Back in her college days, Ama Marfo often spent holidays in the dorms.
Her family was back in her home country of Ghana, and the round-trip fare of $2,000 just didn’t fit into her student budget. She wanted to make the trip, but there were no services out there to help her pay for the ticket.
“I was familiar with layaway, so I was curious why that didn’t exist for flights since they are so expensive,” Marfo told Yahoo Finance.
That question inspired Marfo to start Airfordable, a site that lets travelers buy plane tickets on a payment plan. Along with co-founders Craig Henry and Emmanuel Buah, Marfo launched the service last December and has already amassed a community of 10,000 users.
The whole process is pretty simple. After finding the ideal flight, you take a screenshot of the itinerary and upload the photo to Airfordable. From there, the site calculates the deposit amount, and applies an interest rate of 10% to 20% of the ticket cost. This interest rate is determined by demand, the date of travel and the period of time between when you book and when you travel.
Airfordable then presents you with the total cost and a payment plan. If you agree to the terms, they buy your ticket, and you pay it off in increments. The best part about Airfordable is that you have to pay off the ticket before the trip, so you don’t have to deal with debt once you return home.
For instance, let’s say you find a round-trip ticket to Spain for $800 and the trip is two months away. Airfordable would charge you a $104 layaway fee, making your total cost $904. After putting down a deposit of $296, you would have to make two more payments of $304 before you receive your boarding pass.
Marfo, who worked in financial consulting for years, believes Airfordable is actually helping people to be more financially responsible. “The concern from some people is that we are like a Payday loan for flights, but that’s not the case,” she said. “You have to pay off the ticket before you travel, so if you can’t afford it, you don’t get the ticket, and you can’t fly.”
In the event of a default, the payment plan and ticket are canceled. The deposit paid is non- refundable, but any other payments made by the customer can either be refunded in cash or used as a credit towards their next booking.
Considering the one-time layaway fee can get costly (depending on the price of the ticket), Airfordable isn’t necessarily for everyone. For example, travelers who don’t need to buy a ticket right away could put away a little money every paycheck and earn interest rather than pay a fee.
Still, Marfo said her most frequent clients are people who don’t have a credit card, and who find a good deal on a ticket, but are short on the money until payday. For someone who doesn’t want to miss out on a trip to see family or a friend’s destination wedding, this can be a really great service.
“If people don’t fit one of these cases, they might not understand the value in having Airfordable as an option,” she said.
As Airfordable continues to grow, the site is constantly evolving. Previously, trips couldn’t be put on layaway unless they were at least two months out. That window has now dwindled down to one month. Additionally, users can now have up to five bookings at a time, allowing them to plan out a year of travel.
Airfordable started as a simple idea to solve a personal dilemma. Today, Marfo says it’s turning a profit, and she hopes that one day the site will include layaway options for vacation packages, hotels and rental cars.
“The overall response has been really positive,” she said. “Getting the chance to change lives by helping people finance travel has left a positive impact on my life.”
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