$3.5M invested in Options Away to let international travelers freeze ticket prices

by Garrett Reim
March 3, 2015

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Options Away, a tech startup that allows travelers to hold flight ticket prices without making a purchase, has just raised a $3.5 million Series A round to add international flights and partnerships.

Before Options Away, founding husband and wife team Robert Brown and Heidi Brown sold options trading technology and traded foreign currency, respectably. They reapplied their expertise to online flight bookings after realizing that the cost of flight rebooking charges and flight rebooking insurance were too high for travelers who just needed to lock in prices as they sorted out uncertainty in their travel plans.

Flight options are ideal “if you don’t know when, you don’t know where, you don’t know with whom” you will purchase your flight, said founder and CMO Heidi Brown.

When you buy a flight option through Options Away you don’t have to put in travel details; the option just secures the ticket price. Options can be held for 1, 3, 7, 14, or 21 days. Costs range between $4 to $50.

“The majority we sell is 3 to 7 days,” said Brown. “People will purchase it on a Wednesday because they know they won’t have enough time to research their trip until the weekend.”

 

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Using the new round of investment capital Options Away will be expanding to international flights, a kind of ticket that could be particularly profitable because the spread between international flight rescheduling charges and flight prices are so large. As such, international flights tend to cause customers a lot of anxiety.

“The higher the ticket item the more people have trepidation in terms of actually pressing the buy button,” said Brown.

As part of Options Away international expansion plans the company will be growing its business development team and looking for new travel company partnerships.

Currently, the company has deals with travel sites Expedia and Hipmunk, and soon travel agency Sabre, to integrate their hold option into the flight purchase flow of their websites.

Brown said deals with those travel companies boosted Options Away’s transactional volume 10 fold in 2014. Yet, Brown claimed despite that rapid growth they haven’t had issues guaranteeing options for customers.

“We have never had a sell out, our models are that good,” said Brown of the algorithms that manage the company’s flight options. 

To maintain that track record during overseas expansion, Brown said the company would be focused on upholding quality before quantity. 

“We want to have perfect tech and perfect customer service,” said Brown. "We are going to go small, we are going to go great, and then we are going to scale.”

Options Away's $3.5 million Series A investment round was led by OCA Ventures, and included Thayer Ventures and Pritzker Group Venture Capital. Existing investors who were also in the round included Iglu.com chairman Martyn Williams, Iglu.com CEO Richard Downs, Virgin America chairman Don Carty, and 1871 CEO Howard Tullman.

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