Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
That concept (in an ...eggshell) has plagued transportation industry planners since someone got the idea that a new-fangled device called the wheel could be used for transportation.
For air taxi companies like mine, the question probably is better put this way: "What comes first, the passenger wanting to go somewhere that requires a plane, or a plane going somewhere that attracts a passenger?"
With conventional airlines, the plane comes first. Then, if the people running the airline have done their homework and marketing right, the customers will come. Airline planners and schedulers study existing paths of commerce between any two cities on a map and make an educated guess about which two cities to connect with one or more of their planes. Then they go out and find the people who they believe have a need or desire to fly between those two cities, using a combination of price, advertising, service quality and differentiation, network opportunities and other inducements as their marketing tools.
In contrast, Linear Air's on-demand air taxi service is "customer first."
We attract passengers, who then tell us where they want to go, and from where. Whereas airlines build their flight schedules around the optimum use of their very expensive airplanes, we build our air taxi service around reducing travel time for our passengers. But doing that leaves us at risk of having our most valuable physical assets – our planes – sitting idle for long periods of time. Even with efficient Cirrus air taxis, we pay out of pocket to move (or "reposition") an aircraft, unless a customer purchases a flight along that particular route.
So, this leads to one of our biggest challenges as an air taxi company: how do we maximize the use of our aircraft? Ideally, we would fly passengers traveling one-way from City A to City B, and return passengers traveling one-way from City B to City A. Unfortunately, as a customer-centric on-demand flight service, it rarely works out that nicely for us.
When we launched Linear Air in 2004, we made a commitment to using technology to solve difficult problems. That's why we developed a dynamic partner network called Linear Connect, and why we use online travel search sites like Hipmunk and Kayak to connect customers to partner aircraft operators using our online booking system. We can't schedule our operations or sell our services through the computer system used by the big airlines and most travel agencies because those are designed around the airlines' rigid route structures. With those big systems, you either type your request into a computer or tell the airline or travel agent that you want to go from, say, Boston to Washington, D.C. You tell them that because that’s the most logical airline route served by the airlines that will meet your needs, even though you may really be traveling from Newton, Massachusetts to Laurel, Maryland.
But using high-tech, online platforms such as Linear Air's, you can request a direct flight from Newton to Laurel - or between virtually any other cities that aren't served by the airlines - by simply typing in the address of where you are and where you need to go. That allows you to bypass the big, time-wasting, hassle-packed airports the airlines use. Once you've made your request, Linear Air's system can automatically build a travel itinerary, typically at a price equal to or less than what you would spend on a longer, more frustrating and tiring airline trip. And in most cases, you can even use our website to build your own itinerary.
Linear Connect already enables booking of Cirrus air taxi service through a partnership with Hopscotch Air, an air taxi operator on Long Island, NY. We'll soon be doing the same for many other regions, further expanding the fleet of our Cirrus SR-22 air taxis. The SR-22 does not seat as many adult passengers or fly as fast as Linear Air's fleet of Eclipse jets, but it has the most advanced saety features of any piston-engine plane in the world. It has its own parachute that will land the plane and its passengers in the rare and unlikely event of any mechanical issues, and it is a fantastically economical choice for flights of 250 miles or less - about 90 minutes in the air. Air taxi service with the Cirrus is perfect for use on routes that are too short for even our economical Eclipse jets to operate efficiently and cheaply. It's also great for flying over densely populated areas where congested highways can turn a short drive into a long day on the road.
There are over 50 companies in the United States that operate Cirrus air taxi services using the SR-22. Together, they operate a combined fleet of 80 planes. Through Linear Connect partners, our Eclipse 500 jets, and revolutionary booking technology, we can create personalized itineraries using nearly 100 aircraft across the United States. As an on-demand air taxi service, these are often ready upon request - whenever you'd like to fly, your plane is ready.
We're doing this, of course, because of our continuing belief that customers come first, not the airplane or our route structure. We think our high tech customer-centric approach will continue to create fans of Linear Air, allowing us to expand our Eclipse and Cirrus air taxi services to ever more people.
See you onboard.