By Devin Rose
An Oak Park couple has come up with a service that answers a question frequently plaguing airline travelers — to book or not to book?
Heidi Brown and her husband, Robert, have come up with a service that will give travelers the option to hold flights at the same dates, times and prices that they initially found them.
BitBend's beta version will be up and running starting Nov. 1
Heidi Brown said they hope to appeal to anyone who's had regrets after failing to book a flight and later seeing the price go up. BitBend allows users to hold flight options for three, seven, 14 or 21 days for between $7 and $12, depending on the length of time.
Held flights can then be booked on the website, or the option will expire after the allotted time.
Brown said she hopes the service encourages people at any age to take trips for fun while also having the time to decide on the logistics, like whether or not they can get off work.
They hope to eventually have a BitBend button on travel sites that allows users to "bend it now."
"We're really saying, 'Hey, why not get your friends together and go on a trip?'" Brown said.
One of the triggers to start the service may have been the couple's time living in Europe for a decade after college. Brown lived in Germany while her husband lived in England, and they often took weekend trips to other countries for less money than they would've spent in the U.S. Brown said it seemed like people here only tend to use air travel for business trips or longer vacations, like Disneyland or Paris.
The Browns, who were both working in the financial market, were on vacation in London when they came up with the idea. The service combined their work experience with travel, which they both love.
Brown started working out the details about a year ago, and her husband quit his broker job in June to be able to devote the time it needed.
"We're taking a lot of risk, but you only live once," she said.
Now they work with a former airline employee, a developer and a designer in a space at Chicago's Merchandise Mart for digital entrepreneurs, which Brown noted was mostly a younger crowd. She and Robert take turns tending to their 7- and 9-year-old kids if something comes up during the workday.
At first, the service will offer bends for about 15 destinations like Miami, Seattle, Washington D.C., and Las Vegas.
Eventually, Brown said they're hoping to partner with travel sites and airlines and offer bends on all domestic and international flights.
To register for the website's beta launch, visit www.bitbend.com.
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