Do you dread searching the Internet for flights, hotels and rental cars? Do you long for the days when real, live travel agents were plentiful and available to help you plan the details of any trip—not just book a cruise or European tour?
Are you ready to get back to doing what you do best—i.e. meeting with clients, developing your latest product, or otherwise building your business—and turn your travel arrangements over to an expert?
If you answered in the affirmative to any of these questions, it’s time to check out Pana. Based in Denver and created by computer science graduates, the travel concierge company has combined technology, artificial intelligence, real humans and a mobile interface to make trip planning and traveling seamless and hassle-free for today’s busy professionals.
RewardExpert recently spoke with one of Pana’s co-founders, CEO Devon Tivona, about the inspiration behind the company, how the paid service works, and their recently launched complimentary app known as Pana Free.
Restoring Humanity to the Travel Planning Process
According to Tivona, travel planning in general has developed a bad rap over the last decade.
“We were really curious about why there was a meme about terrible customer service and travel,” he explained when asked what prompted him and his co-founders, Lianne Haug and Sam Felsenthal, to develop Pana. “And we wanted to take that almost nostalgic view of the ‘90s travel agent—someone who would call you when your flight was delayed or canceled and was always there to give you information and advice—and create a 21st-century, Internet-based technology-forward version.”
When an early rendition of their idea won the CU New Venture Challenge, earning them admission into Techstars Boulder in 2014, Pana was born. The company has since raised $2.5 million from investors and grown to 25 employees.
Pana Concierge Provides 24/7 Travel Assistance
Their first—and flagship—service, Pana Concierge, is essentially a 24/7 personal travel assistant members can use to find flights, hotels, rental cars and more based on human-generated suggestions that are tailored specifically to their needs and preferences.
Members connect with Pana’s customer experience team through an app, the website, email or text message. Within minutes, they receive real, live help and can book the options they choose with a single click.
Additionally, Pana Concierge members receive exclusive perks such as free upgrades and preferred rates as well as the company’s best-price booking guarantee—all for $49 a month or $499 a year after a seven-day free trial.
Pana Free for Everyone
While Tivona explained that Pana Concierge is best for professionals who travel at least once a month, last year the company launched a complimentary app, Pana Free, that any traveler will find useful.
“We were building a bunch of technology for our Pana Concierge members and thought, ‘Why don’t we let everyone use this technology to make their lives a little bit easier while introducing them to our products?’” Tivona said. “So, what really started off as a side project based on the requests of our Pana Concierge members turned into a free product. We’re really glad we took that direction because it allows us to help so many more travelers.”
The iPhone app allows travelers to create a free Pana account and connect it to their email inbox. The app will then automatically piece together their travel bookings—from flights and hotels to restaurants, car rentals and activities—to create a live itinerary that can be shared with others or combined with that of the friends, family or co-workers they are traveling with.
Whether you use Pana Free or are a Pana Concierge member, the app will also send you alerts on flight delays and gate changes in addition to assisting with the airline check-in process. This is particularly helpful for travelers who fly airlines, such as Southwest, that don’t allow for reserved seating.
“Pana Free will check you into your flight as soon as the chick-in window opens,” Tivona said. “I fly Southwest all the time and am consistently getting A-class boarding because of this feature.”
Coming Soon: Pana Business
The Pana team is currently hard at work building a new offering, called Pana Business, for companies whose employees are required to do a lot of traveling.
“We’re running pilots on it right now,” Tivona said. “The service is in limited release, and if any company wants to learn more, they can get ahold of us on our website. Basically, it’s a product that will change the way people look at corporate travel. We plan to bring the same level of ingenuity that we’ve used in Pana Free and Pana Concierge to the corporate world.”