An open letter from our CEO: We need each other, more than ever

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Dear Flashpackers,

Flash Pack’s mission – our sole purpose – has always been to create meaningful connections through adventure. 

To unite solo travellers in their 30s and 40s through the power of travel, and be a voice for those who search for like-minded adventurers. In the six, short years we’ve been around, we’ve built a thousands-strong community of incredible Flashpackers who are there to answer the call. 

And community – our people – runs deep at Flash Pack. We obsess over it. It’s why we exist, and at the very core of why Flash Pack was born. I started this business because I was a 30-something, tired of my job and craving a break with others like me. This business is personal. 

But, in recent weeks, this might not have seemed the case.

Flash Pack is a small business that thrives on personal touches and intimate relationships with our customers. But the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a wedge between some of us – and I know we’ve fallen short of expectations in more areas than one. I owe those affected an apology, and have a responsibility to all future Flashpackers to provide some further explanation.

As Flash Pack’s Co-founder & CEO, I want to provide some context, and then reassurance, as to how we’ve been handling our response to this pandemic.

Your adventures matter

Firstly, I want to say a heartfelt thank you to every customer who has, so far, been able to transfer to a new date in the future or willingly accepted a Refund Credit Note. By leaving your booking with us, you’re pledging a commitment to building a future that has a solo travelling community at its beating heart. 

Your adventures – your bookings with us – matter.

For, when this is all over, we’re all going to need each other more than ever. When the world reopens, your booking means the Flash Pack community will be there, enabling us to bring you together with solo travellers like you. A future full of life-changing adventure, bucket list experiences, boutique accommodation and lifelong friendships, waiting for you. 

This is what a transfer or credit note stands for.

A maelstrom of disruption

Although we’ve dealt with national travel emergencies in the past, we simply weren’t prepared for a pandemic of this magnitude. It’s been widely reported that existing travel package regulations (which our T&Cs are built upon) were never set up for the worldwide shut down of travel, overnight – and neither were we.

As a result, Flash Pack and the large ecosystem of local guides and suppliers we exist in, was placed suddenly at risk of total collapse. We’re a small, self-funded business, without deep pockets to fall back on or investors that can bail us out, so we need business to be running again as normal to get back on track. This means, in the interim, I’ve been forced to alter our booking policy.

What we’re changing

Firstly, in the six years we’ve been operating as a business, we’ve never, ever withheld refunds. To do so feels completely counterintuitive to who we are as a business, and the exceptional customer service at the core of everything we do. However, the situation we now find ourselves in, the world over, is uniquely different to that of business as usual and we’ve had to make some changes.

For those who have an adventure postponed and request a refund (instead of a transfer), we’re now issuing an industry-backed Refund Credit Note, valid for 12 months. This credit note can be redeemed against a new departure or destination of your choice  or will result in a full cash refund on its expiry; 12 months from its issue date. 

This is because we need visibility on how many refunds we’ll need to process in total to figure out an accurate timeframe in which to roll them out. The problem is, with no signs of borders reopening yet, it’s impossible to know how long postponements will need to go on for. And so we don’t yet know the true total of refunds due. 

Once we know this, we’ll begin to refund customers in priority order, right away. Working out this timeline isn’t up to us, it’s determined by when COVID-19 allows the world to reopen again. So, for now, I’ve set out a timeline of 12 months using Refund Credit Notes.

However, having spoken to some of our most affected customers, together with my Co-founder, Lee, I know how frustrating this situation feels. And I know we need to do our utmost to rectify it at speed, starting with doing things differently moving forward.

So, we’re also implementing these key changes, as a first step, to improve flexibility and step-up our assurances to you:

  • A commitment to refund everyone who wants a refund, within 12 months, or sooner, if possible.
  • Postponing trips at least two months before they depart instead of 30 days, to give much more notice.
  • Ramping up flexibility on new and existing bookings, so customers can change to any departure, on any date – at almost any time. 
  • Reducing the window in which we ask for full payments by half, from 90 days to 45 days, on all bookings.
  • Offering an extra 10% credit, on any trip, for any transfer, to any later date.

A small business with big ambitions

Lastly, we’re also a young business, albeit delivering thousands of adventures, and just a small team. My Co-founder, Lee, and I built Flash Pack from our back bedroom with just a handful of personal savings and, in fact, only quit our full-time jobs in 2016, previously running Flash Pack in our evenings and weekends. Much to the credit of an incredible team and wonderful network of Flashpackers, the business has experienced explosive, bootstrapped growth since those early days, six years ago. 

However, we’ve had to make some difficult decisions that affect our staff, too. We immediately placed 80% of our team on the UK Government’s ‘furlough scheme’, with any remaining staff on substantial salary cuts. That means we’re now a team of just 15, all working from home in isolation like you, and this is why you’ll have experienced slower-than-usual response times. I want to thank you in advance for continuing to treat the team with respect and kindness. 

What happens next?

Well, to start with, we will explore together again.

This has been the most challenging period we’ve ever faced as a business and, although the situation is and continues to be unprecedented, it deeply saddens me that we’ve not been able to act like the Flash Pack you and I know, and expect.

For now, I please ask you for some time to get back on our feet. We’re deeply committed to surviving this pandemic, making things right and returning to our mission of connecting hundreds of thousands of solo travellers, once this is all over. I truly hope, one day, you’ll return to be one of them – for we’ll be here for you, whenever you’re ready.

Until we can all explore together again, thank you and I hope you stay well.

Yours faithfully,

Radha Vyas

Co-founder and CEO, Flash Pack

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