Seaplane service Tailwind Air sees engagement skyrocket with mobile app

Seaplane operator Tailwind Air LLC is pushing further into the air taxi market with more short flights between downtown New York and Boston, with a new mobile app attracting more passengers, the company’s chief executive says. the society.

The Rye Brook, NY-based startup, launched in 2014, plans this month to add direct flights from Boston’s Fan Pier Marina to Provincetown in Cape Cod, Mass., promising a 35-minute trip from a pier to another, said general manager Alan Ram. The company has also added flights from Manhattan’s SkyPort marina on the East River to Provincetown via Fan Pier, he said.

Each of the company’s three Cessna Caravan EX amphibious seaplanes has eight seats. Passengers are allowed one piece of luggage weighing less than 20 pounds, which is then stowed under a facing seat or in the rear overhead compartment.

In addition to seaplanes, the company also operates 17 landplanes under management, ranging from Gulfstream and Falcon jets to King Air and Pilatus turboprops. Her crew of 40 pilots includes 10 seaplane captains and co-pilots.

Tailwind currently offers direct flights to seasonal havens like the Hamptons on Long Island in New York and Plymouth, Mass., among others. Last year it began testing direct flights between New York and Boston, and now offers commuter packages of 10 one-way tickets starting at $5,950, going up to $26,250 for a booklet of 50. tickets.

Since March, the company has offered three to four daily flights from New York and Boston to various destinations. Flights only operate during the day from early spring to late fall and are blocked during the winter months.

“You could leave your office on Wall Street and be in downtown Boston in less than two hours,” Ram said. He calls the service an air taxi, in part because it bypasses the long lines, baggage claim scrum and transit time to and from sprawling airports on the outskirts of the city.

But software also plays a key role, Ram said. Late last year, he said, Tailwind launched a mobile app, developed in partnership with a third-party provider, where travelers can scan daily flight schedules and reserve one of eight seats. on board.

“We usually close flights 90 minutes or less before takeoff, and if there’s a seat available, you can get on it,” Ram said. With no Transportation Security Administration or baggage screening, passengers only need to arrive at the pier about 10 minutes before their flight, he added.

Before the app, bookings tended to be done manually, with many regular passengers calling reservations instead of going through the company’s website, Mr Ram said.

Tailwind’s mobile app allows passengers to scan daily flight schedules and reserve one of eight seats aboard its amphibious aircraft.


Photo:

Angus Loten/The Wall Street Journal

“Right now, we’re seeing double the digital engagement with our brand compared to last year’s high point,” he said. It plans to add a fourth seaplane by the end of the year, and three more by the end of 2023, he said.

The company, which operates on a 50-50 mix of funding and earnings from angel investors, saw revenue double in the past year, Ram said, declining to elaborate.

Like Tailwind itself, the air taxi industry is in its infancy, along with the burgeoning efforts of larger aviation players, adding electric and self-driving elements to it.

In January, Boeing Co.

invested an additional $450 million in its air taxi joint venture with Google co-founder Larry Page. The project aims to develop small unmanned aircraft for short passenger trips in and around cities. Rival aircraft manufacturers Airbus SE and Embraer HER

are also developing electric air taxis.

Last year, four startups designing transport aircraft called eVTOL — meaning electric vertical take-off and landing — went public through special-purpose acquisition companies. These include the American firms Joby Aviation Inc.

and Archer Aviation Inc.,

Lilium NV in Germany.

and British vertical aerospace ltd.

None plan to start services before 2024.

UberTechnologies Inc.,

which launched its flying taxi vision in 2016, two years ago sold its airline division to California-based Joby while taking an initial $75 million stake. Joby went public through a combination with Reinvent Technology Partners, a blank check company backed by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman.

On Wednesday, Hoffman said the company was on track to launch operations within the next two years. “We are on schedule,” he said, adding that air taxis, especially in the form of electric helicopters, represent a chance to redesign urban transport space in a cleaner and more efficient.

Small businesses operate on similar models as Tailwind. On New York-headquartered Blade Urban Air Mobility Inc., customers can also book helicopter and jet travel through a smartphone app, taking passengers to destinations around 100 miles or more away. (For comparison, Boston to New York is about 190 miles.)

Unlike eVTOLs, Ram said, the advantage of Tailwind is that its underlying infrastructure and technology is already in place, and has been for more than a century.

“The idea of ​​an air taxi that can land on every building or around the corner creates challenges with airspace integration and customer acceptance,” he said. “We’re concentrating it around the existing infrastructure.”

Write to Angus Loten at [email protected]

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