About Scott Keyes, Founder & CEO
In 2013, Scott Keyes found the best flight deal he'd ever seen: $130 roundtrip from New York City to Milan. He wasn't planning on going to Milan, but simply couldn't pass up such a good deal.
When he returned home, his friends and colleagues started asking him to let them know the next time he found a great flight deal. The email list he built was the start of Scott's Cheap Flights.
Today, Scott's Cheap Flights serves over 1,600,000 members around the world and has a distributed team of over thirty travel aficionados.
Interview Feature by Rhonda McKnight for @ouchmagazineny
1. How did you know there was a need for help with cheap flights? What are some of the frustration you had with tickets and airlines in the past?
Buying flights is one of the most horrendous purchases we all regularly make. You never know what the price should be. It's constantly jumping around. Sometimes it makes little sense; how could it be cheaper to fly to Amsterdam than fly to Pensacola? This confusion and stress leads people to take fewer vacations and pay more for flights than they need to. Meanwhile, we're living in the Golden Age of Cheap Flights, when it's never been cheaper to fly internationally as it is today. Clearly there's a big disconnect between what's available and what people could easily find on their own, so Scott's Cheap Flights' goal is to constantly monitor and let people know when those really cheap flights do pop up so people can book them before they disappear.
2. What is your professional background?
I'm a journalist by trade who serendipitously meandered over to the travel world. I never had plans to found a startup, but when a personal email list I ran for friends began to rack up thousands of subscribers, I began to wonder if there was an opportunity to turn it into something more.
3. How many people work in your team?
There's over 40 people on the Scott's Cheap Flights team. Plus we're hiring!
4. Where is your company home based?
There's no headquarters for Scott's Cheap Flights; it's an all-remote company. Our team is spread out throughout the country and the world. Rather than only working with people who happen to live within 20 miles of me, I get to work with the best and most excited folks wherever they live. All they need is a laptop, an internet connection, and a love of travel.
5. How did you create the platform structure for "Scott’s Cheap Flights" concept?
It was a very serendipitous story actually. In 2013, I got the best deal of my life: nonstop from NYC to Milan for $130 roundtrip. Milan hadn’t even been on my radar as a place to visit, but for $130 roundtrip there’s nowhere in the world I wouldn’t go. And it turned out to be an amazing trip! Went skiing in the Alps, caught an AC Milan match, hiked Cinque Terre, hung out on Lake Como. It was divine. When I got back, word spread among friends and coworkers about the deal I got, and dozens of them began asking me to let them know next time I found a fare like that so they could get in on it, too. So rather than try to remember to tell George and Esther and Aviva when a great deal popped up, I decided to start a simple little email list instead so I could alert everyone at once. Scott’s Cheap Flights was born. For the first 18 months though it was just a little fun hobby I did for my friends. It wasn’t until August 2015 that it’d generated enough organic growth that it made sense to think about turning it into a business.
6. Who do you think is your competition and how does your company better them?
Perhaps a bit unconventional, but I truly believe our biggest competition is apathy. Putting our members first and looking out for their best interests is at the heart of what we do at Scott's Cheap Flights. We don't take commissions, we don't try to pressure you into buying flights. We're that goofy friend who loves finding cheap flights and wants to let you know about them in case you're interested. We work hard every day to maintain the trust and loyalty of our members, and that's a big reason it's grown so quickly as a service. Our biggest challenge is just getting the word out and helping convince more people to stop paying exorbitant prices for flights.
7. Who do you feel are your key brand followers?
Nomadic Matt and Jen on a Jet Plane are both friends of Scott's Cheap Flights, as well as travel outlets like Condé Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure.
Our premium members are our pride and joy. They get access to all
the deals we find from their home airports, as opposed to a very limited selection for free members. Mistake fares—the holy grail of cheap flights, with fares discounted by 90%+—are reserved for our premium members, as are peak season/holiday flights and deals to Hawaii or Alaska. Plus our premium members
get ad-free emails and lock in whatever subscription price they come in at so they'll never get a price increase.
9. How did you come up with the value number to charge?
I started out almost four years ago charging just $2/month. I wanted to make it so cheap that the monetary amount was relatively trivial and it was more a question of whether people were willing to pay for Scott's Cheap Flights. Turns out the answer was "yes." In the years since, as the team has grown and the service has improved (significantly), the price is now $49/year (about $4/month). No matter what though we keep our members grandfathered at whatever rate they signed up at, so there's still thousands of people on the list paying $2/month and they avoided any later price increases.
10. Do you think you will expand to cheap hotels next?
Enough random, completely unexpected things have happened in my life that I'm loathe to make predictions or write possibilities off, but cheap hotels aren't on the immediate horizon. Airfare is a uniquely opaque item that everyone hate-stresses buying, but knows they have to if they want to travel. Hotels, on the other hand, aren't nearly as stressful considering how many options there are and how consistent the prices stay.
11. Where do you want to take this company in the near future? Any spoilers for travel fans?
Finding cheap flights on your own is a horrible experience; our members rely on us to be able to travel. That's a lot of pressure! But it's also a challenge that is extremely gratifying, and it's what keeps us going at work. We want to be the best cheap flight alert service in the world so our members can keep traveling and experiencing the world. Continuing to build out Scott's Cheap Flights to help even more people take more trips is our perpetual goal.
12. Where should people travel to this year?
Wherever cheap! Seriously, I think a fundamental flaw a lot of people make is deciding where they want to go first and then looking at fares, rather than letting cheap flights guide their travels. That said, Mexico and Japan are my two favorites places to visit whenever cheap flights pop up there.
13.. Any last thought about your brand promos or specials coming up for 2020?
We've all got our peculiarities in life, and finding cheap flights is a weird obsession for us. We'd be honored to let you know when cheap flights pop up from your home airport!