The Boomer demographic

What's behind the NextFlightHomeTM concept? Simple: "Boomers." I am one of them, a leading edge Baby Boomer born during the first wave in early 1946, after my Dad recovered from his World War II injuries and mustered out of the military to start his civilian career and family. These days, like so many of my 76 million-strong Boomer cohort (~28% of the U.S. population, defined more or less as those born during the period from 1946 through 1964), I keep one suitcase mentally packed at all times. My Dad is now 88 and lingering in a nursing home in central Florida, enfeebled by dementia. My Mom is 82 and still independent, though only marginally mobile. The enervating encroachments of age similarly impinge increasingly on my wife’s parents back in rural northern Alabama.

Consequently, we minimally expect four distressing phone calls at random intervals in the coming years, imploring us to get back home quickly. For us this means at least three short-notice round-trip cross-country airline reservations (along with car rentals)—four times. Twelve last-minute seats (my wife, our son, and me), just to pay respects and help tend to the affairs of the parents when the times come. And, our daughter and her son just moved here to Vegas from Florida, so make that perhaps five round-trip seats each time. I just checked online prices: five immediate family last-minute "lowest fare" round-trip seats, Vegas to/from Orlando, and Vegas to/from Huntsville, Alabama, roughly $13,000 retail covering all four parents. So much for all of my DiscoverCard available credit (and part of another card, or a chunk of my savings).

There are tens of millions of Boomers facing similar circumstances.

Airline bereavement fare policies

Four adjectives become evident after a bit of research: complicated, confusing, contentious, and air carrier-specific. Just what you don't need when you’ve just gotten "The Call." For someone living beyond driving distance from loved ones, what would be extremely beneficial at such a time would be the ability to make one call that gets you on the next available flight at advance reservation discount rates, complete with rental car and lodging at the destination as required.

The  rapidly growing "stored value" concept

The bank where I work is getting tepidly into the "stored value card" arena, an expanding area of retail financial services. During a recent weekend, as I pondered this nascent offering and our associated hand-wringing over issues such as the chump-change prospects of someone getting auth'ed to pump a buck too much gas at Quik-Mart, the NextFlightHome idea bubbled up in my mind. Essentially a stored value product, also not conceptually distant from "insurance." You know you're going to have to book these trips. Why not avail yourself of a service that will get you the lowest price at the least hassle when the time inevitably comes. Moreover, if your credit rating warrants, you can even spread the payments conveniently -- making it in effect a (competitively priced) credit offering should you choose not to store the value up front.

Mitigating the "I-gotta-get-there-now" hassle factor

What is that worth? Air-carrier bereavement rate policies typically require authentication documentation confirming that you are in fact "immediate family" and that a next-of-kin has indeed passed on. NextFlightHome perhaps doesn't even care. It's your account, your money; you can use it as you wish. You can always reload. The built-in activation waiting period precludes using the service as an end-run around regular retail airfare rates, and, should you have opted for and been approved for the revolving credit payment option, your account must be in good standing to book an itinerary. We've even provided for that, with our credit insurance cross-sell ancillary product, and the fact that we provide shamelessly copied positive incentives such as "payment points" and other non-punitive inducements (e.g., sweepstakes entries) for keeping accounts current.

Vetting the concept

  1. Market research: What proportion of the target demo lives beyond reasonable driving distance from kin/loved ones? What are the ranges of potential cost savings -- i.e., the major component of the value proposition? Who, if anyone, is already in the game? (e.g., see, which is a pretty restrictive offering, and looks rather amateurish.)

  2. SWOT analysis: Strengths? We have the baddest risk assessment/management team around. We know about credit issuance and management, operations, fraud, customer service, collections, P&L modeling, etc. Weaknesses? We don't know much about "travel agency" type customer service and the travel booking industry. Stellar Just-In-Time customer service would be absolutely critical. Opportunities? Beyond the basic value proposition, might we fold this into the emerging proposed Homeland Security "Trusted Traveler" designation, i.e, our customers get a biometric photo ID card, and are pre-cleared for minimal airport security? Also, cross-selling opportunities (including perhaps more generalized travel/leisure products and services): the Boomer demographic is fairly affluent in the aggregate relative to the general population.  Threats? Regulatory (Are we a "bank"? An "insurance company"? Could this be viewed in a potential Ponzi Scheme light?), Competition -- the airlines themselves could simply offer the same type of service and cut us out of the picture. I leave much of this analysis to you MBAs.

  3. Capitalization: Cut against the grain and do a style IPO? Ticker symbol NFH is not in use. Venture capitalists are thirsty for good new opportunities after the disasters of a few years ago. Yeah, that's a HUGE undertaking. So what? Huge upside potential, too.

NOTE: I recently bought the internet domain name "" Haven't site hosted it yet.
Just a cheap investment at this point. I hereby declare "NextFlightHome" [TM] and "" [TM]
to be my common-law trademarks. -- Robert E. Gladd