Linear Air is poised to rapidly expand its client base, becoming among the first dedicated private aviation services providers to tap into a global distribution system (GDS) for travel reservations. The company went live on November 15 through Amadeus GDS.
Linear Air has already marketed its services on the meta travel search site Kayak, but linking into Amadeus will enable it to tap into travel agent sites, such as Expedia, said Linear Air CEO William Herp.
This could bring visibility among the 70 million visitors who tap in monthly to the Expedia group sites. “We’re pretty excited about where that is going to take us next,” said Herp, the opening speaker at Aeropodium’s U.S. Corporate Aviation Summit on November 17 in Washington, D.C.
He discussed the evolution of Linear Air from the original plans from the late 2000s of jumping into the very light jet air-taxi fray using a fleet of Eclipse 500s to one that sells transportation on small aircraft ranging from pistons to light jets. Linear Air still retains a Part 135 operation that uses one Eclipse jet, but the majority of its business is arranging lift for regional travelers on light aircraft.
The Part 135 operation is one of roughly 700 vendors that Linear Air works with to arrange its travel. Herp’s background has been in developing Internet-based marketplaces, and he saw a need to focus on the “demand-generation side,” he said. Many companies are more focused on the operational side,and pay less attention to where to find customers, Herp noted. Linear Air sees a potential $12 billion market from the 25 million people who travel on a regional basis annually. The key, he said, is the ability to sell travel at roughly $400 per person, making the pricing much more competitive with airline pricing.
Linear Air’s model sells whole-airplane travel, but breaks down the pricing on a per-seat basis. The cost for three travelers on board a Cirrus SR22 on a short leg, for example, would be roughly $400 per person, he said.
Herp acknowledged regulatory constraints that come with using piston aircraft in commercial service, but added that the company works with enough vendors to meet demands. The move toward GDS clearinghouses has been about 18 months in the making. “We figured out how to crack the code of how to sell an unscheduled whole plane,” he said, but stressed, “This model is not about selling seats…and is not scheduled.”
However, as the scope of business grows, he said, he sees the ability to aggregate enough business to sell on a per-seat basis rather than the whole airplane.
Linear Air already has begun to see business flow in from the GDS; travel agents in Europe have booked regional hops for their clients flying into the U.S.
But even before the latest tie-in with a GDS, Bedford, Massachusetts-based Linear Air already had made the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies—coming in at 244 on the 2017 list with 1,767.6 percent growth and $4.2 million in revenues.