Its web platform now offering bookings on a total of 115 fixed- and rotary-wing business aircraft operated by 27 air-taxi companies, Flapper Technologies has set for itself various expansion targets as it seeks to consolidate its position as Brazil’s first online booking service for shared private-aviation flights and charters.
Describing Flapper Technologies as Brazil’s first private-aviation marketplace, company CEO Paul Malicki told AIN that before the end of 2018 Flapper aims to start offering shared flights and charters between São Paulo and Belo Horizonte—Brazil’s third-largest city—to complement its existing service offerings from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the vast nation’s two biggest cities.
Malicki said the three cities form a classic triangle suitable for unscheduled private-aviation services because they are only about 400 km (approximately 250 miles) apart. Because of the deals it has negotiated with its air-taxi partners, Flapper can offer seat prices of about $200 on one-way shared flights on any sector between any two of the cities. Importantly for Flapper’s prospects, its automated-booking platform links to Brazil’s major corporate-travel management systems and to the country’s biggest corporate-travel agencies, through which the country’s business market makes 70 percent of its entire travel-booking volume. Flapper generates about 80 percent of its revenues from its mobile-device app.
Flapper’s ambitions extend well beyond adding Belo Horizonte to its fledgling private-aviation network offering, which today allows individuals and companies to book seats on shared flights and to book whole-aircraft charters on a handful of routes. Malicki said Flapper’s revenues from per-seat bookings on shared flights provide about 50 percent of its revenues at present, charters providing the rest.
These services include its highest-visibility offering, a shared-flight service operated under Part 135 rules between São Paulo Congonhas and Jacarepaguá-Roberto Marinho Airport. This short-runway airfield is the only airport in the western part of Rio de Janeiro and it is used only for general aviation and helicopter flights.
The shared-seat service is flown with Beech King Air 200s/250s and Pilatus PC-12s. According to Malicki, 3 million people live in the western part of the city and they account for 65 percent of all the people with passports living in Rio de Janeiro, so many of the area’s residents are middle-class and upwardly mobile and they are increasingly likely to use private aviation.
Using Flapper’s mobile-device app or its website, individuals can also book charters and seats on shared flights from São Paulo to the popular weekend beach destination Angra dos Reis for fares between $100 and $200. Another weekend-trip flight Flapper offers is Sikorsky S-76 shared-seat service between Rio de Janeiro and Búzios, a beach resort first made fashionable by Brigitte Bardot.
More Service Extension Planned
By March 2019 Flapper intends to extend its service offering to include a membership service, which for a fixed monthly fee will offer each member unlimited travel throughout Flapper’s network. This year and through 2019 Flapper also intends to extend its shared-service network to include flights between São Paulo and additional beach destinations, as well as a service linking São Paulo with Curitiba, the large capital city of Paraná state.
For rather higher per-seat fares, the company also is considering offering all-jet, business/first-class services (probably to be operated by Embraer ERJ135s) on the much longer sectors linking the national capital Brasilia with São Paulo, Rio, and Belo Horizonte. “Politicians wouldn’t fly in turboprops,” said Malicki. In business-aviation terms, Brasilia has been hurt more than any other Brazilian city by the political corruption scandals that have rocked the country. As a result very few business aircraft are now based in Brasilia, he said. But business aviation there “is slowly growing back and we’ll wait for our turn.”
Flapper’s private-aviation service ambitions do not end there. By June 2021 it hopes to be able to add on-demand helicopter charters to its booking platform and—should the state of the art allow—it wants to add on-demand passenger drone services by January 2022.
Brazil’s market potential for such services—and for expansion of shared-seat flights by fixed-wing business airplanes and helicopters—is enormous, according to Malicki. Brazil has 2,457 airports, but commercial airlines serve only 121 of them and regional air-taxi operators serve only about another 160 smaller communities, he said.
Additionally, Brazil’s 141 air-taxi companies—which fly a total of about 640 aircraft on Part 135 operations—account for only 22 percent of Brazil’s total private-aviation operations. So Malicki reckons the air-taxi sector isn’t making the most of its aircraft assets and he said air-taxi services have the potential to grow to 50 percent of Brazil’s private-aviation operations.
With better seat-booking technology for shared flights and a better seat-distribution strategy—such as Flapper’s platform—Brazil’s air taxi market could double in size in the next three years, Malicki believes. Flapper’s own research indicates Brazil has more than 400,000 potential clients for charters and 2.7 million future pay-per-seat buyers for shared flights. Another of the company’s short-term ambitions is to increase the number of bookable aircraft on its platform to 200 before the end of 2019.
According to Malicki, one of the best ways Flapper can unlock much of Brazil’s shared-flight potential is by fostering partnerships with each of the state-specific, regional air-taxi networks now under development in at least five states. In each case based at the state capital’s airport, these regional air-taxi companies employ fleets of Cessna 208B Grand Caravans to operate subsidized Part 135 services on route networks linking the capital with smaller airports throughout the state.
“We have high chances of becoming partners of these Part 135 companies,” said Malicki. Flapper already is thinking of partnering with two such projects, the VoeMinas state air-taxi operator in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais; and ASTA, which is based in Cuiaba, the capital of Mato Grosso.