easyJet wants to help you find a pet-sitter—which is a great business move

Did someone say vacation?
Did someone say vacation?
Image: Reuters/Toru Hanai
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Anyone who follows trends in the travel industry knows that hotels don’t want to just offer flights and accommodation anymore, they want to be “experience platforms,” too. Often though, these experience-led offerings end up coming short. They’re less revolutionary new ways to travel, and more conventional travel products with a few vaguely trendy, Instagram-ready add ons.

But a partnership with European budget airline easyJet and TrustedHousesitters—a company that connects people who need pet and house-sitters with people who want to pet or house-sit for free—is perhaps a meaningful (if slightly wacky) example of a travel company with a genuine experience-led offering. In the coming weeks, when you book a flight on easyJet, customers will “be able to book free house sitters for their pets or find free accommodation as a house sitter.”

In practice, it’s not quite as simple as that, of course. At the time of booking, travelers will have the opportunity become a member of TrustedHousesitters, which costs £89 ($123) per year whether you’re a person with a pet or a person that wants to look after a pet in exchange for free accommodation. Once you’ve paid that, you become part of the TrustedHousesitters network, which both serves as matchmaker and a verifier of would-be house or pet-sitters—with reviews, references, and ID checks carried out through the site. Nearly anyone can join as a sitter or homeowner, as the website community spans 130 countries.

In a sense, easyJet has folded the TrustedHousesitters service into its booking experience, and a rep confirmed that customers will pay no more than they would if they just joined via the company’s website. The partnership was born out of easyJet’s work with Founders Factory, a travel tech incubator and accelerator that spots and nurtures good ideas in the industry.

So what’s in it for easyJet? Other than potentially encouraging more people to book flights more often, ostensibly nothing. But as a brand-building exercise, it’s a shrewd move. Not having someone to look after your pets—or not having enough money to book accommodation—are considerable barriers to entry for people who want to travel more often. By offering a solution to that problem, easyJet is positioning itself as more than just an airline. Of course, there’s no doubt they also hope it will result in more flight bookings, too.

And sure, letting a stranger into your house to look after your cat may not be for everyone. But once upon a time, even Airbnb was deemed risky. Indeed, travelers are getting more open-minded to ways to move through the world more cheaply, and with a travel experience that’s less corporate and more local. While it may be coming from an unexpected source, easyJet’s new gambit appears to be a way to do just that.

Correction: This post was amended to reflect that TrustedHousesitters operates in 130 countries.