

Pick the flight you want, select Book Flight, and you’ll get an email confirming your new ticket — no additional fees required. (Photos: Freebird).

Of course, if all flights are grounded due to weather, so is Freebird. And if you don’t use it, you lose it — there are no refunds. (That’s how Freebird makes its money.) That pricing is also an introductory offer, good through this winter; expect it to rise later as the likelihood of travel disruption increases. However, company co-founder and CEO Ethan Bernstein assures us it will never get much higher than $30 or $40 per flight.

How well does Freebird work in the real world? We have not had an opportunity to try out the service, so we can’t tell you for sure. But it sounds like it’s worth taking a flier on.

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When Dan Tynan is stranded in an airport, he usually complains bitterly about it on Twitter.