Interview: Speaking with Flyt at EBACE 2018
FLYT has made a name for itself in the helicopter industry in a short period of time. Having launched it’s digital helicopter booking platform in April, the service correlates price quotes and available flights from a number of UK operators, allowing customers to book helicopter flights on the go via their smartphone.
The service is headed by tech entrepreneur Andy King and SaxonAir co-founder James Palmer and is based at London Battersea Heliport.
Meeting at EBACE last week, we spoke to both Mr King and Mr Palmer about how many people are interested in the service, improving service in the helicopter industry and why booking platforms have not taken off in the helicopter market.
What has the reception been since the launch?
AK: “It has been very positive both from the industry and customers, feedback from operators is that they need something like this that will make it easier for people to book helicopter flights. We know that similar platforms for booking private jets have had a positive impact, increasing efficiency for operators and making pricing more transparent for customers.”
What led you into the helicopter market?
AK: “I’ve always had a passion for flying. My career has always been in tech, but two years ago I decided to train as a professional helicopter pilot. Coming from the tech world I was surprised to discover that the helicopter industry was operating with hardly any technology at all.
“I thought that, if people are able to book taxis, trains and now even private jets on their computers and phones, why can’t they book helicopters? This is especially strange as, when you book a helicopter, you are usually looking to save time.
“Not being able to get an accurate quote instantly and or know whether the helicopter is available is something that needed to be changed. The booking side of helicopter charter is out-of-date, and at odds with how high-tech the machines actually flying are.
“I contacted James who had tried to work with existing private aviation companies to solve this problem. However they realised they would have needed to change their underlying platforms to support helicopters, something which they’re not willing to do, as well as the added complexity of arranging helicopters compared to private jets.”
JP: “If I recall correctly, I grilled you hard on the proposal. It was not the first time someone had proposed this and I understood why it had not worked previously. I also wanted to find out that he really wanted to figure out a solution. It was clear over that time that we were on the same page.”
Why do you think previous online helicopter booking solutions have not taken off?
JP: “I would say that there have not been any major failings, but the private jet world is the big brother of the business aviation market and there is a lot more money circulating inside that market and the price of the flights are larger. From a business perspective there is a lot of money in it and, if the money keeps coming, the business aviation world is not likely to prioritise rotary operators. .
“You do not fly helicopters as far as jets, so you get less money per flight. And by their very nature, they can take off from basically anywhere. It makes it a lot more logistically complicated for people trying to build a booking platform for these services.
“A lot of business-aviation platforms realised that if they were going to do this, they would need to change their model significantly to make helicopter booking easier when, realistically, helicopter flights are a small part of their overall business.
“I thought we needed to design it all from the ground up for the helicopter market.”
What services were you looking at for inspiration?
AK: “As we were trying to build the best user experience possible, we were looking at the best in class, not just from the jet world like Stratajet, Victor and PrivateFly but from other online booking services such as Uber for instance.”
JP: “We have been looking at pretty much every model that has come out since we started and seeing whether they will apply to the helicopter booking market – membership clubs and jet-card services too.”
AK: “We have most of the UK’s operators on our platform, it doesn’t cost them anything to register their fleet, we help get them reach new customers who have never previously considered using a helicopter. We’ve secured investment from some of the UK’s leading business angels who are helping us develop the business.”