Do you have the freedom to select your own travel suppliers on business trips – and are you flexible when it comes to your airline and hotel arrangements? Would like like an Amazon or Best Buy gift card with your next travel booking? If so, you’re the target for a new travel booking and rewards company.
It’s called Upside , and it was put together by a small group of former Priceline executives, including Priceline founder Jay Walker. It is planning to launch a Beta version sometime in September. Walker told TravelSkills: “Most business travelers have a valuable, hidden asset that’s worth a small fortune on every trip they take. The asset? Flexibility. Specifically, small amounts of flexibility on the flights and hotels that a business traveler is willing to use on any given trip.”
Here’s how it works: Instead of booking your usual first-choice airline, flight time and hotel, you let the Upside app or website put together an air-hotel package using suppliers that you have pre-approved. If the alternatives it shows are suitable to your schedule and if the discounts and gift cards offers are enticing enough, you’ll then pay a $35 fee to book the trip. (Upside says that users will typically see gift card amounts of $100 to $200, and savings of 5 to 15 percent in travel costs, and enough to make the $35 fee a wash.)
The electronic gift cards are good at major stores or online retailers (such as Best Buy or Amazon), and they will be delivered to your mobile phone shortly after you buy the trip arrangements. Upside says that those who take just five or six trips a year through Upside can rack up easily $1,000 in gift cards – or more, if they travel internationally in business class.
Users will be able to book their arrangements through the Upside app or its website; round-the-clock phone support is also available. There’s no requirement to buy the package Upside suggests, and once you do, it can be cancelled or changed quickly if circumstances warrant. Also, Upside says that users will still earn airline frequent flyer points or miles for the flights it selects (but not hotel program points).
Travelers simply specify the time windows for their flights, and pre-approve the airlines and hotel companies they prefer. “Upside supports all of the leading brands,” the company said. Then Upside’s “Flexibility Engine” software builds the package.
So how will Upside make money? “We buy travel from suppliers at very advantageous rates– rates so low that we can pass along a substantial discount, take our cut and provide gift cards to travelers,” said a company spokesperson. In addition, Upside makes money on the $35 fee it charges per booking.
Would you pay a $35 fee for a chance to earn potentially hundreds in gift cards and score travel discounts not found elsewhere?
That’s the question Upside is waiting for you to answer.
Earn $150: Upside has partnered TravelSkills to help it find business travelers who want to sign up early and are willing to test pre-release versions of the service. All you have to do is supply your email address, phone and answer a few general questions about your travel habits. Upside guarantees that these VIPs will will get $150 minimum in free gift cards for every package they purchase this year. Want to give it a try? Then request a VIP invitation via our referral link by July 30.
NOTE: Be sure to click here to see all recent TravelSkills posts about: How to get the BEST summer fare deals | One airline fee fading fast | Trip Report: Aer Lingus Economy Class | 5 top jobs for frequent travelers | First class phase out coming soon