May 18, 2004
This Scott McCartney Wall Street Journal ($) article reports that business travelers will have a new alternative to flying commercial airlines or buying their own jet as early as next year -- an "air taxi."
Using a new generation of small jets that are currently in flight testing, several entrepreneurs are trying to launch "air taxi" services. The goal is to let corporate travelers bypass crowded airports and fly into smaller, local airports, at half of the current cost of chartering a jet.
An outfit called IFly Air Taxi Inc. is floating the concept, and the owners of IFly are an eclectic mix of airline types -- Donald C. Burr, the founder of People Express Airlines back in the 1980s, his son, Cameron, and Mr. Burr's old rival, Robert L. Crandall, the former CEO of American Airlines that was instrumental in running Mr. Burr's People Express out of business.
One of the reasons that the air taxi concept is drawing interest is the new jet technology -- "micro jets" -- that will be used:
One reason for optimism that now is the right time for air taxis: The arrival of a new generation of four-passenger "micro jets" that can operate more cheaply than conventional jets. These aircraft typically are much lighter than conventional private jets, and are powered by a new generation of small, fuel-efficient engines. None of the planes are in service yet. Manufacturers are accepting advance orders, which so far are being placed by a mixture of private individuals and hopeful air-taxi operators.
iFly is expected to announce an order for Adam Aircraft jets soon. The Adam A700, which at $2 million is half of the price of the cheapest Cessna Citation jet right now, began flight tests in July 2003.
And how does an air taxi trip stack up to the current conventional modes of business air travel?:
The new planes have the potential to revolutionize transportation. Currently, chartering private jets is extremely expensive, costing $7,000 or more for a 500-mile hop, round-trip. Fractional ownership (where you buy a "share" of an aircraft that entitles you to use it periodically) is no bargain either. Corporate-owned jets, while sometimes economical for shuttling groups of executives, are often viewed as overly expensive perks.
Air-taxi service would be different, in theory at least. Mr. Burr says he can provide rides for $3 to $4 a mile, on average -- which works out to be a bit more expensive than most first-class tickets. A trip to Cleveland from Teterboro, N.J., for example, might cost $1,000 to $1,400 on average. By comparison, an unrestricted first class ticket on Continental Airlines from Newark, N.J., to Cleveland costs $1,338.
Of course, there are still a host of unanswered questions about the air taxi concept, such as how best to manage a fleet of such small jets to ensure maximum usage. However, Mr. McCartney sums up what the concept does make clear, which is really the beauty of American capitalism:
What seems clear is that transportation in the future will take many forms, and that our choices in the future may well be better than the ones we have today.
Posted by Tom at May 18, 2004 10:24 PM |
This is all fine
but taxi is another very expensive proposition
I believe the future stands with companies like Myjets Inc. that have a better concept which already exists
and for 16 cents per seat per mile, people can fly to their destination from small airports,
with today existing technology
Posted by: George Michael at May 20, 2004 10:58 AM
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