BTN spotlight: Chris Cuddy, CEO, Cheapflights
Chris Cuddy joined the Cheapflights board in October 2005 as Group Managing Director and was appointed CEO in March 2008. He has 20 years of experience in technology-driven companies, including heading up the online advertising network, Engage.
He has a wealth of experience in launching high-growth companies and serves on the Screening Committee of Launchpad Venture Group. Chris holds an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University and a BSc in Computer Science/Electrical Engineering from George Washington University. A long-time flight enthusiast, he also holds a student pilot’s licence.
BTN: Which areas of the internet do you think have most potential and why?
CC: One of the greatest online opportunities is in providing users with a truly personalized, relevant experience. Social media is at the forefront in many ways of connecting individuals to topics or each other in a very meaningful way. Users are increasingly asking for “what I want, when I want it, and nothing else.” Those companies that can master this in a way that is almost invisible to the user will provide real value to their users and have a real advantage over their competition.
BTN: How is user-generated content influencing the way you evolve as a company?
CC: As a consumer-champion for travel, we must connect with our audience on every platform. User-gen allows us to bring last-minute deals to fliers, help travellers find cheap flights through our system, and alert travellers of any last-minute airline/airport news information, including delays, closures or new TSA rules, for example.
BTN: How do you see travel comparison sites evolving?
CC: Travel comparison sites are becoming more global and more personalized over time. Cheapflights has grown from a UK and US site to seven countries in just three years. Travel is a global business and travel search sites are mirroring that. We also see a growing importance of providing travellers with relevant information. How many of us have ever looked past the second or third page of Google results? The same applies for travel sites. The travel sites that can provide a truly personalized experience – become the Amazon.com of travel – will be the leaders of the future.
BTN: How has the role of Cheapflights changed over the past 12 months? And how has your role in particular changed?
CC: More people have visited Cheapflights websites in the UK, US, Canada, Germany, Australia/New Zealand and Spain. Who doesn’t want cheap flights in these difficult economic times? Travellers have promoted Cheapflights to a “must visit” destination when making travel plans. My role as consumer champion has grown considerably this year as travellers are desperate to stretch their money and find fantastic deals amidst all the clutter and confusion. Cheapflights can make the difference between a family being able to afford a vacation this year or not. What a great service!
BTN: Which aspects of the company are you most proud of and why?
CC: Cheapflights has partnered with the broadest selection of flights providers on the planet for users to search all in one place. We have direct relationships with literally hundreds of partners including low-cost airlines, travel agents, major airlines, specialists, and charter airlines – including many you have likely never heard of.
BTN: How did you first get started in the travel business?
CC: I have travelled for business and pleasure all of my life. Last year, I flew over 100,000 miles, all in economy class! I know how a fantastic deal can make or break your budget when travelling. Cheapflights stood out for me because it truly is the traveller’s champion. Cheapflights provides completely independent advice on where to go, and how to get there.
BTN: What do you look for when launching a new project?
CC: Everything we do at Cheapflights must delight the user, or we won’t even consider it. Unlike some companies, financial potential does not determine which new products we build or what improvements we make. Instead, we test new concepts for user acceptance. That is our primary criteria. If users absolutely love it, we will find a way to make it pay.
BTN: What’s your biggest thrill as chief exec?
CC: Getting an email from a traveller who was able to visit a distant relative, or plan a dream honeymoon, or visit a son or daughter at college, or take a 50th wedding anniversary trip, because Cheapflights helped them make it happen!
BTN: Which of your achievements are you most proud of and why?
CC: Cheapflights had over 8 million visits last month which tells me that we provide a unique service that travellers love.
BTN: How is the global roll-out of Cheapflights progressing?
CC: Last year, Cheapflights operated in the UK, US, and CA. In the past year, Cheapflights has launched websites in Germany, Australia/New Zealand, and Spain. We are committed to bringing Cheapflights unique model to travellers around the world. Travellers and our flying partners are asking for it.