Air travel shouldn’t be that hard. Granted, in the age of low-cost, no-frills airlines, few of us expect much luxury when we head to the airport gates, but at the very least we assume that – for the most part – the flights we have booked will depart with only minimal delay.
For the next few months at least, that confidence could be misplaced. With travel demand increasing as Covid restrictions fall, UK airlines and airports are struggling to recruit and train enough staff to ensure everything runs smoothly. The industry’s troubles peaked in the period around spring school holidays and the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. It was a peak time to fly and day by day airlines and travel agencies canceled hundreds of flights, throwing thousands of people’s holiday plans into chaos. And it wasn’t just in Britain. Airports serving Dublin, Amsterdam and Toronto have also been hit by cancellations. It wasn’t the finest hour in the industry.
So maybe now is a good time to start a business that aims to bring a more luxurious – or at the very least practical – form of aviation within reach of more people.
Soft-launched earlier this year and now offering an app to complement its existing website, TailHail is a company founded to make private jet travel more accessible to people who would previously have been shut out of the market. It would be wrong to suggest that this democratizes the rarefied world of private aviation – you have to be well-off enough to board a flight booked through TailHail – but it drives prices down.
Headwinds or Tailwinds?
Again, is this really the right time to get started? There are quite a few headwinds to overcome. Stagnant economies, inflation, energy prices and ongoing climate change agenda. These are factors that could dampen any expansion in the use of private jet travel. When I spoke to co-founders James Moon and Marla Ubhi, I wanted to know more about positioning a private aviation startup in these troubled economic times.
Tail Hail is essentially a booking platform that aims to benefit both private jet owners/operators and potential customers. The idea is that by creating a central market, owners can get the most out of their aircraft – for example by ensuring that an aircraft traveling from London to the South of France is fully booked both ways rather than , say, full on the first leg and empty on the second. It is an important factor. If a plane is full on a single leg, passengers actually pay for the round trip. If both legs are booked, the costs balance out.
“Using our technology, we can bring prices down,” Moon says.
According to Moon, the private jet market has been fragmented, inefficient and surprisingly low-tech. “Most bookings have been manual,” he says. The TailHail system allows owners to upload their flights and itineraries and advertise empty rides, which can then be booked by consumers.
But is it really a market that is ripe for expansion. For all the deprivations of low-cost travel – luggage restrictions and the obvious lack of free refreshments – the love affair between travelers and airlines that offer itineraries to the sun for just a few pounds, euros or dollars does not does not exist. seem to decrease.
But TailHail has clear market segments in mind, including business travelers looking for more convenience and affluent millennials who are willing to spend a little more for the kind of comforts that private jets provide. .
“The benefits of private aviation are substantial,” says Marla Ubhi. “They include convenience and time spent traveling – you can fly directly to a particular airport in a private jet. And in some countries, private aviation is essential for getting around. Ubhi also believes the pandemic has increased potential demand. “What we’ve noticed is that people are getting more and more worried about germs,” she says.
The recent travel chaos may also prompt business travelers and consumers to consider new modes of transportation, if the price is right.
The environmental issue
But let’s get back to those wealthy millennials – a generation that is said to be so environmentally conscious that they shun brands that are considered less than environmentally or socially optimal. Will they open up to private aviation?
“We’re not putting more planes in the air,” Ubhi says. “We make better use of planes that fly.”
Moon emphasizes this point. “We are very proud that our technology will reduce the impact of aviation on the environment,” he says.
Tailhail’s platform wasn’t easy or simple to build. The private aircraft market is a generic term that refers to a myriad of operators. Some good, some bad. Tail Hail started at the soft launch stage by building a small network. This allowed the team to get to know the operators and also to troubleshoot software platform issues. While the application is about to be launched, the operation is being intensified.
Will he succeed? that remains to be seen, but with air travel chaos likely to continue, a platform that allows people to book flights and fly to and from convenient airports with minimal delay may well find an audience. Likewise, however, the economic headwinds right now are very real.
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