Melbourne-based travel booking startup Airly is on a mission to make luxury jet-setting affordable, signing up more than 200 members to its on-demand private jet platform Jetshare within one week of launching.
The membership-based startup claims it can save customers 75% on selected private jet flights, with the Jetshare app offering travellers access to seats or entire aircraft on flights that would otherwise have been empty.
Co-founder Luke Hampshire has worked in the aviation sector since the age of 13, and says Airly was created to “democratise private jet travel” by utilising the often empty return-legs of private jets.
“We identified a really niche opportunity to give people a taste of private aviation at a low cost,” Hampshire says of his and co-founders Alexander Robinson and Ivan Vystovskiy’s business model.
“People think, ‘I’m not a celebrity or a billionaire, I can’t afford it [a private jet flight]’. We wanted to show people it could be done,” he tells StartupSmart.
Founded in early 2015, Airly’s original plan was to offer a membership-based shuttle service that would provid flights between Sydney and Melbourne for $3,000 – $5,000 per month. The founders now say this service will launch next year after realising the time frames for delivering this service were “too ambitious”.
Airly users need to pay a $99 joining fee and can pick from the dozens of flights on offer, with the option to enjoy a fully catered flight with dedicated flight attendants, and no strict check-in times. Instead of rushing to the airport to be turned away at the check-in desk, passengers can simply send their pilot a message letting them know they’re running late.
Hampshire notes the experience is much more intimate than commercial flights, because “you talk to your pilots, you shake their hands”.
While Hampshire notes Airly “isn’t going to compete with budget airfares” in terms of affordability, its prices sit on-par with business-class fares. A flight from Melbourne to Sydney might cost around $1500 for a six-seat jet, with a Brisbane to Sydney flight priced around $800.
Airly currently takes a 5% commission on its flights, however, Hampshire says in two months the platform will move to only charging membership fees and facilitating each trip at-cost, taking no margins on any flight.
“[Private jet] brokers tend to add the most ridiculous margins on to their costs, we’re being awfully transparent,” Hampshire says, noting that “brokers rule the roost” in overseas aviation markets.
Once Airly’s Jetshare business model gets off the ground, the startup hopes to expand its offerings to helicopter flights and international trips, while expanding its payments platform to accept Bitcoin and Alipay. The startup also intends to roll out a “verified membership” option, which will see users vetted through police checks and higher membership fees.
Since launching its Jetshare app last week, Airly has amassed 258 signups for the service. Hampshire says Australia is “a perfect validation ground” for the product, which it hopes to roll out overseas in future.
“It’s been a nice promising start but we’re really just scratching the surface,” he says.
“Aviation is a weird industry, people say that there’s nothing out there [but]… if we can prove it in Australia we know it can work elsewhere.”
“It’s a niche thing but from a global perspective this can be huge.”