James Moon is launching TailHail, a new charter brokerage that will offer membership-based access to charter business jets. The genesis of TailHail stems from UK-based Moon’s visit to the U.S. last year, where he was doing some work for a charter company. “I realized they were stuck in the early 2000s from a technology perspective,” he said, adding that he felt that he could build a business that will help operators fly their aircraft more, deliver improved service and more reasonable prices, and provide flight-sharing capability.
This year, after proposing the concept to charter operators in the UK, Moon raised capital from angel investors to begin the process of launching TailHail. Even before the formal launch, he said he has received dozens of charter requests. The plan was initially to serve the UK and European markets, but strong interest from the U.S., both from potential customers and operators, makes that market worth pursuing sooner.
Moon believes the timing for launching TailHail fits perfectly with a growing interest in chartering by wealthy people who don’t want to fly on airlines during the coronavirus pandemic. “It could be an attractive alternative,” he said.
Services like JetSmarter, which created a membership platform to fill individual seats on charter flights, “were disappointing for [operators]," Moon claimed. "We want to be a challenger to [fractional-share provider] NetJets and [charter operators] VistaJet and Wheels Up. We hope to be an attractive option and to stand out.”
TailHail’s revenue model is to sell memberships to charter customers and to charge operators a commission on each flight. Operators will also have to agree on a set hourly rate, which could include repositioning costs or might be added on, depending on the size of the airplane and the trip length. All costs will be included in the quoted price, except for catering. We’re keeping it simple,” Moon told AIN.
“Operators are tired of technology platforms driving down prices,” he said. “We want to make sure our platform is quality over quantity.” He knows prices that are high enough to ensure decent margins for operators will scare some customers away. “We will lose clients, those who want cheap prices,” he admitted. “This is more about creating a long-term viable business model that supports operators. We’re not just [having] 7,000 aircraft [available] and trying to get the cheapest price.”
There are four membership levels for charter clients, ranging from individual memberships with limited access to a “business” level with unlimited use. Moon is hoping to grow TailHail to 20,000 members in the next five years. “I know it’s ambitious,” he said, but he feels that this is an opportune time to get TailHail launched when people are more inclined to feel safer traveling via general aviation rather than airlines.
“People will be more cautious and conscious, putting their health first now when they fly,” he said. “And if they can avoid exposure at busy airports and airlines, they will look to [do that]. Flying privately through TailHail allows our members to avoid airports and to fly with friends, family, or their work colleagues only. Through our flight-sharing feature, members of TailHail will now be able to fly privately for a lot cheaper. I am forecasting that a lot of businesses around the world will look to become members of TailHail to protect their employees when it comes to travel and to allow for business opportunities to be seized upon.”
Moon and the TailHail staff will oversee the development of the software that will drive the TailHail service. “We could use existing software,” he said, “but given the technology we’re looking to implement, there is nothing out there. We’re creating something beneficial for the operator and the charter client.”
In addition to bringing new people into charter flying, TailHail is also trying to help solve the problem of illegal charter. The company is meeting with each charter operator (remotely during the pandemic) to make sure they meet TailHail’s standards. This includes reviewing safety records, checking for any issues with authorities, seeing that the aircraft are in good shape, talking to the maintenance team, and then having an independent safety advisor review everything.
Transparency is important, Moon explained. “The client will be able to see which aircraft [they are flying in], the tail number, and pictures of the interior,” he said. Clients can also rate their experience and be rated by the flight crew, using an anonymous reporting feature on the TailHail app.
“We hope TailHail will be an attractive option and stand out,” Moon said. “It’s a tough journey.” TailHail will need to raise more money by the end of this year to fully develop the platform.