An Uber-for-planes startup wants to let everyday Australians fly on private jets

Airly’s Luke Hampshire and Alexander Robinson. Picture: Eli Dangerfield

A Melbourne startup has used the “empty capacity” sale concept that Uber works on to make private jet travel available to everyday people.

Airly, which launched in early 2016, has temporarily deviated from its original mission of all-you-can-eat flights by monthly subscription, and has started offering rideshares on what it terms private jets on “empty lease” under the brand JetShare by Airly.

Empty lease occurs when a plane needs to be taken to a particular location for the start of a charter booking. Airly is taking advantage of this vacant flight and allowing jet operators to offer the seats at a heavily discounted rate.

“That’s how we give people a taste,” said Airly co-founder Luke Hampshire, adding the passengers on its first flight two weeks ago, from Melbourne’s Essendon Airport to Brisbane, were delighted with the luxury experience.

“You should have seen the faces on the folks that came on that trip. They never want to fly commercial again… It’s just a different world, it’s really really cool, and we want more people to experience that.”

As an example of pricing, Hampshire said that Melbourne to Brisbane flight would have cost $15,000 to charter, but instead cost $5000 — which per person is comparable to a business class ticket on commercial airlines.

“We saved 66%, but we got the whole treatment. It’s a walk-up into the lounge, the pilots actually talk to you, shake your hand and it’s a very calm atmosphere. You hop on a beautiful eight-seat jet, punch out of Essendon, and in no time we were landing in Brisbane and through another lounge. No crowds, no nonsense.”

Passengers apply for Airly membership for $99, while the startup also keeps 5% of the fare set by the jet operator. Flights and seat availability can be known “well in advance” or only at the last minute, depending on the operator.

Hampshire told Business Insider that the original business plan to have monthly subscriptions that provide regular rides on shuttles between Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra is still the dream, but unforeseen hurdles have not yet allowed that concept to be commercialised.

“We probably bit off more than we can chew in the execution. I think trying to take a copy-and-paste approach to what they’re doing in the US (hasn’t worked),” he said.

“Long term the shuttles are still there. It will happen – but we obviously have to do a lot more than what we thought.”

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