Social Flights is Not Just For Little Jets

by Dan Robles on 04/23/2011

Social Flights has long proven that the power of social media can influence the demand side of air transportation. Our 2010 flights between Nashville and Mississippi State football games, sending over 90 passengers, were filled from a single Facebook in record time.  We know that the potential is great – now, the task is to make that repeatable and scalable within the existing air transportation system.

The following was adapted from various sources on the net:

Last January a group of DJs, promoters, label reps and ‘professional party people’ from the Netherlands persuaded Dutch airline KLM to add an extra flight to its roster. In a new twist on crowd-buying, the initiators of Fly2Miami made a bet with KLM on Twitter to organize a non-stop flight from Amsterdam to Miami.

If Fly2Miami could get 351 seats reserved before December 6th, KLM would add a flight to its schedule on 21 March 2011, specifically for people attending the Ultra Music Festival and related parties. Exceeding everyone’s expectations, the flight was fully booked within five hours.

Easier said than done

It is not an easy task to just throw an airplane across the ocean to wherever people want to go.  The Plane must be economically full of passengers.  The airplane must fly back to base empty or redeployed (it can’t hang around and attend the parties too). Fueling is conducted through a series of complex contracts and alliances that may not be available everywhere. Arrival slots and and airport gates are rationed delicately – or they get very expensive.  Substantial planning and resource allocation goes into each flight, etc.

But this does not mean it cannot be done – as KLM rightfully celebrates.  KLM knew it was worth doing and the buzz they generated was well worth the expense. It would have been a lot easier and cheaper to send those 351 passengers to an airline that does fly the route.

Why Solve problems that don’t exist?

In fact, many of these problems are reduced when the plane can fly into a non-hub airport.  Many of these problems are reduced using smaller airplanes.  Many of these problems are reduced using local service providers.  While small business jets are expensive, they live in an air transportation system that is highly flexible, explicitly on-demand, and adequately organized for traveler services.  Private aviation wrote the book of on-demand air travel.

The next challenge – find the sweet spot

In order to get the cost down, while maintaining the on-demand features, Social Flights is also aiming at regional airlines and their regional jets (30-90 passenger aircraft) as a potential sweet spot. Today, most regional airlines fly as feeders to the majors hubs, yet there is substantial capacity to fly them to other small airports on-demand. Social Flights is clearly looking to this segment as a highly promising outlet for high flexibility, on-demand service organized by grass roots efforts in social media.

Bring us your ideas and let us take you there.

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