Fare Play: Scott’s Cheap Flights started as a hobby

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Scott Keyes was perusing flights in 2013, when he came across roundtrip airfare from New York City to Milan for $130.

The “mistake fare” was so reasonable that he jumped on a plane and headed to Italy. When Keyes returned home, his friends and colleagues wanted him to help them find great deals. As a hobby, Keyes searched for mistake fares, cheap deals and special pricing.

Two years later, Scott’s Cheap Flights became his full-time job. Now it serves nearly 2 million members and has a team of more than 50 “travel aficionados.”

“It’s been going strong,” Keyes says. “I’ve been able to use my cheap flight expertise for seven years. I have up to 40 people on the team today, including my CEO Brian (Kidwell). It is a total pinch myself type of experience.”

With Scott’s Cheap Flights, customers choose their home airport and then select a membership tier. It offers a free service for those who just want to try the service and get the occasional economy class deals. For travelers who want the best economy class deals, there’s a premium plan. Elite offers deals in premium economy, business and first class.

Scott’s Cheap Flights then sends fare deals to inboxes.

Airline prices, Keyes says, are the biggest hurdles for those wanting to see the world. That group included him before he did a deep dive into costs.

“I thought if I could find those cheap flights, then I’d be able to take all those trips and visit places around the world,” Keyes explains.

“When I started doing this as an actual business, it was the golden age of cheap flights. Around then, long haul international airfare was affordable and downright cheap in many cases.”

The cost of traveling is slowly climbing, but there are deals out there, he says.

“Typically speaking, when one airline has a hub or a monopoly on flights, that limits the number of good deals they have there,” he says.

“We see a ton of great deals out of Phoenix and Tucson. We’ve seen Colombia for $240, Costa Rica for $265, Spain for $366, Athens for $462 — all roundtrip. They’re popping up constantly. There are a ton of great fares.”

Keyes suggests booking those “cheap deals” quickly before they disappear.

“When those $350 tickets to Spain pop up or the $250 tickets to Hawaii pop up, you need to find out about them early so you can book them. That’s where I come in.”

Since the pandemic, air travel has rebounded, but not quite to pre-pandemic levels, he explains. Those who choose to travel will find a “silver lining.”

“You can travel to tourist destinations and see a fraction of the normal tourist crowd,” Keyes says. “If you go to Valencia in Spain in June, it’s totally packed. It’s crowded with tourists. When we were there, we had the place to ourselves. It was just us and the locals.

“I don’t know if we’ll have an opportunity again in our lifetime to have these iconic world-class destinations without throngs of tourists again. Far be it from me to pressure anybody to take a trip, but for those who are willing, there’s a real window of opportunity to experience these places in a way we may never see them again.”