In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Brett Snyder, the President of Cranky Concierge, a unique air travel assistance service. Brett is a self-professed airline dork and author of the award-winning consumer air travel blog, The Cranky Flier. Brett became the youngest known travel agent at the age of 12, so he has been helping solve travel problems for well over half his life. Brett also writes CNN’s “Out of the Office” column and contributes to Conde Nast Traveler’s “The Daily Traveler” column .
Since 2009 , Brett and his staff of “airline dorks” have been offering concierge-like services to business and consumer travelers. When you sign up for Cranky Concierge, his staff will personally monitor your flights, and watch for problems like delayed flights and weather updates for your destination. If your flight is cancelled or you miss a connection, you don’t need to stress. Cranky Concierge is already troubleshooting on your behalf, so you can get rebooked on the next available flight.
“…keep an eye on the rapid development of ultra low cost carriers here in the US. Ryanair has led that trend in Europe for years, but we’re really just seeing it start to unfold here. That’s where we’ll see the biggest changes in the near term, I think.”
— Brett Snyder, president, Cranky Concierge
Your blog, the Cranky Flier has received close to a dozen awards, if not more. You’ve developed a popular niche. What do you think your fans appreciate most about what you put forward in your blog?
I get a lot of email from readers, and what I hear most often is that people like that I’m able to explain things that happen in the airline industry in a way that’s accessible to everyone. Having worked in the industry, it’s easy for me to slip into using airline-speak, but I consciously work hard to avoid that. I want to make it so that people from outside the industry who are interested in the airlines (there are a lot of them) can not only understand what I’m writing, but also participate in the comment section. At the same time, I know a lot of people in the industry like reading my opinions (regardless of whether they agree or not), so I’ve been able to appeal to a pretty wide audience.
You’ve covered a host of important issues and trends related to topics, such as, shrinking service to small cities; airline bankruptcy; safety and security, etc. What’s currently on your radar as a “hot topic?” Is there anything that our readers should watch?
Certainly the most interesting story in the US right now is American’s trip through bankruptcy. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s likely to result in changes that will impact travelers. Unfortunately, this will take months and months before we really get a good feeling of where it’s going. I’d also encourage everyone to keep an eye on the rapid development of ultra low cost carriers here in the US. Ryanair has led that trend in Europe for years, but we’re really just seeing it start to unfold here. That’s where we’ll see the biggest changes in the near term, I think.
How did your travel service business, Cranky Concierge, come about?
I had been writing the blog for a few years and learned what most bloggers know – it’s tough to make a living writing a blog. But I did notice a growing number of requests from readers for specific travel help. That’s when it dawned on me that I could create a service that would help those people, and I would actually be able to charge for it. The blog and the concierge business fit together very well, and it’s been going very well.
What is most unique about Cranky Concierge?
I think the fact that we assign a concierge to each client before travel makes us very unique. I quickly decided that a call center-style model wouldn’t work for us because when there’s a problem with a flight, time makes all the difference. Since our concierges have intimate airline knowledge and are proactively following their clients, if something goes wrong, they can react very quickly to snag that last seat on the next available flight. It makes our service far more valuable.
Who is your typical client and why do they need your services?
I honestly thought by now that we’d have a typical client profile, but we don’t. I originally thought our main market would be the inexperienced traveler who wanted someone with deep knowledge about the industry to look out for them, especially for important events like a wedding, a cruise, etc. We definitely help those people with everything from frequent flier mile award redemption to simple flight monitoring, but I was surprised to find that we even had top tier elites who just like the idea of having someone looking after them even if they know how the game works. It’s just one less thing for them to worry about.
How does your Urgent Service work – how does it help travelers who might be in a jam?
Our urgent service is pretty simple. If someone gets stuck – flight is canceled, maybe they missed a connection, etc. – they can call us at (888) 747-1011 or they can send us an email to our dedicated urgent assistance address, firstname.lastname@example.org. The person on duty will help them get back on track for $150. The point is to get people where they’re going quickly, and we’re available 24 hours a day, every day of the year to make that happen.
In addition to specific service fees for Flight Planning and Monitoring, for example, do customers pay a subscription fee to use your services?
We don’t have a subscription service, but for our small business clients, we do have specific pricing agreements that we bill monthly. For everyone else, however, we have our published pricing and we have “Cranky Credits” that can be bought in advance at a discount to be applied whenever needed.
Any new services or interesting developments coming down the pike that may interest travelers — subscribers or not?
Our small business service is probably the big focus right now. There are so many small businesses that are too small to work with the larger travel management companies, but they can still benefit from such a service. We’ve been growing that rapidly with a variety of different companies. We not only book air, hotel, car, etc., but we assign a concierge to follow travels, and we’re available all day and night. It’s been very well-received so far, and we’re hoping to grow that even further.