It shouldn’t be so hard to travel by air. While we may not expect luxury in these days of low-cost and no-frills airlines to whisk us away from our destinations, we assume that the flights we have booked will leave on time.
This confidence may be misplaced for the next few months. U.K. airports and airlines have struggled to train and recruit enough staff to keep things running as usual, as the travel demand is increasing and Covid restrictions are being lifted. The industry’s problems culminated during the Spring school holidays and Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. This was peak season for flying. Day after day, hundreds of flights were canceled by airlines and travel agencies, causing holiday plans to be ruined for thousands. It wasn’t just in Britain. There were cancellations at airports in Dublin, Amsterdam, and Toronto. This was not the best hour in the industry.
Perhaps now is the right time to start a company that seeks to make aviation more accessible to a broader audience.
TailHail, a company founded to make private aviation more affordable for people previously priced out of the market, soft-launched its app earlier this year. Although it would be wrong for TailHail to claim that it’s democratizing the rare world of private aviation, you don’t need to be very wealthy to book a TailHail flight. However, it is lowering the cost points.
Headwinds or Tailwinds?
But is it an excellent time to launch? There are many obstacles to overcome. Inflation, stagnating economies, and high energy prices are just a few challenges that must be overcome. These factors could limit private jet travel. I was interested in learning more about how a personal aviation startup would position itself in these difficult economic times when I spoke with James Moon and Marla Umbhi.
Tail Hail is a booking platform for private jet operators and customers. Owners can maximize their aircraft by creating a central marketplace. For example, a plane traveling from London to South France will be booked in both directions. This is an important aspect. Passengers are responsible for paying for their return and outward travel costs if a plane is only complete on one leg. The fees will be higher if both legs are booked.
Moon says, “Using technology can bring down price points.”
Moon believes the private jet market is fragmented, inefficient, and surprisingly low-tech. Moon says that most of the bookings have been made manually. TailHail allows owners to upload flights and routes, and then advertise empty legs that customers can book.
Is this a market that is ready for expansion? Despite all the inconveniences of low-cost travel (baggage restrictions and a lack of complimentary refreshments come to mind) the attraction between travelers and airlines offering routes to the sun for a few pounds, euro or dollars does not seem to be decreasing.
TailHail does have some market segments in mind. These include business travelers who want more convenience and wealthy millennials who will pay more for the comfort of private jets.
Marla Ubhi says that private aviation has many benefits. Private aviation offers convenience and time savings. You can fly directly to an airport with a private plane. Private aviation is essential for some countries.” Ubhi believes that the pandemic has increased demand. She says, “We have observed that people are becoming more concerned about germs.”
Recent travel chaos could also encourage business travelers and consumers to look into new travel options if they are affordable.
The Environmental Question
Let’s not forget about the environmentally conscious millennials who avoid brands that are less than ideal. Will they embrace private aviation?
Ubhi says, “We aren’t putting more airplanes in the air.” Ubhi says, “We’re better using the planes that fly.”
Moon echoes this point. He says, “We are proud that our technology will reduce aviation’s impact on the environment.”
Tailhail’s platform was not an easy project. The private plane market is a broad umbrella covering many operators. There are good and bad operators. Tail Hail began at the soft launch phase with a small network. This enabled the team to meet the operators and work out any issues with the software platform. The app is about to go live, so the operation is being scaled up.
Is it possible? It remains to be seen if it succeeds. However, with air transport chaos likely continuing, a platform that allows users to book flights and fly to and fro convenient airports quickly and easily might find an audience. The economic headwinds are also very real at the moment.