Plans change and they change all the time. However, changes in travel plans are usually accompanied with hefty costs paid for cancellation. The cancellation charges run high on airline tickets and are often a very significant fraction of the ticket cost, especially on the domestic routes. A startup however, is taking in its hands to save travellers from these charges if they have to change or drop their travel plans. WTFares offers flight tickets at competitive prices while giving the option of free flight cancellation.
On a budget or not, these charges irk anyone who has had to cancel flights and it was the same story with WTFares co-founder Varun. The BITS graduate was joined by Vedant Sarda, a Rutgers graduate and his batchmates Bhaskar Prakash and Gunjan Agarwalla to start the venture. Together they decided to take the ambitious step of going against the well-established OTAs armed with the promise of a quality support experience and free airline ticket cancellation.
Any flight tickets booked on WTFares include an additional amount which is 10 percent of the ticket cost with a minimum charge of INR 125. This additional fee is non-refundable however, travellers who have a confirmed plan and won’t need to cancel and rebook can choose not to pay this additional fee and book standard tickets. According to Varun, this small additional fee allows them to offer the free cancellation feature, even on non-refundable tickets. He also boldly claims that in most cases, these normal fares beat the other popular travel websites.
Working as consolidators, they purchase from various providers, both offline and online, who have rate agreements with multiple carriers. The difference in fares available to travellers is considerable when compared to other OTAs and airline websites, especially when booking closer to the travel date.
If users cancel their trip, the refund is provided to them not in the form of bank credit but as vouchers, which is quite obvious as when they are bearing the costs of a ticket for a user, they would want him/her to stay. From their data of 12,000 bookings, they have observed a cancellation rate of 12 percent which is what they have used to arrive on their free cancellation feature. Close to a third of these travellers who cancelled rebooked within a period of 30 days.
While the idea is promising and offers freedom travellers would love to have, they are not the only one doing it here despite the head start. Varun himself points out that the Pricelock feature introduced recently by Cleartrip offers somewhat similar feature. However, there is difference in how they are approaching the problem. Cleartrip is offering the feature as an add on that blocks the fare for a certain duration and users can book a normal ticket or revise the lock before that duration ends. It protects against the uncertainties before booking by allowing travellers to book closer to travel date but beyond that you have what the airline T&C offers. WTFares on the other hand is allowing users the freedom to cancel or change even after booking and offering more flexibility than the airline allows.
With the massive booking data the leading OTAs have, they can consider adding similar features if the numbers add up well. While WTFares has got a head start here, they will have to continue sprinting and make their presence felt before the giants even consider taking away their USP. You can find more details at WTFares.com.