French start-up takes off with flight-shar­ing app

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

A French start-up is reach­ing for the skies with a flight-shar­ing app, match­ing pi­lots with pas­sen­gers look­ing for a low-cost way to take off in a pri­vate air­craft. “It’s a great way to get on planes. It’s quite a unique ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s some­thing new,” says Adam Nicholas, 27, at an air­field close to Lon­don. He is ready­ing for his sec­ond trip with Wingly, a French firm con­nect­ing pas­sen­gers and pi­lots for short flights, and the undis­puted mar­ket leader in Europe with a com­mu­nity of more than 80,000 mem­bers.

In Nicholas’ first ex­pe­ri­ence he took his girl­friend on a sur­prise day trip to Le Tou­quet, across the Chan­nel in France. “We flew there in the morn­ing, had some lunch, had some wine and then flew back again in the evening,” he says. This time the Lon­doner will be flown by pi­lot So­masekhara Pem­miredy, 34, above the Bri­tish cap­i­tal aboard a Cessna 172 air­craft. Pem­miredy has clocked up more than 290 hours since gain­ing his pi­lot’s li­cense in 2011.

Work­ing in se­cu­rity at a Lon­don air­port dur­ing the evenings, he flies for Wingly in the day­time as a way to add more flight hours which are vi­tal to achiev­ing his am­bi­tion of work­ing for an air­line. Pem­miredy de­scribes the set-up as a “win-win sit­u­a­tion”, as he pre­pares an ea­ger Nicholas with the de­tails of the al­ti­tude, speed and flight path they are about to take. But not be­fore the pi­lot checks out an­other flight re­quest on his phone, us­ing the Wingly app which al­lows clients to con­tact pi­lots di­rectly.

“A month ago, I re­ceived a re­quest for a flight with one-hour no­tice and I man­aged to fly,” says Pem­miredy. “The guy was very lucky as it was my day off, so I could fly the cou­ple to cel­e­brate their an­niver­sary in France.” Af­ter the tech­ni­cal checks have been metic­u­lously car­ried out, Pem­miredy and his passenger board the small air­craft which is owned by a fly­ing club. The duo re­turn an hour later af­ter their flight over the city, both smil­ing.

Leisure and dis­cov­ery

Adopt­ing a low-cost ap­proach, Wingly co-founder Emeric de Waziers says he wants to “demon­strate that pri­vate avi­a­tion is ac­ces­si­ble” and should not be re­stricted to a priv­i­leged few. Him­self a pi­lot, Waziers ex­plains that the flight-shar­ing model “al­lows you to fly cheaper and en­joy this pas­sion with­out money be­ing an ob­sta­cle”. Rather than com­pete with com­mer­cial air­lines or other modes of trans­port, he ex­plains the fo­cus is on “leisure and dis­cov­ery” through pick­ing des­ti­na­tions which are usu­ally hard to reach.

Wingly flights only cover short dis­tances and, given the size of the air­craft used, can be can­celled at short-no­tice due to poor weather con­di­tions. The Lon­don to Le Tou­quet route is among the most pop­u­lar­cost­ing around £100 ($133, 112 eu­ros) per per­son each way-along with Paris to French is­lands Belle Ile or Ile d’Yeu. Rather than be likened to car ser­vice Uber, Waziers prefers to be the “BlaBlaCar of the skies” be­cause Wingly al­lows pas­sen­gers to di­vide the costs of a flight. While flight-shar­ing is prov­ing pop­u­lar in the UK and Ger­many, it has been slower to take off in France ow­ing to re­stric­tions on short flights by the civil avi­a­tion author­ity (DGAC), which was lifted in June. Be­tween the three coun­tries over 80,000 peo­ple have reg­is­tered with Wingly, in­clud­ing 6,000 pi­lots, and each month the com­mu­nity is grow­ing by 20 per­cent. —AFP

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