The Big Idea: Knowing Application
one of the The glaring shortcoming of private aviation is the lack of an industry-wide application that provides guaranteed fares and real-time information. Half a dozen major companies have invested tens of millions in developing apps for their own fleets. But most airlines use a proprietary version of public software from Avinode or FlyEasy, which provides the same data to all subscribers and lists estimated costs rather than final prices, often with a time delay.
A perfect storm of unprecedented demand, a lack of aircraft, and a deeply fractured operator base have prevented most companies from developing their own applications. The majority of providers have fewer than 10 aircraft, according to the Jetnet data service, while only 10 have more than 50 aircraft in their fleets. It is unlikely that these small companies will have the resources to invest in new technologies.
“A lot of small businesses work on spreadsheets or an outdated Windows desktop tool,” says Wheels Up Chief Product Officer Jen McKenna, a former CEO of Groupon who now oversees a 100-plus development team. “We’ve focused on scheduling optimization across these platforms to make it easier for them to get real-time information to us.”
“The more data points we collect, the more powerful our algorithm becomes,” adds Vinay Roy, Product Manager at Vista Global Holding. “As our user database grows, these AI capabilities will become more complex, allowing for further reduced response times and competitive pricing.”
Andrew Collins, president and CEO of Sentient Jet, acknowledges that switching mom and people to 21st century technology is likely to be slow and expensive, but he believes it will happen “in a relatively short period of time.” “This is an incredibly complex and dynamic market,” he says. “But it’s also not big enough, unlike in the commercial aviation sector, to handle the permutations that go through it easily.” Substitutions such as real-time scheduling, instant pricing, the inability to order food online, and expenses such as fuel surcharges.
But industry leaders are determined to have an application that transcends the highly fractured aviation gap. Vista’s Sentient Jet, Wheels Up, and XO all offer spot rates. They have all invested in both technology and brainpower to make their applications faster, more accurate and useful for private publications, many of which are new to the industry. For example, the Sentient app has a flight tracker and information on the day of the flight in its latest update.
The latest version of Wheels Up has similar features, with plans to add luxury resorts and charter yachts for seamless travel – the goal being Expedia for high net worth individuals. It also hopes to introduce a social networking component among members.
In addition to the advantage that the app offers across the industry against less-funded competitors, leaders see it as something to fit in with the personal digital revolution that is revolutionizing the rest of society. “We want our customers to have the white glove experience, but we also want them to feel in control and able to solve their problems online,” McKenna says. “This will only happen with an app.”