Finding Cheap Flights with the Co-Founder of Scott's Cheap Flights (Ep. 29)

For the last two weeks, we have been learning how to use miles and points to increase our travel and reduce our cost of travel so we can do more of it. If your points are based on the real monetary cost for flights, then finding cheap airline flights is a great way to maximize your signup offers and earned miles. That is why I have invited Scott Keyes of Scott's Cheap Flights on the show. He'll tell us how he turned a flight searching hobby into some amazing trips and then a thriving business with over 1.6 million subscribers. He'll also give us some insights into how we can grab inexpensive flights and mistake fares.

Note: This is an interview. No compensation is being offered to the host for this appearance.

On this episode we'll cover:

  • Hawaii for $400, Cancun for $200 and the magic of planning the next trip during your current trip
  • Starting as a journalist with little money, trying to find deals
  • Finding tips and tricks by immersing himself
  • The best deal Scott ever got and friend's interest.
  • How to remember to tell people about deals
  • A hobby for the love of the game
  • Cheap flight hunter by night
  • Getting lucky finding a co-founder
  • The philosophy behind the $49 per year subscription price and continued freemium model
  • The amazing fast growth of the service
  • Will it ever go to a completely pay-for model?
  • What is the average savings that are expected with the service?
  • Why do they focus mostly international?
  • Strategy for how you pull the trigger on a deal, Bucket list?
  • Japan for how much???
  • How do you plan a trip with a great fare to make sure you don't get hit with extra fees that ruin the price?
  • Make sure you follow the guidelines
  • What is Scott's Grandma Principle? How many connecting flights in their deals? Quality of experience.
  • How many deals can you expect?
  • What is the strategy for choosing airports for travel on Scott's Cheap Flights?
  • Respect the Inbox
  • Extra airports to choose and the advantages
  • Do airlines have to honor mistake fares?
  • 2018's best mistake fare
  • Airlines doing right by their customers
  • The story behind the name Scott's Cheap Flights
  • Scott's choice of favorite places



Show Notes


Scott (00:00):
This is Scott Keys of Scott's Chief Flights, and you're listening to Travel Fuel's Life.

Drew (00:17):

Drew (00:18):
Everybody and welcome to Travel Fuel's Life, the show we share stories, tips and inspiration to help you live a travel lifestyle. I'm your host, drew Hamish, and this week I have a very interesting guest. Now, many times I've had people come up to me and they say, how do you afford so much travel? I mean, you don't really do anything with the miles and points and all of that, so somehow you got to be able to afford all of this. Well, simply stated, one of the biggest advantages I've had to extending my travel lifestyle is a newsletter, and that newsletter is called Scott's Cheap Flights, and where most companies have to spend millions of dollars to grab my interest. It just took one $300 fare to Hawaii to turn me into an evangelist for Scott's Cheap Flights. Thus, from the beginning of this podcast, I've wanted to get Scott Keys, the founder on the show so that he could talk about his journey of searching out great fares for himself, how he got the newsletter to take off so fast, and also find out some great ways to optimize how you use the service so that you can get the absolute best fares to those international destinations on your bucket list.

So from my living room here in Greenville, South Carolina, it's time to pull up the computer, jump on the worldwide web, and have a chat with Scott Keys, founder of Scott's Cheap Flights. Scott, thanks for joining us today.

Scott (01:48):
Hey, great to be here.

Drew (01:50):
I tell you what I mentioned you guys constantly on the podcast because I mean for me, I mean I can go through a whole history of the last year where I was on a trip in Denver. I saw an email come in, it's your newsletter, it says Hawaii. I can go for 400 bucks. So I booked that while I'm in Hawaii. I see I can go to Cancun for 200 bucks, so I sign up for that. Oh man. I go, I see

Scott (02:16):
There's something really magical about booking your next vacation while you're already on vacation.

Drew (02:21):
It is. It is. So that's fantastic. And then I was so excited because I got to book out of Greenville Spartanburg, which is my local airport, and it's hard to get flights out of here for under 6, 7, 8, $900 thousand dollars to go to Europe, and I got one for Amsterdam for 483 round trips. So amazing.

Scott (02:43):
Wow. Yeah, congratulations on that.

Drew (02:47):
And I just got one with my sister where we're flying out of Charlotte, which is about an hour drive from here, and we're going to Barcelona for two 70 round trips and I still can't believe that.

Scott (02:58):
Unbelievable that Matt. Well, good on you for striking while the iron's hot, taking advantage when those great deals pop up.

Drew (03:05):
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. You kind of started this out as a hobby, so I understand kind of hunting down fairs yourself. What was the reasoning behind you hunting down the fairs? Were you just an avid traveler or were you doing it for work? What was that all about?

Scott (03:23):
It was the only way that I could travel. Like I did not, I'd just gotten out of college. I was working as a journalist at the time, and if you know much about journalism, most folks don't go into it for the money. They're great reasons to be journalists. I love the work, the utmost respect, but it's not the most lucrative career path, especially for folks who are just entering the field out of college. And so at the same time, look, I was young, I wanted to travel obviously and still do, and so I figured if I have very little money but I still want to travel, how can I go about this? Is there anything that I can do? And so starting to figure out those tips and tricks of how to pay as little as possible for airfare and make travel more accessible financially was a real goal of mine. So I spent years kind of immersing myself in this practicing and testing and retesting different sorts of methods, watching fairs, and then it all sort of culminated to a point in 2013 when I got still to this day, the best deal that I've ever gotten in my life, which was nonstop from New York City to Milan for 130 bucks round Tripp. Wow. I could not believe it. What? My palms were sweaty. My heart was racing a little shaky. Don't

Drew (04:48):
Let it go away, right?

Scott (04:50):
Yeah, exactly. So I booked this fair and then I was on edge for the next kind of week or so to see if the airline would cancel it. And they honored the fair. It wasn't some Podunk airline, we had to worry about the flight falling out of the sky. It was United Airlines. It was a perfectly a fine flight. There wasn't a ton of stops or anything. It was a non-stop flight. And so I got this incredible $130 flight to a roundtrip flight to Milan. And when I got back from that, I guess word had spread to different coworkers and friends and whatnot. And so person after person kept coming up to me and saying, Hey Scott, I heard about that amazing deal you got. Can you let me know next time you find a deal like that so I can get in on it?

And by the time the sixth or seventh person had told me this, I realized, wow, I'm not going to be able to remember everybody I'm supposed to let know next time there's a deal like this. And B, there's sure is a lot of interest in cheap flights. It feels so obvious when you say it out loud like that, but at the same time, it is something that people really kind of value. So what I did was I started just a simple little email list. And this wasn't something with Grand Ambition or anything like that. It was just the simplest way so that I could whoever wanted to know at all. At the same time, in that moment, I started Scotty Flights. It was just a hobby for friends. It was completely free, just something I'd do for the love of the game. And then over the next 18 months or so, just friends would tell friends and the list ended up growing from just a couple dozen people I knew to about 5,000 people. And by that point it started to realize, wow, there's a huge demand for this type of thing. I wonder if there's a business opportunity here. And so that's how it actually ended up launching into an actual business.

Drew (06:51):
When did you get to the point where you said, okay, I need some help. I can't do this all by myself?

Scott (06:55):
Oh man. About three or four months later, I was just drowning and working. This was my side hustle at best. At that time I was still working in journalism as a freelancer, so kind of a lance journalist by day, a cheap flight hunter by night. But it was growing large enough that between the time spent doing those things and between the time spent trying to actually find these flights, then trying to do things, sniffing up a website, building out the internal business tools, trying to deal with individual people's accounts, trying to handle customer service, all these things that once you start to have a significant customer base start to become really time intensive, hey, it was only three or four months later that I realized, gosh, I can't do this on my own. I need to bring some people on. And so it was funny as a very serendipitous thing, someone in my shoes who instead of studying politics in school and going into journalism, someone who had maybe studied business and maybe got an MBA or something would had a better sense of how to go about finding a co-founder or how to go about searching for someone to partner up with.

But I didn't have that background. I didn't know any of these things. So the process of finding a partner to work on this was much more serendipitous. It actually involved right around the time I realized he needed help. I got invited to have an interview with this guy who was just starting this travel blog. And so we chatted for an hour or so, ended up really kind of hitting it off. I just got a good vibe from him and had a sense that he had a really strong skillset that would compliment mine. And so after we got off that call, I ended up, it sounds so crazy in retrospect, but I ended up just shooting him an email and being like, Hey, this is going to sound weird, but do you have any interest in working together? And this guy I'd never met, well, aside from just meeting and talking for an hour on the internet and all making him an offer to be my co-founder, but at the same time SKYY flights was so small back then, it was a very niche thing that it didn't feel risky in the way that it would today by taking a more established company and just offering somebody a founder job on a whim.

But at the time, I just knew that I really needed help and I could spend six months trying to find some sort of co-founder who would maybe be a risk, maybe not who's to say or Look, I just found this guy. I got a good vibe. Why not give it a try? I'm not going to deny that wasn't a little bit fool hardy, but lucky for me and lucky for Smashy flights, it worked out and the rest is history as they say.

Drew (09:54):
I was going to say that sixth cents can work out for you sometimes. And I guess being that early in the process, had you already tried to monetize it at that point or were you reaching out for somebody who could help you do that?

Scott (10:06):
Yeah, so in August, 2015 was when first started monetizing it. So before that, for 18 months before that, it was just a hobby that I was doing for friends gr. And then over that time it grew to 5,000 people. I weighed a couple different models in my head. One would be just a commission model where anytime somebody booked a flight that we sent out, we would get a cut of that shied away from that. Cause I really didn't like the incentive structure there because I figured, look, people are looking to us for guidance about what are good flights and what are bad flights. And if we profit regardless of people putting a good flight or a bad flight, then there's always going to be a sort of incentive to be sending out as many deals as possible and sending out ones that are not necessarily great, but ones that are just mediocre because, so it strikes me that it erodes a bit of trust when there is a commission or a kickback involved. So decided against that model, thought about just the pure advertising supported model, but it was so small back then that the amount of revenue that could have been generated from ad revenue was pennies at most

Drew (11:28):
8 cents a month. Yay.

Scott (11:30):
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So this didn't strike me as terribly worth pursuing at that size. So I experimented with a ephrem model similar to something like Spotify where you have both, I had the 5,000 folks who were up to that point had been free members and I wanted to, what, is there a certain number of them who would be willing to pay in order to get additional perks much in the way that folks can sign up for Spotify for free, but a certain percentage of them pay for premium, including myself because of those perks. And I initially coming from the journalism world where experiencing the difficulty that so many outlets have had in trying to monetize and trying to take a product that folks had been used to getting for free, but now we're being asked to pay for it and really human, that human psychology really rebels against that notion.

I was very cognizant of that. And so I wanted to set such a low price point right out the gate that it was less a question for folks of can I afford this? And more a question of are people willing to make that categorical shift from taking something that's for free and starting to pay for it with additional perks like an improved product, but would they be willing to vote with their wallets? And so I said it initially at two bucks a month, that's all it cost figure look, that's less than smallest cup of coffee you can get at Starbucks. Are people willing to just pay that much and just almost run a little kind of product market fit test? Are the willing people willing to act pay any amount of money for this? And then I can figure out the optimal kind of pricing later on.

And so I figured, look, if I can get at least 25 of these people to pay two bucks a month, then I've at least covered my cost. That's what I figured. That's sort of where I set the line in my head as telling me if it's been successful or not. Lucky for me, it ended up blowing through those 25 members I think in the first, second day and by the end of the month there was probably a hundred. And so I was like, wow. And not only are a hundred people willing to pay for this, but I just made $150 this month doing something that can't amazing. I get to search for two flights and make $150 doing it and then be because another a hundred people signed up the next month in addition to the a hundred who signed up the first month. So you can see how it ends ended up kind of snowballing a bit and that's sort of how Scott Two Flight got started and how it initially went from a product that was purely free to then offering a premium product as well that had a user fee attached to it.

Drew (14:32):
Have you ever gotten to a point, because I started out on the free version, I really get that business model, but have you ever been tempted to say, okay, we're just going to make this a complete pay for model or

Scott (14:42):
Not really? There are a couple things that make me worried about that. I mean, I reticent to kick people off if they are wanting to try something out. I come, I don't like the idea of paying for something that I haven't tried and that hasn't right, proven to me that it really has value. And so I figure look, when somebody signs up, it would be kind of weird if they were just like, hadn't heard of Scotty Flights one minute and then are willing to pay for it. But I think for most people, the way that they thing about these things these days is they want to be able to try it out. They want to be able to see what it's like and see for themselves if it's worth it. And so rather than having to kick a ton of people off and say either Pay Us or G T F O, I'd rather be able to use it as an incentive structure and use it as an internal challenge for us where it's like we have all these people who have demonstrated an interest in Scott Sue flights and it's just incumbent upon us to demonstrate enough value in the premium product and show them that this is something that is really can provide additional value to them no matter what their vacation styles, no matter how often they travel, that they can get significant additional value.

And it's just the challenge then is ours to try to make sure that that is communicated enough to hopefully incentivize them to upgrade. Now do I think we are going to convince every single person on the free list to upgrade? No, I'm realistic. I think it's a lot lower of a barrier to jump when you've tested out a product and then being say, okay, do I want more of this and better of this and stuff, especially something like Scotty Flights, that's a bit, the entire model is new. It hadn't really existed before us. And so a lot of folks almost thinking of something like Uber or Lyft before it existed trying to ask or Airbnb trying to ask somebody to pay for when they haven't even fully comprehended that this new model exists for doing something. I think there's benefit to giving people a bit of time to familiarize themselves and then see if they want to upgrade.

Drew (17:15):
And for me of $49 a year membership, I mean that was a no brainer when you consider I just got a $270 round Tripp ticket that normally would've cost me about 800 bucks.

Scott (17:26):
The average savings that we've calculated for people who have booked a deal we've sent out is $550. And so if you book a flight just one time, a flight that we send out in it was just one time in the next 10 years, the membership will have paid for, it's more than paid for itself. And if you're someone like you who's gotten multiple flights, man, yeah, basically paid for itself for fingers crossed hopefully at least the rest of your life. So it's the way we try to frame it for folks as the value proposition.

Drew (18:01):
So I noticed that you mostly do your deals outside the country. Is there a reason behind why you kind of shy away from domestic flights and what's the philosophy behind that?

Scott (18:13):
Yeah, so we focused mostly international. We do do some domestic, but it tends to be those far flung places. So places like Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Yos, Virgin Islands, Guam place like that and not so much the lower 48. And the reason why we get asked this a lot like, hey, you know what about domestic flights? It's just that they're not nearly as expensive to begin with. So the average savings that on the ticket we send out, to give you a sense of the types of deals that we like to find and send out to our members is $550 on a round trip flight. Now the average domestic flight, unless you're talking about something from Miami to Alaska, the average domestic flight's much closer to maybe $300 or 250. And so unless the airline is giving you a free seat and a check for $300, you can't save $550 on an average domestic flight.

So as a result we figure, look, it's not that I wouldn't prefer to pay less for a domestic flight than pay more, but when there's a domestic flight that normally costs $250 and it drops to let's say 225, yeah, I'd rather save that 10% than not save that 10%. But I'm not rushing home and getting sweaty palms and heart racing the way I am with that Milan deal that saved 700 something dollars. And so when you have an international flight who's whose normal price is typically closer to a thousand dollars or more, then you have a lot more room for prices to fall and be able to get a really good deal when they pop up. So that's why we tend to focus much more on international flights because there's a lot more potential savings and because the flight price is the biggest sort of hurdle for a lot of people that's preventing them from taking that trip. Airfare has not stopped that many people who are otherwise inclined to travel from say New York to Chicago. It's not that the price doesn't fluctuate, but it's just the window that it fluctuates among is just not that high. Whereas for a flight from New York to Istanbul, that can range anywhere from $300 to like $1,500. And so if you get it at the $300 Inn, you're much more likely to be able to take that trip than if you only fairs at $1,500.

Drew (20:49):
I take it you're watching your newsletter coming into your desk as well, probably kind of gaming this yourself, seeing what your crew is bringing into you.

Scott (20:59):

Drew (21:00):
How do you do your list of places to visit? Do you have a bucket list and you have dollars by them and you say, when it hits this dollar amount I'm grabbing it?

Scott (21:10):
That's a good question and it varies a little bit depending on the trip. Here's what I mean by that. The most recent trip I took was to visit family in Eastern Europe and that was just a trip we knew we had to take. My wife and I just had a newborn daughter and wanted to take her to meet her great-grandmother. Like yeah, we could kind of fudge the dates a little bit. It did. It didn't really matter specifically what week we went, but we knew where we had to go so we didn't have full flexibility in the same sense as when there is a mistake fair that pops up or something just amazing. A lot of times that'll just be, yes, I'm going to take that. So to give you an example of that type of trip, speaking of booking, booking trips while you're already on vacation, my wife and I were down in Porto Valarta having a good old time and the end up finding a mistake fair.

I was goofing off on the computer searching for flights, found a mistake fair from the US to Japan for $169 round trip. Whoa, amazing. And so we ended up booking this trip. We didn't have plans to go. It wasn't in anything that we had sort of been keen on per se, but when $169 flights to Japan pop up or when that $130 flight to Milan pops up, that's just too good to say no. So in general the best strategy for booking cheap flights is to give yourself as much flexibility as possible and to be jumping on it when there are the really good deals rather than setting your heart on one specific destination or a worse yet a specific destination over a specific week or two. But everybody's needs are different. If you've attending your best friend's wedding down in The Bahamas on July 10th, there's not a whole lot of wiggle room that you have there in terms of finding your flights. Whereas if you're just like, I need a vacation, where should I go? That's a perfect opportunity to let kind of cheap flights and let the price and let a deal guide where you're going rather than trying to say, I'm going to go to Paris in September the first week of September, and I'm just hoping and praying that fairs are good because if you narrow your band like that and you don't have as much flexibility, you don't give yourself as much flexibility, you're much less likely to end up finding a cheap flight.

Drew (23:46):
So how do you handle the, because we'll see a great price come up and then you also have to keep in mind that the airlines like to tack on fees for this and fees for that. I mean, when you're planning out you're tripping, you're seeing a really great fare, what's the next step? Should you be checking baggage fees or scaling down your baggage? What kind of strategies do you

Scott (24:08):
Use? All of the above.

Drew (24:11):

Scott (24:11):
It can be difficult to give super blanket advice because everybody's situation tends to be a bit different. What I mean by that is some people, at least before I had a kid are myself who never check a bag. I'll go to the ends of the earth to not check a bag for, I'm always worried about it getting lost. I'd just rather not even pack the be traveling with that much stuff. So I have a backpack, it's not a big backpackers backpack, but it's good size, but it fits in carry on just fine and holds a week's worth of clothes, which if I'm bringing any more than that, that's already telling me like you're pack. And so I'll basically never check a bag, so it doesn't really matter to me whether or not a fair includes check bags or not. That said, my co-founder Brian, he always checks a bag.

He, no matter where he'll come up to visit me in Portland for two days, he'll check a bag. That's just how he travels. And so for him, obviously the price, whether or not the fair includes a check bag is very important. Some people have elite status, which includes a check bag or some people have a airline branded credit card which includes a check bag. And so it doesn't matter to them whether the fair does or not because it includes that. The best advice that I can give in generals a absolutely to always be cognizant of what the fees are because if you're not aware of them, then it's a lot easier to get hit by them. You see this, especially in Europe, so on some of the budget airlines there, it's free to when you book your flight, you print out your ticket at home and that's obviously free to do, but if you show up at the airport and you haven't printed your ticket, a, most of 'em do not have mobile pass like a ticket you can have on your phone. But B, they actually charge you as much as 20 bucks just to print out your ticket at the airport madness like crazy that

Drew (26:11):

Scott (26:12):
Do that, but they know what they're doing. There are some number of people who are not going to remember to do that, and you have to have your ticket if you want to get on this flight. So they're that we're going to make some amount of money by those folks just showing up and eating the $28 cost. And if those folks had found, if those folks had paid attention and looked at the affairs or looked at the fees and been cognizant of what they might be facing, then they would know how to avoid them. So ignorance is not going to be your friend when it comes to fees because they're going to come at you one time or another. So in that sense, I definitely recommend being very familiar with it. And then it just comes down to personal preference. How much do you value checking a bag? How much do you value being able to have early seat selection versus choosing it on the day of the flight?

Drew (27:12):
Right. So let's talk a little bit about the kinds of fair that we're going to see come through on a newsletter. Are these normally going to be a certain amount of connections or nonstop? Do you have a limit that you tell your guys, no, don't put any faires up there that are two stops or more, or how do you do that?

Scott (27:36):
Yeah, though, let me sum it up for you. We use something called the grandma principle. We are only sending out deals that we would be comfortable with our grandparents taking.

Drew (27:48):

Scott (27:48):
And so that means if it's some people hear Scott's cheap flights and think, oh, you know, can find a super cheap flight that involves five stops on the route to Europe or a 60 hour flight or something. And so we're not interested in those because it doesn't press yes, that they're cheap, but they don't pass the grandma principle. And so instead we are looking at ones that have nonstop is ideal or at least some decent connections. If there is a longer connection, a flight that has a 10 hour stop in a city is much different when it is noon to 10:00 PM versus one that's midnight to 10:00 AM because if it's noon to 10:00 PM great, you can get out of the airport, you can go visit sort of the stopover city on route, get a nice meal explorer a little bit, and then go on to your final destination.

You know, don't have to. But there are a lot of people like myself who would be interested in that type of thing, like basically a free chance to explore another city versus if it's midnight to 10:00 AM then you either have to sleep on the floor at the airport or find shell out 150 bucks, however much for a hotel on round. So those are very different types of deals. So in general, we have a number of different quality thresholds that we're looking at with any possible deal in a price is obviously first and foremost, but there are a lot of other factors and everything from the quality of the airline, the routing, the timing, the time of year, how often does this deal come up? Is it a very popular time to visit that type of place?

How widespread is the availability during the time of year? Is it from airports that don't tend to get many deals like Greenville, Spartanburg? And so we're kind of taking a call all these different quality factors and then making a decision, is this one of the best deals of the day? We really strive hard to be very respectful of people's inboxes. And so that's making sure that if we started sending 50 deals a day to people's inboxes, to our members' inboxes pretty quickly we would have no members because that who wants to sift through 50 deals a day at the same time. If we sent one a year, obviously that wouldn't be just the best deal of the year. Everybody has different sorts of preferences about where they would go, when they would want to go, when they're available. And so we try to send a manageable amount that feels like these are only the ones that are super good that the best deals of the day. Some days that might only be a couple deals that end up going out. Some days it might be eight, 10 deals, a different cities are receiving different amounts based on availability. But yeah, we're definitely using a number of different quality factors to sift through and make sure before we send it out to members.

Drew (31:03):
Well, I'm definitely going to pat you on the back here because you are the only newsletter that I get that does not get filtered into a folder in my Gmail.

Scott (31:13):
That is one of the best compliments I've received. Thank you.

Drew (31:17):
The best endorsement I can think of.

Scott (31:20):
Yeah, no kidding. I love

Drew (31:21):
That. Yeah. So one of the things that I like when you first sign up for your membership is that you get to choose your airports. What was the idea behind that and what strategy should people use in choosing their airports?

Scott (31:37):
Yeah, so one of the things that we really kind of value and really strive for at S e F at Scotty Flights is personalization. The best deal can pop up that let's say this New York to Milan for 130 bucks. That is an incredible deal if you're in New York or even if you're somewhere nearby. I didn't live in New York at the time I lived in DC and being able to not only see what are the great deals departing out of tc, but also what are the great deals departing out of Philadelphia and New York and Richmond and other places nearby. And then I can make that decision for myself. Is it worth it for me to go to this further a flung airport compared to the price? And so for me it was like I could pay $800 to fly from DC to Milan, or I could pay $130 fly from New York to Milan plus $20 to take the bus up to New York and hang out with some friends for a day or two, see some friends I hadn't seen for a while and then fly off to Italy.

So each person's kind of preferences are going to be a little bit different, but allowing people to get alerts for deals that are not only out of their own home airport, but also ones that they can say however many different ones nearby. Now take, say you're somebody who is lives in New York, but your parents maybe live in Columbus, so maybe you are interested in keeping an eye on deals out of Columbus as well because maybe they've been pining for a vacation and you'd be able to keep an eye on and let them know at the same time it works the other way where if it's $130 flight from New York to Milan, but you live in Los Angeles, that's not doing that much for you. Yeah, I guess it's nice to know maybe you have some friends in New York, but once you take into the cost of flying from LA to New York and then on to Milan, it's probably going to be about as expensive if not more than just a norm, like the types of deals you can get from LA to Milan on its own.

And so that sort of personalization of being able to only be alerted to the ones that you're relevant to not only is I think something I think most people are really interested in, but also goes back to that point I made about trying to respect people's inboxes. We send out 8, 10, 12 deals most days, but most members are not receiving eight or 10, 12 deals. It depends on whichever city that they are signed up for. So some members are getting three deals a day or four deals a day, some are getting two, some maybe only one. It totally depends on their specific cities and where they're signed up to get alerts for. But one of the things that we really recommend, especially for folks who live, we search 150 airports for cheap flights departing the us and if you live in a place, let's take Greenville, Spartanburg, there aren't that many as you're well aware, there's there, there're definitely a good amount of cheap international flights out of there, not direct, obviously there're still going to connect but not as many as nearby airports.

So Charlotte is always going to have more cheap international flights than Greenville, Spartanburg, Atlanta is always going to have more. And so by what we recommend for folks who live in Greenville, who live in let's say Florence or Columbia or wherever, ones that are kind of middle to smaller market airports, tell 'em it can be actually really useful for you to sign up for a nearby hub airport nearby large airport because they tend to get more deals and sometimes better deals. And so you can then decide for yourself, is it worth the drive over to Charlotte to get that $270 flight to Barcelona? And each person's kind of preferences are going to be a little bit different, but it's nice to know that this is possible and then you can kind of decide for yourself if it's worth the drive or if you'd rather hold out for something better that's going to actually depart out of Greenville.

Drew (35:48):
Right. So you talked about mistake fairs, and I don't know that I've seen too many labeled as mistake faires, but do the airlines have to honor those or is there a possibility you might miss out on that deal? You may get a letter or an email that says, sorry, your flight is not accepted.

Scott (36:09):
Good question. So the mistake fairs, you're right there, the holy grail of cheap flights, that $130 flight round trip flight to Milan that I got was that the airline did not mean to sell it at that price. They probably meant to sell it for $1,300 and forgot a zero at the end. And for the couple hours that it was available myself and what I can only imagine hundreds if not thousands of other people were able to find it and book it and as a result we got a flight that was 90% lower than it typically is, but they don't by their nature because it's a mistake fair, they don't tend to pop up very often. And so booking them as kind of quickly as possible, booking 'em as early as possible is really kind of the best practice for a mistake fair because they, they're liable to disappear quickly.

So when you book a mistake fair, the question is, is the airline going to honor this? It used to be the case that the Department of Transportation essentially required the airlines to honor mistake fairs that rule changed in 2015 and they no longer are required to honor them. But the interesting thing is that most of the time for most airlines honor most mistake fairs, and it's something like I would guess about 85% give or take, and it's kind of an interesting question, why is that when they sell a flight for, let's take a mistake fair from last year, one of the best deals we found in 2018 was a business class flight from California over to Southeast Asia to places like Bangkok, Bali, Vietnam that normally sells for $5,000. We found it on sale for like $600 and by the time they fixed this a few hours later, we probably alone got hundreds if not thousands of emails from our members who had booked this barrier, including at least 10 or 12 different teammates of mine here, Scotti flights.

And so there was obviously a lot of interest or is Hong Kong Airlines the one who sold this mistake fair? Are they going to honor it? Are they going to let people do it? And the reason why it ultimately did honor it is the reason why I think most airlines honor it, honor mistake fairs when they happen. And that's because they are making a calculated business decision that if they were to go out and cancel thousands of people's tickets, the uproar, oh yeah, that would result online would be cost them tons of money, just a certain money in brand value, diminishment in headaches, trying to rebook people, all this. And so on the flip side, if they honor these mistake fairs, like yes, they're going to take a financial hit in the sense of they're not getting as much money for these tickets as they anticipated doing it, but man, what an amazing moment for the brand to be.

And this is what Hong Kong Airlines did. They posted all across social media, oops, we made this mistake, we're honoring it. How awesome that thousands of people are going to get to try out our business class for a fraction of the price. And then having these thousands of different travelers posting about Hong Kong Airlines and how excited they are posting photos from the planes and everything like that in 2019, the amount of brand equity from being able to break through that on social media and getting that sort of attention is like that is a significantly valuable thing. And so I think a lot of airlines sort of make that determination, make that calculation when they're choosing whether or not to honor mistake fairs. And that's the reason why most of them do. Not exactly analogous, but if you want to see an example of an airline who made a pretty big mistake and had their reputation just hugely diminished for months, if not up to this day, look at United Airlines dragging that passenger out of the plane, the value of the airline went down a huge amount in their market cap as a result be just because of this one incident.

And so can see how airlines would be very cognizant of trying not to piss off their own potential customers and piss off the traveling public, but trying to do right by them. And so that's why most of my stake fairs end up getting honored.

Drew (41:03):
I think it's interesting in these days of social media, because it was actually Southwest Airlines that I used to use as a model for how they would jump in on a Twitter conversation when somebody was talking about, well, I had trouble getting my baby stroller on the plane, and then suddenly an agent is popping in on social media and saying, Hey, here's some information we can help you out. It's like these companies have to make instant decisions as to what they're going to do in these. And to hear that Hong Kong Airlines did that, I mean, and then turned it into a win. That's amazing when a company can do that.

Scott (41:42):
That's right, exactly right.

Drew (41:44):
So tell me about the name Scott's Cheap Flights, because I'm guessing that at some point somebody said, are you going to change the name or will it always be Scott's Cheap Flights?

Scott (42:01):
It's very on the nose, isn't it? You kind of understand what it is from the title I, I'd like to say that it was some well thought out planned with market testing and really kind of grandiose plan in reality. It just felt like the most accurate description of what I was sending my friends four years ago, just actually, no, gosh, five or six years ago now at this point. When I first started out and it was just a hobby called, Hey, yeah, what do you sign up for? It's chief flights. I think it might have been called Scott's Chief Flights List initially. And it's a funny thing by the time you even get to that point of starting to question, should this be the name, you've already built up enough brand equity and enough search engine equity and everything in your name that there would actually be a significant cost to changing the name.

And so it's never even really been a consideration to change it. I like that people, even as the company has grown and even as our membership has grown, and it's not just me now on the team, there's about 40 of us on the Scott Street Flights team. I love that it's still by virtue of the name gives that connection and that personalization and G that really I abuse itself in a lot of what we do that we're not just some algorithmic machine running in the background that doesn't take into account all these kind of human considerations about the quality of flights and it's just looking for the absolute cheapest. But hey, if you have to connect in Antarctica, no big deal like that or that we're like, look, when people email in, we tend to most brands, you're expect a response in 48 hours and you're happy if you get a response in 24 hours. And we get back to people within four to five hours typically and sometimes within four to five minutes. And so that sort of personalization, that one-on-one connection is really something that we strive for rather than just being kind of corporate stiffs. And so I'd like to think that the Scotty Plates name plays a part in that, but I'd be lying if I said it was a well concocted plan from the jump. It was just sort of felt like the most accurate description and it's just kind of stuck.

Drew (44:32):
I just find it funny because I'm kind of in the opposite situation. I just changed my avatar on my Facebook page to the Travel Fuels Life logo and replaced my face and there's this feeling now, gosh, this feels so impersonal. People are talking to a logo now, they're not talking to me anymore. How does that change people's impression? Then I think you're hitting the nail on the head with keeping that human feel to it.

Scott (45:00):
It can really be a trade off one way, one way or another. I think there are probably some segment of people who come to Scott Chief Flights having never heard of it and feels like, can I even trust this company that's just one guy and he claims to have found some cheap flights. It seems so unofficial and so amateur. And that's about as far from the truth as can be. But I can understand how somebody might get that impre, it might be inclined to take away that impression just based on the name. So we do our best to try to make sure that conclusion is not drawn by folks, but it's a never present challenge that we face.

Drew (45:43):
So where does Scott to fly to? What's your favorite destination?

Scott (45:48):
So I've got about two, I will premise it with saying it is, it's essentially choosing between your children trying to come up with just one favorite place. So if you'll indulge me, I'll at least pick two Japan and Mexico or my two kind of favorite places that I keep finding myself traveling back to, keep wanting to visit, explore new parts of for similar for some similar reasons that in that I'm both just have out of this world good food, incredibly delicious. And even though you wouldn't necessarily think of Japan as cheap, there's a lot of inexpensive food that you can get there much in the same way as New York where it kind of runs the gamut where there's tons of really kind of fine dining and tons of really affordable but super delicious eating as well. And the same, the absolute same is true in Mexico.

Both countries have just incredible natural beauty, incredible just range to the country themselves, just really warm and inviting people. But then Japan is obviously very far away. It's a whole big kind of endeavor to get to Mexico. Gosh, you can get to so quickly and so easily and just be in something that is completely unlike most parts of the US and I love being able to hop on a plane and even in the same part of the day, find myself in a whole different culture and being able to explore that way. So Japan and Mexico, those are the two that I always find myself coming back to.

Drew (47:33):
Well, Tokyo is next on my list of places that I want to go to, and I'll probably end up using some credit card miles to get me there, but I was reading that they now have a van service where you can rent a van and you won't need a hotel. You can just park your van down by the river. Yeah, so there's, because almost

Scott (47:57):
Like a camper van or how does it work?

Drew (48:00):
Yeah, so it's just a van that has a big open space in the middle of it, and you can lay your blanket down in there and they'll give you places that you can park around the country and so you can just Wow. Reduce your hotel costs that way too.

Scott (48:16):
Oh yeah. Well, and there's the country most well known for those pod hotels where you just show up and essentially have a bed in a sleeping pod. I've never done it myself, but I've always been kind of curious. And I guess that shift has probably passed now that I've got a young one. But I know a number of folks who had good things to say, at least for having done the experience.

Drew (48:43):
Well, Scott, I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule this week and sharing that knowledge that you've got and helping us get a foothold into what Scott's Cheap Flights really is. Give the folks some different ways that we can interact with your service.

Scott (48:58):
Yeah, absolutely. So mean first and foremost, absolutely. If you're somebody who's interested in cheap flights, if you know somebody who's interested in cheap flights, we would be honored to send you at all the best faires that we can find. Just go to scott's cheap flights.com. No apostrophes, no dashes or anything. You can sign up there and give it a try for folks who are really looking, especially to constantly be talking cheap flights to goof off at work, wondering about where's the best place to eat in Barcelona or the best place to stay in Tokyo. We have a Facebook travel community that with over 90,000 members all day every day people are talking and giving one another recommendations. It's frankly gotten so good, and especially with the search function on the side, that whenever I'm taking a trip somewhere, I'm always searching in the travel community to see what people have talked about recommended before, and using those recommendations to find some really good restaurants or really good kind of hidden gems in some of these cities. So that's the other place that I'll definitely recommend folks in addition to whatever your social media outlet is of choice.

Drew (50:09):
Nice. Well, I'm glad I found that too. I actually just found that the other day, and it feels great to be out there with other people giving real world feedback and being able to talk about your trip and that sort of stuff. So I think it's a fantastic resource. So thanks for putting that out.

Scott (50:27):
Pleasure. Thank you for being a part of it.

Drew (50:29):
Well, thank you for being a part of the show this week, and I hope everybody heads out to Scotts cheap flights.com signs up for the newsletter and I'll be sure to post all the links to all of your resources out on our social media@travelfuelslife.com, including that Facebook group. So Scott, I really appreciate you sharing your journey with us this week.

Scott (50:50):
Thank you for having me, drew. This was really great. I appreciate it.

Drew (50:53):
Well, I hope you got some great information today to help supercharge your travels and head out to the show notes page of Travel fuels life.com/podcasts. Look for episode number 29 and you can get the links to Scott's Travel Community. You can find out where you can sign up for this fantastic newsletter. And all of Scott's social media channels are out there as well. Get out there, grab a great deal and go on twitter.com/travel fuels life and let me know if you get a fantastic deal somewhere along the line, I would love to hear about it. Now, do you like whiskey history and travel? If so, then you're going to want to check out the new webpage that we're putting together, whiskey-lore.com, that's whiskey lore.com. That's where I will post all of my distillery tours that I'm doing, and we'll also have a newsletter out there where you'll be able to sign up and get alerted as to when the new Whiskey Lore podcast is going to be happening. A little bit different from the way we do this show that is going to be more of a storytelling podcast about the history of whiskey. So it's going to be a very interesting show and I would love to have you on board. So make sure that you stay tuned for more information on that. Something new and exciting coming from Travel Fuel's Life. And until next time, have a great week. Safe travels and thanks for listening to Travel Fuel's Life.

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