The Social Flights Industry Profile

by Dan Robles on 04/09/2011

There are many companies trying to do a better job of providing private air travel. As it turns out, it’s a very difficult problem to solve because there are simply too many variables that need to come together before a transaction can be consummated.  There is the airplane schedule, aircraft limitations, aircraft configuration, FAA Regulations, price of flight, traveler departure schedule, traveler destination, traveler return schedule, and integration with other transportation systems and support services.

Charter Operators

A standard charter operation keeps the aircraft fleet operational, ready and flexible but often depend on brokers to sell charter services to clients who are not at all price sensitive.  The aircraft is priced at about double the hourly operational cost in order to pay for the empty leg when the jet flies back to base.

Low Hanging Fruit

Empty Legs and ferry flights continue to astound the industry and ignite the imagination of many an entrepreneur.  Empty legs are essentially free one-way rides on a private jet flying back to base.  People have tried to sell empty legs in every conceivable way with little repeatable success.

Fractional Ownership

Companies such as NetJets Fractional ownership and Marqui jet Cards offer access to a flexible fleet of aircraft.   Customers buy from 25 hours all the way to several hundred hours of usage per year while the operators manage maintenance and pilot schedules, etc.  The cost of these programs can be as low as $60,000 dollar minimum all the way up to millions of dollars for fractional ownership positions.

Per-seat, on-demand, per-hour, no-contract, no-waiting, air-taxi….

There are as many companies in this category as there are travel words that can be connected by a hyphen.  Some solve the scheduling piece for the travelers by constraining operator variables. Some solve the scheduling piece for the operators by constraining passenger variables,  Some promise to solve the pricing problem…if only there was enough passenger volume.

Some use algorithmic solutions that scrape FAA flight plan data or Charter Listing services to match planes to people.  Others use marketing solutions with the “Green” spin or the “Time Savings” plan.  Some cater to the corporate client, others cater to the VIPs, and yet others are going for the regular Joe looking to hop a ride.  But none solve the whole equation.

Let People build Their own Community Airline

Volume is the key price driver for private aviation.  If all seats can be filled in both directions of an optimally located airplane, then private aviation becomes affordable to a vastly larger market. By opening this larger market, the volumes can then be attained to assure that the seats are filled in both directions in the first place.  If commercial aviation continue to get worse, the value proposition of private aviation will increase substantially.

Therefore, our competition are not the other charter operators or brokers in private aviation – nor is their competition with us – our competitors are seat utilization, and volume of flights.  We can’t solve these problems by ourselves – we can only do everything that we can think of to enable the travel community to solve air travel problems for themselves. The only solution is to become part of the community and that’s why we rely on Social Media.

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