DownRoute wants to book rooms and then manage your expenses for free
Business jet pilots get to see almost as many hotels as they do runways. In fact, according to Andy Hudson, founder of DownRoute, on an average night up to 30,000 business jet pilots and crew are staying in hotels.
And many of these bookings are a huge hassle for the operators managing aircraft.
Hudson encountered this when he worked for an operator. “Particularly in the summer, the cost and availability of hotels for crew can be a big issue – especially when margins are not huge.”
He says that most operators typically start off booking hotels on their own online and then try using a travel agent. “Both options end up being really time consuming,” says Hudson, “especially when you are changing things when charters change. You also get fed up paying commissions to travel agents.”
In 2015 Hudson had a meeting with a large online travel company suggesting they created a product targeted at crew. “They basically said this may be a global cottage industry but it does not fit us. But we can empower you to do it,” says Hudson.
So he launched DownRoute. “We went out to operators with the idea and they basically said ‘it sounds interesting’ – but they did not commit fully to be honest. So we kept talking and discovered that the real pain point for everyone was managing expenses – including hotel bookings.”
A Beta version was launched at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention in October 2017. Some 140 operators have now been signed up and are being introduced to the system. Several FBOs have also joined. “A lot of smaller operators rely on FBOs to book hotels and we also think that a lot of other companies – maintenance providers, finance companies and others could benefit from DownRoute.”
Signing up 140 operators in less than a year may seem like a lot, but as Hudson points out DownRoute is completely free (it gets paid a commission for hotel bookings). Competing expense systems can be expensive – one operator that reviewed DownRoute stated they could save $50,000 a year just purely on expenses software.
The DownRoute app allows anyone to record and share expenses – a major hassle for any crew. Companies can also set hotel limits – giving crew a choice but limiting cost.
Hudson says that operators can save even more money by changing the way they book – and not just using DownRoute. “Everyone typically books post-pay rooms – where crew pay on check-out – because they believe these are more flexible. You nearly always get the same best rate pre-paying even if it is fully refundable,” he says.
Hudson adds that anyone looking to book rooms at EBACE should try DownRoute. “With our buying power we can potentially save you hundreds of dollars,” he says, “and you can use it to manage expenses – you want to claim everything you are owed in Geneva of all places.”