If you’re an avid traveler, then you’ve probably heard of Scott Keyes.
He started out by sending flight deals out a few friends and his list grew to 1.5 million subscribers in just 3 years, and counting.
The crazy part?
He did all of this without any advertising, just word of mouth. His deals are that good.
What is Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights)?
What exactly is Going (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights)?
It’s a flight alert business. Scott and his team of 30+ remote workers across the globe search the internet for unbelievable flight deals — we’re talking price drops, error fares or airline sales resulting from brands competing with each other or launch of new routes.
No matter the reason for the deal, it’s their job to find it and report it to you ASAP so you can take advantage and book before it disappears.
The “Free-mium” Model
Going was one of the first companies to emerge in the field, but flight alerts have become quite popular in recent years, with several other companies claiming to be the quickest/most thorough in reporting deals.
With all the competition, I like Going because there’s no pressure.
You can join the free list to get 1/3 of the notifications, upgrade for $49/year to Premium and get targeted emails, or follow him on social media for alerts there as well.
If you’re interested in flying business class, enroll in the Elite model for $199/year.
The goal isn’t to sell a membership in a special club or cooperative travel scheme — it’s to let you know when a flight goes on sale you can book it.
About Scott Keyes
Scott is an author with 3 books. He also has a Facebook group of more than 170,000 members for those looking to join a budget travel community.
Here are some of the key things we discuss in this video:
- Scott’s rapid growth strategies for going from hobby to million dollar business
- Future plans for the company
- Insider information on how flight deals get to your inbox
- How to handle error fares
- Where to find little-know sites to visit
- Balancing flying with sustainable tourism concerns
And much more! Click to watch the full interview below.
Are you one of Going’s 2 million plus subscribers? Comment below or on YouTube to let me know!
Scott Keyes Interview
Watch the full interview here:
If you’re more of a reader, find the full transcription below:
Jen: We are here with Scott Keys of Scott’s cheap flights.
Scott: Good to be here with you. Thank you.
Jen: Yes, I talk so much about you, Scott that I feel like people just, they, we speak about you on a first name basis. We refer to you just like, our buddy Scott.
Scott: Oh man, I’m not cut out to be a A list celebrity. I feel like I’m gonna disappoint everybody.
Jen: No, you cannot disappoint just because you really do come through for us. Um So I just want to start by telling me a little bit more about how this all started for you. It was with a trip to Milan.
Scott: Yeah, it’s a very serendipitous story, you know, a lot of startups. Oh, people have like five year business plans that year and they went and got their MBA and then had this grand vision for something. And for me, I never planned to be a businessman, never planned to be an entrepreneur. I never planned to do a startup ever.
All I knew is that I was both an underpaid journalist who loved to travel. And so I ended up realizing, look, I’m not gonna have a lot of money to be able to spend on flights, but I still wanna, you know, have to take a flight. If you want to go over to Europe, you have to take a flight if you want to go over to Asia. So how am I gonna be able to bridge this divide?
So I ended up getting really good at sort of those travel hacks, those types of little tips and tricks that you can use to make sure you’re getting the best price possible when you get a flight. And this all then ended up culminating in late 2013 when I got the best deal that I’ve ever gotten in my life, which was nonstop from New York City to Milan for $130 round trip. That was the full price, including taxes, including, you know, bags.
This wasn’t like an award flight where that was just the fees on top plus 60,000 miles, not $130 round trip. That was it. Milan wasn’t even on my radar as a place to go, but like, yeah, I got $130. Like, there’s nowhere in the world I wouldn’t go for that price. And it ended up being this amazing trip. You know, I like skiing and went skiing in the Alps, got to hike Terra, got to go see like a Champions League match with AC Milan. And it was wonderful.
So when I got back from this trip, I guess word had spread to a bunch of just coworkers and friends. And so, you know, hey, Scott, how was your trip? Cool. Huh? Interesting. Hey, listen, let’s get to the chase next time you find a deal like that. Can you let me know so I can get in on it too?
And by the time, like, you know, the eighth or ninth person had told me this, I started to realize, hey, I’m not gonna be able to remember everybody that I’m supposed to tell next time I find a deal like this. But there seems like there’s a lot of interest in this type of thing. It sounds like such a no-brainer now, but people really love cheap flights.
And so I decided, hey, look, I’m just gonna start a little email list. This is the simplest way to be able to let everybody know at once you got on mailchimp dot com, started a little email list. For a long time Scott’s Cheap Flights was just a hobby. It was just something I did for the love of the game, for my friends in my spare time because I guess I have weird hobbies. That’s what I like doing. And so that’s what it was for the first 18 months or so.
It was only by, gosh, about August 2015 or so that it had grown large enough, you know, people were telling their friends, other people joined the list that it had grown large enough that I was actually having to start paying mail to send emails. It had graduated out of the free tier. And so at that point I started to realize, hey, I love doing this as a hobby for my friends, but I didn’t really wanna pay, you know, 50 bucks a month for the privilege to send emails to my friends.
But I also realized, you know, in that sort of like prices being another word for opportunity. Uh, a mindset that, huh? There’s a lot of interest in this. I wonder if there’s any sort of business potential there. And so it was at that time then I turned, decided, all right, I’m gonna see if this is something that people would actually be interested as a full fledged startup, a full fledged business.
And, yeah, that was, oh gosh, almost three years ago now. I cannot believe it’s been three years. But, uh, that was almost three years ago and, and it’s just, it’s, it’s grown like crazy ever since then. It’s still, I pinch myself every morning type of life I live.
Jen: But how did it propel because, so you graduate out of the free tier. I think I got 1000 subscribers or so. And you have more than a million now, if I’m not mistaken.
Scott: Yeah, a million and a half. I know, I know. It’s unbelievable. Like I still have trouble conceptualizing it, the way that it grows. So it grew a number of different ways. Obviously we had, we stumbled up up on something that people really liked and value. There is an interesting sort of discussion about the way that the travel, with the way people book flights changing over the past 20 years going from, you know, the old travel agent model where if you wanted to go to London, let’s say you just go to your local travel agent. They have their hook up into the, you know, a global distribution system. They’d be able to find the flights and book it for you to, then it could all be going online, you know, Google flights, Expedia Orbits, all those types of places, which I think is 99% wonderful for the consumer and 1% people have no idea what to make of these prices.
How does that, you know, most people aren’t like you or I, they’re not, they don’t obsess over flight prices. They don’t like just get their kicks trying to find the best deal. They just, you know, flights are means to an end. They really want to go over to London. And so look, they have to take a flight to get there so they just want to be able to make sure they’re not getting closed in the process, but it’s not something you want to spend 12 hours a day doing. And so there’s that real sort of murkiness and mystery for most folks.
What is a good price? When should I book? Like, is this a good airline? Like how, you know, should I be holding out for nonstop or is like it better to get one stop or two stop? All these types of questions that we were never really given the tools and education for, but we were just kind of thrown into like, hey, here’s all the information now do with it, what you will. And so that was something that I realize, I guess in retrospect now that Scott’s Fights is trying to really help people with, to give them more context for understanding what is a good fare? Like what are the fares that you should be holding out for him?
And, that’s importantly, where bad fares like why you shouldn’t be spending $1000 to get over to Europe. You shouldn’t be like booking the $300 flight to Europe that actually includes $500 in hidden fees. Like through that type of kind of education, I think ended up being something that we had really hit upon that I didn’t realize at the time was going to be so valuable.
A lot of it, almost all our growth has been word of mouth, which is just been incredibly, incredibly flattering. Just folks, friends telling friends, coworkers, hey, I know you like traveling. I know this little secret email list you might be interested in. It’s folks just telling one another, you know, we haven’t done basically any paid ads, any paid marketing.
The only other company I know of that has taken that sort of track is Sriracha, I guess. The Sriracha, the hot sauce doesn’t do any paid marking at all and seems to have quite a following. So I like to think there’s at least, you know, somebody that’s taken this sort of track. But yeah, it’s been all word of mouth growth.
We’ve really tried to invest a lot in essentially customer support, customer service because we know the best flight deals. So when we send out a really good deal, you know, let’s say there’s a $300 mistake fare to Milan. Those really good deals are not going to last very long in general. The rule of thumb is, the better the deal is the shorter it’s gonna last.
And so as a result, you know, someone like, oh wow. There’s this $300 flight to Milan I’m really interested. Oh, snap. I can’t find it. I’m having trouble. So the email is back, you know, it’s an email list. We really wanted to make sure that this person was going to be able to get a response from us. Not in 48 hours when the deal’s definitely gone. Not in 24 hours when this might be gone, but within an hour or two, if not a few minutes, that was really our goal.
And so we ended up taking all the, you know, marketing budget or money we might have put towards ads and ended up putting that in trying to put them customer support instead to really sort of help people be able to book those deals. Those are the things that come to my mind when I think of the drivers of our early growth. But man, it’s, it’s still like shocking to me to this day that we’ve been able to amass the following that has sprung up.
Jen: So how many employees do you have currently in customer support or in any other department?
Scott: Yeah, so we’re up to about 30 folks spread out all across the world on the team. I’ll be honest, I feel kind of bad sometimes because you know, it wasn’t this like grand plan to name it Scott’s Cheap Flights. So I can get all the glory and fame and everybody can think I’m doing all the work, but it has kind of turned out that way in some ways like a lot of people. Oh, thanks Scott. You made my honeymoon come true. I’m super appreciative that they’re able to take this and that they appreciate us. But there are 29 other people on the team who have worked incredibly hard to help folks, you know, not only finding the deals.
But also yeah, doing customer support, helping design the website, app, stuff like that, doing social media. I wish I could be the superman to work like 30 people, but it is absolutely a team effort. What’s really crazy though is that so we’re 30 people on the team. We’re spread out across the entire world. There’s no headquarters and because we’re all spread out, only a few of us have actually ever met, face to face. I’ve only met about a third of the team face to face.
Each person maybe met like a couple of, you know, got a few folks in Europe who have met a, a few folks like in New York that have met up or stuff like that, but everybody just really love traveling and they stay connected all day through Slack, video chat, that type of stuff. It’s a very kind of 21st century setup in us being entirely distributed but, but very rarely actually face to face.
Jen: And is that so that you can have somebody in each time zone responding quickly like you mentioned, so that somebody’s not asleep when somebody else is trying to catch this deal?
Scott: You know, that’s a big part of it. We don’t just cover flights departing the US, we cover flights departing Europe, Asia, Australia or like all over the world. And so a big part of that, yeah, is like when it’s night time in the US, it’s usually daytime in Asia. And so having folks in Australia obviously makes a lot more sense than asking somebody to work from like midnight to 8 a.m. But it’s also just not having a headquarters.
I live in Portland, Oregon. There are basically two ways I could have thought about hiring folks. I could either down the traditional route where it’s like we set up an office, we have the overhead and the expense of that. And then the only people we hire are people who live within, you know, 15 miles, 20 miles of Portland. Like, yeah, it’s fine, but obviously the vast, vast, vast majority of the world does not live within 15 or 20 miles of Portland. And so being able to cast a much wider net and really sort of look for talent wherever they might live has been really been beneficial for us, but also having a team that, you know, look, we’re a company that’s built on love of travel. And so being able to afford folks not only unlimited PTO, but the fact that they can work from anywhere.
So we’ve had folks who have started in Australia and then moved to Amsterdam and, you know, who knows where they’re gonna be next. We’ve had folks who think, gosh, I think one person we’ve had in California to Portugal to New Zealand and I think down in Australia now it can be hard to keep track of where folks are sometimes, but we really try to, that’s one of our company values is being able to work remotely.
Jen: That’s excellent. How would somebody apply for one of these awesome jobs?
Scott: Go to https://www.going.com/careers. We actually have an opening right now for a US and Canada Flight Searcher, which is one of the ones we’re really excited about. I know a lot of folks really, really love being able to flight search. It’s crazy. The number of applications that, I mean, it’s over 200 so far. So I’ve just been drowning reading through application stuff. It’s incredibly flattering the response that we’ve had. But yeah, there’s almost always some openings whether it’s that, whether it’s developers, knowledge based writers.
Jen: Do you have people that are just doing that, like at any point in time just searching for flights across all different engines? Do you have any engines that you put them on?
Scott: There’s like nine or 10 people on the team whose sole job is flight searcher or flight expert. I never would have thought that was a job that somebody could have. And, and I, I think if you ask most of them, they never would have thought either which makes it a really interesting hiring process because unlike most jobs where someone will come in with a resume of demonstrating or being able to do this, almost nobody has had the job of flight searcher before. And so trying to, kind of project out. What is this person’s skill set seem like? Does this seem like something they can do?
But yeah there’s a whole handful of folks both in the US and Canada and Europe in Latin America, Australia and Asia, whose like, official job title is Flight Searcher or this is what they get to do for a living and helping folks being able to travel to places they didn’t think they might be able to afford otherwise
Jen: you’re completely bursting my image because I thought that that was you the whole time just sitting.
Scott: I know the secret is out, the secret’s out. That used to be my job. That was my job, obviously for the 18 months that it was just a hobby. And then honestly, probably for the, like two years or so, the first two years of Scott’s Cheap Flights. And then it had grown to a point where it didn’t make sense for me to be doing this sort of day in day out flight search and now there’ll still be some days where you know, look, that’s my one that’s my original love. Like I have to go back and flight search sometimes I, I love doing it. But most days, I just have to be, you know, doing sort of larger company things, partnerships thinking about what’s coming next, doing candidate interviews, all those types of things that a growing startup needs to get done.
But I tell you, I miss getting to do the flight searching more often. That’s my stress relief. Like when I need to, I don’t know when I want to goof off and do something fun. I log on to Google flights and I just start hammering away.
Jen: Do you train your employees in your method? Like this is the Scott way?
Scott: Ok. Yes, we sure do it. Yeah, I, I never, it God, it’s so weird that there is like a Scott cheap flights method to searching for cheap flights. But, yeah, absolutely. I mean, we’ve developed entire handbooks for best practices when you’re searching like tips and tricks that you should be doing. You know, because the thing that’s difficult about it for most folks, when they’re flight searching, there’s a lot of tips and tricks that folks at home can use, but for the most part they tend to be searching from just one origin airport.
So you live in Chicago, you’re gonna be searching for flights out of Chicago. Makes total sense. For the flight searchers, it’s got a few devices, they have to be searching for flights out of like 100 and 25 different airports all day, every day to everywhere around the world. So trying to balance the speed of trying to search all these airports.
You know, it’s not just the big airports, not just, you know, New York, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, but like we search all these tinier, you know, Des Moines, Boise, Reno, Cody Wyoming, Destin Florida, like almost every single small airport in the US research as well. And so trying to balance that thoroughness of checking everywhere with the speed of wanting to like there’s a really good deal and we just want to get it out quickly so people can have the time to be able to book it before it disappears.
Jen: I’ve noticed that and so some alerts will come out initially and then maybe a few minutes an hour or so later, it’ll be like more cities have a
Scott: That’ll happen. It’s a difficult and very subjective thing to try to do trying to balance like, oh man, this deal is really good. We need to get it out to people ASAP so they can know it’s coming and they can, you know, start searching, but maybe we don’t get the entire parameter of the deal initially. We send kind of the first early radar detection system and then maybe we’ll have a follow up like, ok, here’s more stuff that we found. Yeah, with the best deals that can happen a lot.
Jen: We were talking about kind of how much you’ve grown just exponentially over the last three years. And I know that you still have so much more on the horizon still. So can you tell me future things you have in store that you can?
Scott: Absolutely. So we’re right in the middle of a kind of uh a soft redesign, soft. I, I don’t want to go so far as to say soft relaunch, but basically, we’re really working hard to migrate to a much more stable kind of back end platform that’s gonna allow us to build a number of different cool features uh moving forward. So that’s gonna be everything from much quicker sort of alerts either through the mobile app, web app, but whatever different ways that people and people being able to customize. Ok, maybe I only want deals out of New York City to go to my mobile app notification. But like for deals out of Boston and Providence, send those to my email.
That’s the type of functionality we’re gonna be able to do here pretty soon. I’m actually really curious to hear from, from subscribers about, from me. What types of different things would they value? So anything from like business class fairs, you know, knowing that obviously it’s gonna be quite a bit more expensive than economy. But hey, listen, a lot of people really like flying business. A lot of people, they might travel once a year, once every two years. But when they do, they have saved up the money that they’d really like to be able to travel business class.
And as a result like being, you know, if you can get a good business class fair, like you can save $1000 whereas like a really good economy fair probably save more along lines of like 500. Curious to hear feedback about that, curious to hear feedback.
Hey, do people want to set filters with on their destination? Like I’m really only interested in flights to Paris? Paris is where I’ve been dreaming to go my entire life. I don’t care if I have to schlep down to DC. I don’t care if I have to slip down to Atlanta, Chicago wherever, find me the cheapest flights, wherever they are to Paris. And then I can make sure, you know, I’m able to get over there.
Even for folks who are maybe interested, like I don’t care where I go, I just want to go to the beach in the wintertime. Like, I hate snow, you know, send me somewhere. Cool. These are all different types of things that we are thinking about. And considering I would love, love, love to be able to hear more from folks about what types of things that they would value because that’s gonna be like, really sort of guiding our, our thinking as we continue to develop.
As I’m sure you can hear, we don’t have like a one single vision. Oh, this is going to be the next thing because we’re really sort of taking into account what uh uh what types of feedback we hear from people, what they’re interested in and then seeing what we can, what we can build to make that happen.
Jen: That’s kind of an exciting time to be involved in this whole industry because you have that ability to kind of form it into what you want it to be and really have a community vision of something together, not just what it’s always been or the set model.
Scott: Yeah. And even finding more ways to be able to connect the community, you know, everybody. One of the things that I think about a lot is that every traveler has their own little favorite spot. You know, that every traveler has been to Madrid and knows some awesome little hole in the wall restaurant that only they, you know, basically only they know about that you’re not gonna find at the top of Tripadvisor you’re not gonna find at the top of Yelp. Places like that.
Everybody has their own little kind of like small little spot, you know, on a hill overlooking the entire city. That’s just freaking gorgeous that frankly other people don’t know about.
And because we have this, you know, massive community, million and a half folks who all have their own individual little kind of like trying to find ways that we can build a community where folks are, are sharing that to one another, whether it’s like connecting you with the other locals.
Like, hey, I’m from Chicago and I’m going to Paris next month. Can I get connected with somebody who’s from Paris and maybe they’re taking a flight to Chicago next month and like we can just trade tips like, oh, here are the best little spots in Chicago. Here’s where you should go. They’re telling me the best spots in Paris. Like I’m the type of traveler who I like these sort of general, you know, you go to Paris. Yeah, you gotta, of course, you got to see the Eiffel Tower. You gotta go to chase, you know, all those types of things.
But I really live for those unexpected discoveries, those little kind of alleyways and stuff and they’re hard to find for a reason. So trying to find ways that we can really connect uh uh travelers with one another and build that community so that more folks can find those types of things and something that’s really, uh uh really energizes me, gets me excited thinking forward.
Jen: I’ve seen some of that already. Some of your deals will start off with somebody like, oh, and so, and so this reader suggests that you can stop in Colombia or something like that.
Scott: Yeah, we’ve started to toy with it a little bit. So, I mean, we’ve asked folks like, hey, if you’re going, you know, what is your best travel trip? Like something that you wouldn’t expect, you know, and not like, go to the Coliseum when you’re in Rome, but more like what is the best hole in the little restaurant you eat there? What’s the best spot that you think other people don’t know about? I love, love, love hearing those tips.
We’ve got a massive spreadsheet database of those right now and being able to, yeah, plug those into the deals. We’ve gotten a great response from folks. They’ve said, I love, you know, obviously the deals themselves, but then hearing, you know, the kind of those one or two little snippets, those little pro tips that you might not necessarily know otherwise. But, uh, it really kind of when you think back on a trip can often be those one or two, surprising memories that really bring it together for you. So, yeah, it’s something we’re experimenting with.
Jen: And you already have a group together in your Facebook groups. You already have started building this community.
Scott: Exactly. So, there’s the, uh, SCF travel community. Um, we just all day everyday people on their trading tips, talking their, you know, their favorite place to eat, favorite places to go, things to do there. I like to think of it. You know, when I used to work in an office, I loved, loved daydreaming about places to go, things to do place.
You know, I would watch the old like, where the hell is Matt YouTube videos and just like dancing around the world and stuff. That was my sort of escapism. I like to think of this as maybe an opportunity for other people to have some escapism talking with other travelers thinking of places to go, things to do.
And so while I am a bit sheepish as the founder of a startup, encouraging people to goof off at work, I at least encourage other people to go to the travel community and goof off a little bit when you know that mid-afternoon blues start to set in.
Jen: Yes, I totally encourage daydreaming about travel after 4 p.m. when you know you’re not gonna be productive.
Scott: Right. Exactly. Exactly.
Jen: And so tell me some about the skeptics that you’ve encountered in this field because I know, like, personally I got an email the other day where I told somebody about the deals I get for you and they were like, oh, the air affairs, you know, those happen so rarely. It’s not ever something I could take advantage of.
Scott: Yeah. Um, man, we get, I, like, I love hearing from skeptics. I love hearing from folks who think, oh, you know, $390 down to New Zealand. That can’t be real like that. That absolutely cannot be real. Like I paid $2000 to go to New Zealand. Last time I went, there’s no way that somebody paid, you know, a, a fifth of that price. I think it’s somewhere close to there. What I tell folks actually is, this is one of the reasons Scott’s flights is set up as a free-mium model. So there’s the free list and I tell folks look, don’t take my word for it.
Start off on the free list. It’s free. There’s zero pressure to upgrade. I actually want people, I want everybody who comes flights to spend a couple weeks on the free list to see the types of things that we offer and to see what it looks like because this is, um, it’s a little bit of a new model, this type of thing hadn’t existed before. And so people come in with a lot of preconceived notions.
Oh, it’s like, you know, an OTA, an online travel agent like Orbit so I can book my flights through it. Oh, it’s like a travel agent. So I give them my cities and dates through and they go book me a flight and, and you know, neither of those is, is the case. We just, we spend all day, every day hunting for the cheap flights that pop up periodically so that we can let folks know when those are available so they can book it before it disappears.
And so for a lot of folks seeing that for, you know, two weeks is the best way that we found to turn skeptics into believers. It’s one of the reasons why though we include in every single deal we send, you know, say, ok, there are $390 round trip fares down to New Zealand right now. But you know, in case you think we’re just BS and you like, here’s a screenshot of that deal with the price and everything laid out. Here’s a sample search showing it. You know, more of the cities usually include multiple sample searches and then we have a whole team of folks whose job it is to help people when they, you know, when they write back, when they email back.
Oh, you know, this deal sounds awesome, but I’m having trouble finding it. Can you help me? That’s what we, you know, that’s why we have these folks on the team to be able to help.
I got an email from Keith and Keith had said, you know, look, I started out, I thought this was too good to be true. Like, you know, most things promising amazing flight deals and then there’s strings attached, there’s fees added on, you know, there’s this and that uh I don’t blame people for being a skeptic and he was like, I was for the longest time and then I got a $350 round trip flight to Paris and I’m going like next month and all of a sudden it just went from like, this can’t be true to like, oh, wow, I’m actually going to be there.
So that tends to be the approach I take to folks not to be like, take my word for it, but to be like, sign up for the free one, let us demonstrate and show you that these are real that there’s not strings attached. We don’t take any affiliates or commissions from the airlines and stuff. We just do it because we want to make sure that, gosh, for the exact same reason I started doing SCF in the first place. I just love finding cheap flights and helping other people be able to travel to a place they didn’t think they could afford to otherwise. So that’s what I recommend to folks.
Jen: Your shirt is very appropriate.
Scott: Yeah. Friends don’t let friends miss the mistake fares. That is the words to live by. And that’s what we, you know, that’s what we try to approach it as like look, we just got 1.5 million friends out there that we just want to let know and, and that’s why we don’t pressure people because, you know, we don’t get affiliates, we don’t get commissions.
We’re not trying to sit there. Oh, you should buy this flight. It’s an amazing price like like, yeah, you know, we want you to buy it if you want to but we’re, but we’re never gonna be like, oh, you really need to buy this because, and partly because it doesn’t make any financial or business difference for us, but partly because that’s not what we see our role as we see. Our role is just, you know, your, your friendly coworker who sits next to you and loves searching place and just, hey, just fy I there’s a really good sale to Rome going on just if you’re interested. No, big deal. Uh That’s the approach that we try to take.
Jen: And what do you tell the people who get disillusioned or maybe saddened when they find a really great airfare? But then it gets yanked away.
Scott: I get sad about that too because that happens to me too. I try to, uh, keep per, I try to remember that. Like, look when, so let, let’s, let’s rewind just a second mistake fares, you know, happen all the time is not, not every single day. Maybe, you know, it depends on the region, maybe once a month, give or take those $390 fares to New Zealand. Those are very real deal that happened in November last year from all over the United States, not just, you know, LA or San Francisco, almost every single airport in the US down to New Zealand $390 round trip. We had hundreds of people who booked it.
We had dozen, we had people on the SCF team who booked it. All of them went. That was a mistake success story. There are plenty of mistake fares though that it’ll happen that you book it and you’re just hoping for the best and it ends up getting canceled and it’s a bummer. But what I try to remind myself is like, look, you know, I, they’re not like canceling my ticket and keeping my money like they’re gonna obviously give you a refund. And so, because I’m getting a refund, I’m no worse off than it was 24 hours ago. Yeah, it would have been awesome to get that, you know, $100 fare over to London. But you win some, you lose some. What I figure is that I can’t force the airline to honor it most of the time they do because they don’t want the bad PR hit from canceling people’s tickets.
They don’t want people, you know, hating on them on social media. I mean, United, as we all remember, learned a very hard lesson that, like, it costs way more in reputational risk when you, like, uh, behave poorly than it does to just like. All right, you know, this is what it is. People get goes from people being very excited about your friends. Oh, wow. United. They’re selling, you know, $100 tickets. Uh, uh, you know, people, I love them to people being like, oh, screw those guys. I’ll never find them again.
So most of the time they do tend to honor them in the rare instances though. Then they do that. They don’t, I just figure, like, look, there’s not a whole lot that I could have done to try to force their hand if they’re gonna sell these $100 tickets. I wanna make sure I’m a part of it. I don’t want to miss out on it but, you know, if they decide to yank them. All right on to the next mistake fare. Hopefully the next one works out better. What I do really strongly recommend to folks though is after you book a mistake fare. And this happens every time I book a mistake fare, I wait a week, even two weeks before making certain any concrete plans.
Certainly any non-refundable plans because within a week or two, you know, once you have a PNR code and e- ticket number, the PNR is like the six digit kind of security code. Once you have those, then you’re probably good to go. And if it’s been longer than two weeks, it’s almost unheard of for an airline to cancel at that point, almost always when they do cancel a mistake for it within the first, like almost always within the first couple of days. So I figure look after two weeks, if it’s all looking good, then I can start to like really make plans around it.
Jen: That’s a great tip. And New Zealand is always a hotspot. But are there any other really big hot spots that you’ve seen? People just dying to get to?
Scott: Yeah. Oh man, absolutely. So Japan. People love going to Japan. Japan is one of my favorite countries to go to. It is expensive, you know, getting to like fares to China have been extremely cheap in the past couple of years. Fares to Japan, you’ll have spurts where it might drop to the, like if we’re really lucky, you know, mid five hundreds or high four hundreds. Um, typically it’s, you know, six hundreds from the west coast, minimum, nine hundreds from the rest of the country. Very, very popular. Those we’re always on the lookout for Japan, obviously, Australia and New Zealand very, very popular.
And then a lot of the western European countries tend, you know, France, Spain, England, Italy, extremely popular. Those ones tend to have really good deals. We’re, you know, lucky enough. But the ones though that are real sort of like bucket list, but you don’t see as often tend to be the more sort of a lot of your island like, like Pacific Islands.
So, you know, uh, I guess it’s not Pacific Indian Ocean Maldives. You know, sort of your Tahiti, Fiji,
French, Polynesia, places like that, very bucket list, very sort of like honeymoon type locations unsurprisingly can be typically very expensive, but at the same time when it gets like tickets go on sale and there’s, you know, when they’re typically 2000 and they go on sale for like 6 50. Holy crap. That is a huge amount of things, you know, that’s, that’s like you just say 1300 do 13 50. Just from those tickets being cheaper, even though $650 is not a, a cheap flight per se, there’s a lot more potential savings when the fares tend to be really high. Normally.
Jen: Now, if, let’s say the flights to China were cheap, would you recommend that someone try to reach Japan through China?
Scott: Oftentimes, you know, if, if they’ve got flexibility, if they’ve got a good amount of PTO or otherwise flexible on their schedule. Yes, that is a great trick to either get over basically to cross the ocean as cheap as you can and then worry about getting to your final destination.
There’s something I actually refer to, I’m really trying to coin as a new neologism, the Greek island trick and the reason I call it, the Greek Island trick is, let’s say you want to go to Santorini. And so let’s say you live in Houston. You pull up flights from Houston to Santorini $2000 like that is, oh God, heck no, I don’t have $2000 to spend on those flights.
But what you remember is that flights from Houston to Athens regularly go on sale for like 500 bucks round trip, sometimes even low, something like 450. Once you get to Athens, it can cost as low as 50 bucks round trip to get from Athens to Santorini on a budget flight, you could take a ferry, it is incredibly cheap once you actually get there to get to your final destination.
So by crossing the ocean as cheaply as possible and then worrying about getting to your final destination, you can save like easily over $1000 to $1500 in that case. That’s what I really recommend, especially if you’re going to a more expensive or more far flung destination, try to position yourself to some sort of bigger hub or bigger city nearby and then kind of hop a hop a last separate flight to your final destination.
Yeah, so that would absolutely work for Japan, you know, get over to China and then hop a flight over to Japan, get to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur or Singapore. There are oftentimes not very expensive flights to get up to Tokyo or Osaka or wherever in Japan from, from those destinations gonna almost always be a lot cheaper than trying to do a single itinerary from the US.
Jen: That’s excellent. And have you seen Lonely Planet or kind of these guys that come up with the top destinations of the year? Have you seen that drive kind of consumer wants and needs as well?
Scott: That’s a great question. I don’t know that I would necessarily ascribe a single news outlet as like turning a place from a backwater to, you know, tourist hotspot. But what I have noticed and this is certainly not original to me, the number of places that have really taken off as like an Instagram destination.
So the one that comes most, most prominently to mind is Iceland 10 years ago. Not that many people travel Iceland like it would, you know, people, yeah, I knew about it, you know, it is there, it looked cool but with social media, people seeing incredible, incredible looking photos from there that, you know, just the mountains, the lagoons, like it just all looks completely out of this world and you look at the tourism numbers in Iceland and holy crap like they have gone way up. I mean, it’s like doubling year over year. So there are all sorts of predictions like where it’s gonna be the next Iceland.
Some people predict Faroe Islands, maybe like there’s some incredible looking photos there, there’s just this a piece in the New Yorker about the kind of hidden foodie offerings of the Faroe Islands. Oddly enough, like a lot of fermented fish and meats and stuff like that. Hey, it sounds very unique. So it’s a fascinating thing watching which places are going to blow up soon and trying to actually go just before you think just before that happens so you can like get it to yourself.
Jen: Are there any places that you’ve been to in your extensive travels that you feel like, oh man, this is going to be super popular here soon.
Scott: I think we’re too late for things like Portugal, I would have liked to have been ahead of the curve on and now I became the one that everybody’s like the new hot destination. I think Turkey, I think Turkey is really underestimated. Actually. That’s my next one. I wanna go to, so much besides Istanbul there. So much natural beauty, a lot of ancient history there that’s affiliated with Greece. That lures people. They think, you know, Turkey, it’s literally right there.
And I think just with a lot of the safety concerns, people get nervous too. So they weed out these places that are actually really amazing. Which is funny because now a lot of people, I saw something on my group the other day where people were like who would travel to the US. The US is so dangerous. So like, I think we’re actually getting a worse reputation now than some of these other countries with everything we have going on.
I lived in Mexico for a spell a few years ago and when I was moving all my friends. Oh, Scott, you know, be careful like you really, you know, just please be careful and I tell you, like, look, guys, you’re the one who lives in the country with all the guns. The crime statistics are way higher in DC than where I was living than in Oaxaca where I moved. Don’t let the reputation sway you. It’s actually much, much safer than you might think.
Jen: Do you feel like that generally around the world?
Scott: I do. And, and I recognize, you know, that I say that as a white male traveler who, you know, I’ve done plenty of solo travels in my life but I haven’t, you know, obviously can’t travel as a solo female traveler or a solo minority traveler. And so I recognize that my experience is certainly different, but I tend to take the approach that, look, you know, muggings or petty street crime or stuff like that is so random and so hard to predict that if you let the fear of that hold you back from visiting somewhere, you’re gonna end up missing out on a lot of the world.
I mean, that’s the exact same approach that I take for instance to street food where it’s like, yeah, it might be, like, slightly more questionable hygiene. But at the same time there’s a line, you know, a dozen people deep who are all eating this and all love it and like, yeah, I might pay for it every once in a while and get a sore stomach.
In the meantime, I’m gonna enjoy some incredibly tasty things and be so happy, like chowing down in the meantime that I’m just not gonna let it stop me. I figure that’s the the price I’ll pay every once in a while. Things will go sour. But for the most part it’s gonna be amazing.
Jen: Well, I think that’s a good segue into my Scott quick fire questions. Yeah, let’s do it. Ok. So I’m just gonna go back-to-back. I have eight of them and just say the first one that comes to mind. Cash or credit?
Jen: Airbnb or hotel?
Scott: I used to be Airbnb, leaning back towards hotel.
Jen: Train or Uber?
Scott: Train. Always train.
Jen: Street food or five star restaurant.
Scott: Street food. Yes, absolutely.
Jen: Winter or summer?
Scott: Winter adventure.
Jen: Carry-on or checked bag?
Scott: Carry on. Always.
Jen: Aisle or window?
Scott: Those are great questions. Those are tough. Man. I was sitting there thinking, oh geez, it was total gut total. Just like what, all right, just say it.
Jen: Why are you leaning back towards hotels now? I’m curious.
Scott: So. Oh, man, it’s a tough one because the thing that I tend to like about Airbnbs in general is you can tend to get a much more interesting location. So, like, oftentimes much more towards the center of town where the, all the hotels in the center of town are gonna be pretty expensive.
You can often find an Airbnb room or a place that’s not going to be quite as expensive. But I’ve just found I’m not the type of person who cares a lot about the place where I’m staying. I just want it to be, you know, comfortable, good bed, like just, you know, basically somewhere to rest my heels in between, in between adventuring and there can just be some sort of, some inconsistency.
Sometimes with Airbnb, sometimes you’ll have really great ones and sometimes you’ll have ones where, like, it’s a 50-year-old foam mattress that I have a horrible night’s rest. And so I do find more consistency a lot of times with hotels. It’s not a strong preference.
Most trips I’ll do some of each. It’ll totally, like, I’ll just be researching both and tend to check more, but I definitely, like, had hit that stage when Airbnb popped up and I was like, oh, I’m just all in on Airbnb all the time and now I started to be like, ok, you know, there are still some nice hotels and cool locations and places that I want. So I tend to do a mix of the both.
Jen: And what’s your favorite adventure that you’ve had so far?
Scott: Gosh, can we narrow it down at all? Oh, my God, man. It’s hard to choose.
Jen: Like, oh my God. I can’t believe I just did that. Like jumped off a building.
Scott: Hanging out playing with orangutans in Borneo and them like crawling all over you. It’s like one of those just, wow, they are so human. It was absolutely mind blowing in a way that’s hard to describe without actually experiencing but having these just, you know, incredible creatures crawling up to you and just playing with you.
The other similar one that I’ll say is scuba diving or not scuba diving snorkeling in the Galapagos where there were a lot of, oh Lord, I always get seals and sea lions mixed up. I think it was sea lions.
How it would work is basically you would be snorkeling around these lava tunnels and as soon as you got in the water, all the sea lions around would see you and they would come up and, and you know, people would tell you, oh, they’re gonna come play with you.
And I would think like, ok, yeah, they’re probably just like anthropomorphizing a little bit, you know, scribing human mush machines to these animals. No, no, no. As soon as you get in the water, the seals just come. Or the sea lion comes darting up and swims within like a couple inches you and then, like, peels off and tries to, like, just circle your back and then spins up to you and, and it was amazing.
Like, holy crap. They’re playing with me. I’ve never done swimming with dolphins or anything like that, but this felt like one of those like, wow, I can’t believe like, I’m just out here in the Galapagos Islands having this experience with these sea lions. It was incredibly eye opening and just felt like a once in a lifetime experience.
Jen: Definitely. I think any time where you get to interact with animals in the nature in an unexpected way, I think it’s what people strive for because so many people are against those kind of set experiences.
Scott: Yeah, exactly. Like a very sort of in the natural habitat. It’s a whole different experience. Yeah, it was just amazing.
Jen: That’s wonderful. Oh, my goodness. I have to get both
of those on my list.
Scott: Yes, absolutely.
Jen: So I wanted to talk about a tough question that I want to tackle. I know we talked a little bit about some of the sustainable travel trends and CO2 emissions. I know, I personally, having taken the 20 trips in 12 months from people that will maybe say that I’m being careless about the environment.
I just wanted to get a little bit more of your thoughts on that if you’ve been bombarded with that at all. And what you’ve seen in that sense.
Scott: Yeah, it’s a great question and great topic. Like how much does air travel tend to contribute to global mission to, to, to climate change? And it’s really interesting because there are a number of different schools of thought. There are folks who say, you know, look, air travel is one of the worst things that you can do for environment because it’s emitting right up there.
And then the whole school that it’s like having kids is one of the worst things that you could do for the environment. Without getting into a sort of like comparison contest, what’s really interesting is starting to look at the economics of which flights and which seats tend to do tend to have the greatest impact on the environment.
It’s the most expensive seats that the airline sells that’s largely driving their decisions on how many more routes to be added. Like, if first class on this flight from New York to London sold out the day we put it up, that means we need to be, you know, that’s where the airlines making most of their money is on first class or on the business class or the sort of high revenue economy tickets. Without getting too far into the weeds, if they’re seeing really strong numbers with people paying a lot of money for those tickets, they’re gonna add another flight because they realize, oh, wow.There’s high demand for this, we’re making a lot of money, we’re gonna add more.
It’s actually the folks who are either getting award tickets or those really cheap tickets, you know, those $400 flights to Europe, the ones that the airlines are basically like we have 10 seats that we predict are not going to sell on this flight. And so we’re gonna try to slash the price as much as possible or putting them up as award seats. Those are the ones that tend to have the least impact because the airline is the air, that airplane is gonna go either way, whether or not those low revenue seats are filled or not.
And so by buying the cheap seats, essentially, you’re having much less of an impact on that airline’s decision to add more routes and add more planes to that route than you are if you’re buying the really expensive ones. So that’s one way to think about it.
I do absolutely take to heart. Now, on the other hand, you know, flying is not good for the environment. There’s also the argument that look, getting out, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people is one of the best ways to become more worldly in your thinking, to be able to connect with other people around the world and to take a more sort of world first approach to these types of things. It’s a really interesting subject and I think one that there’s a lot more nuance than might appear just right on the surface.
Jen: I mean, because it’s hard to reach a lot of these places in alternative ways. And I know you mentioned you prefer a train to Uber and like somewhere like in Europe, I was actually, I’m gonna be in Paris for a few days in August and I myself maybe I’ll take a day trip to Amsterdam, you know. But it’s just really hard to reach some of these more remote destinations in a way that’s not on a flight. I think that it’s actually affected a lot of these countries that are now receiving tourism whereas before they weren’t Iceland, for instance, like you said, how’s anybody going to get to Iceland? If it’s not for that line? That’s not there and making it more accessible?
Scott: That’s 100% true. As much as we want to debate it. If you want to go to Europe, if you want to go to Asia, there’s really no other realistic way other than taking flights. It’s a necessity whether you like it or not.
Jen: And Scott, I know that your idea has been so popular and has done so well and success is always gonna spur imitators. So I know that you’ve had a lot of competitors pop up, kind of shamelessly. I had seen somebody that just took on the same title and just changed the name.
I imagine you’ve really been bombarded with a lot of that, especially recently as the growth has been more and more exponential. How do you feel about that? How are you dealing with that?
Scott: Yeah, I mean, look at the end of the day imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s like, wow, we’re doing something right that folks would wanna try to copy us. But at the end of the day, we know that like all we can really do is continue to, you know, to use it as, as uh encouragement, use it as like as a spur in our butt to make sure that we are getting the best flights, you know, the cheapest flights, the best value ones out as quickly and early as possible because we know that other folks aren’t as good at it as us.
And that if we can continue to get that out to folks, get them flights that they’re really interested in, then figure the results are going to take care of themselves and they’ll be satisfied. But look, if we’re not, if we’re not doing as good a job, then we don’t deserve to have subscribers stay with us. We don’t deserve to be at the top. We try to take it as incentive to keep doing our best every single day. And make sure that we’re providing for subscribers and making it worthwhile for them to be getting our emails, to be getting our alerts. So that’s the mindset that we take to it.
Jen: I personally had found you years back from a traveler that had cited you a lot. I see that all of these outlets really tend to cite to you. Are these people just part of your list?
Scott: We noticed that a number of folks who like to, you know, start their own one that they say are all original deals that are actually just opening our deal and then repurposing it and look at the end of the day, all we can do is continue to innovate, continue to send out the best deals we can and, and let the results take care of themselves. We put a lot of trust and hope in our subscribers that they’re gonna be able to tell the difference and go with whichever one they think is best.
Jen: That’s perfect. I think you are taking the right attitude to it because I have a feeling you’re gonna have a lot more competitors in the future moving.
Scott: Good, game on. Let’s go. It’s the future now, people are gonna be looking for deals in this way and it’s something new and I just, I don’t think it’s going anywhere and still, even though there’s a bit of a competitive nature that can come into it at the end of the day, I just want people to be able to travel. I want people to be able to go to places that they didn’t think they could afford to otherwise, take that honeymoon that they didn’t think they’d be able to and whether that’s, you know, from an alert from us or wherever they can find out about it, at the end of the day, that’s what makes me happy is people being able to see the world.
Jen: I am right there with you. So, is there anything that you want to let people know, before we wrap up any kind of tips, anything else about Scott’s Cheap Flights that they should be on the lookout for anything at all?
Scott: Oh, man. Um, nothing in particular other than like it, we would be honored to send anybody that’s interested in cheap flight alerts. Scotts, cheap flights dot com. We, this is what we love to do every single day. We’d be honored to be able to send you cheap flight alerts.
Jen: Definitely. So I’ll just reiterate it. It’s Scott’s cheap flights. No apostrophe.
Scott: No, no apostrophe, no spaces, no dashes. Just Scott’s cheap flights dot com.
**Reader, please note the website is now Going.com.
Jen: Excellent. Thank you so much, Scott. I really appreciate you talking with me.
Scott: It’s been so much fun. Thank you for having me on. I really appreciate it.
Till next time, safe travels!