I don't know what you were doing in college, but I certainly wasn't building a robot lawyer that saved people over $9 million in parking tickets before graduation.
Well, my buddy Gilbert at God Save The Points told me that's exactly what Joshua Browder did with DoNotPay and flights are next.
You have my attention.
DoNotPay is taking on the travel world to get travelers refunds after they have booked flights and hotel stays. What makes this even crazier is that they don't even charge you for the service.
They haven't monetized yet but plan to do so in the future. How they will do so remains to be seen. As an entrepreneur-in-residence at Greylock Partners and using IBM's Watson technology, you know Browder and DoNotPay are the real deal.
If you want to see how amazing this service could be, just wait until you get to the part about rebooking flights on Southwest Airlines.
What Does DoNotPay Do?
While they can track hotel prices with five chains including Best Western, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental (IHG) and Marriott, flights are definitely the main focus. With their robot lawyer on the case, DoNotPay will pull the flight confirmations from your email and track pricing fluctuations every 5 seconds until departure. Talk about thorough!
How Does DoNotPay Do It?
DoNotPay's "robot lawyer will scan the exact terms of your ticket to find a clause that allows you to be rebooked at a cheaper price." In the U.S., we have 24 hours to cancel tickets without being charged a fee, but how often do you go back and check the flight prices? I'm guessing somewhere close to never. Well, now you can let DoNotPay do it for you.
They'll also track flight time changes, weather issues, cancelations, and refundable tickets, of course. My favorite part is that they'll track whether airlines are price gouging—aggressive! I don't know about you, but I'm happy to have someone scanning my ticket conditions for a loophole if it can save some money on cash tickets. I'm guessing IBM's Watson has something to do with this awesomeness.
Once they find that you deserve a refund, they will immediately notify you and hold your ticket to ensure the airline first gives you your refund back to your credit card. One thing to keep in mind is that the service only works with domestic and international flights departing from the U.S. as it looks for reasons (or loopholes) based on U.S. regulations.
How Do I Sign Up?
If you're ready to have a robot fight for lower airfare for you, here's how you can sign up.
Step 1: Google Account For Login
Sign in with your Google account that you use to book flights so DoNotPay's robot lawyer can scan your email for flight confirmations. I understand that this might be a sticking point for some as you have to give DoNotPay access to your inbox—we'll talk more about this later.
Step 2: Contact Number
Once you have provided your Google account, you will be asked for the phone number that will be used for rebooking purposes.
Step 3: Birthday
Next, you'll be asked to enter your birthday so that the robot lawyer can communicate with airlines on your behalf if you decided to rebook. They say they'll send a birthday gift... I'll make a note on my calendar.
Step 4: Credit Card Info
The final step to setting up your account with DoNotPay is to provide the credit card that you would like to be used for refunds and rebookings. They will only process refunds and rebookings upon your approval.
Additionally, DoNotPay does not store or have access to your credit card information. They use the payment processor Stripe for all things related to your credit card.
What I Love - Rebooking Southwest Flights Made Easy
I think this has loads of potential. Having a free service that will track flight (and hotel) prices and help you get refunds or rebook sounds great to me. I'm happy to save money without lifting a finger.
Think about how easy this can make rebooking flights on Southwest Airlines? Rather than having to check regularly to see if the price drops and you can rebook—since Southwest lets you do that. You can just get an alert from DoNotPay and rebook. If the price drops again, guess what? DoNotPay will help you rebook again!
Hopefully, this will help people move away from the idea that there is a magic day of the week or time of day to book cheap cash flights—that truly is the myth that just won't die—and just let DoNotPay give them a little comfort.
Manual Entry Of Flight Confirmations Would Be Great
As they continue to develop the service, I hope they will address concerns with requiring access to email for flight confirmations. While some will be comfortable providing access, I imagine plenty won't be and it would be shame for folks to miss out on the opportunity to save some money. I think an option to manually enter the info would be a brilliant move.
If email access is a concern, you could forward all of your flight bookings to a dedicated email address. That would provide DoNotPay with access to nothing but flight and hotel confirmations.
What About Elite Status And Credit Card Rewards?
The only other sticking points I can see for some is that DoNotPay functions as an OTA when rebooking and your payments are processed by Stripe for DoNotPay rather than the hotel or airline.
While this won't prevent you from earning redeemable miles plus status qualifying miles, segments and dollars on your flights, it will prevent you from having status recognized at hotels or earning stay credits and redeemable points. This might make you pause if club lounge access or room upgrades are important to you.
As an example, even without status, you can access the club lounge at Sheraton properties if you book with Starwood directly and use your Starwood Preferred Guest Business Card from American Express. You won't have access if you rebook through DoNotPay.
If you had planned on earning 5X Membership Rewards points with The Platinum Card from American Express on flights booked directly with airlines, you'd have to be okay with sacrificing that. Additionally, if you want to earn 3X Ultimate Rewards points with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, rebooking through DoNotPay wouldn't get you the 3X points.
If you're comfortable providing access to your email account, this is a great way to make sure you pay as little as possible for your flights. If they add a manual entry method, I don't know what will stop them.
While I understand the hotel elite status concerns of some, I think this is going to be a great tool for the vast majority of travelers, especially for flights.
Be honest, if you're saving $100 on a flight, do you really care if you are earning bonus points on your credit card? I didn't think so.