The days of sending your company's road warriors on commercial airline flights may be numbered.

A recent New York Times piece delved into the increasing popularity of new "subscription flying memberships" among some frequent business travelers. For a hefty monthly fee (usually around $1,500 to $2,500) members can fly between certain destinations as many times as they want in that month.

Take Dallas, Texas-based startup Rise. For $1,650 to $2,650 a month, customers can travel on one of Rise's eight-seat planes, leased from charter companies, between Austin, Dallas, Houston, and Midland. There's no need to go through security, check bags, or wait in long lines--Rise told the Times that fliers can arrive within minutes of departure. 

While a monthly flight subscription doesn't make sense for a lot of business travelers, the service has found a following among some beleaguered CEOs and other top executives who often have to frequently travel between multiple offices. Ben Lamm, the CEO of software design company Chaotic Moon Studios, told the Times that he uses Rise to travel between his company's headquarters in Austin and a recently-opened office in Dallas--a 200-mile drive that could take up to 5 hours by car. 

Santa Monica, California-based Surf Air, which flies exclusively between California cities, was the first to introduce the flying membership model in 2013, according to the Times. Since then, these membership-only companies have increased as startups have figured out how to get around Federal Aviation Administration regulation requirements. Most of the startups like Rise or Surf Air have contracts with aviation companies to use their planes for flight, so that they can technically still be considered "marketing platforms" instead of carriers, Robert Mann, an aviation industry analyst and consultant, told the Times

But how many "all-you-can-fly" services can the business travel market really sustain? As one analyst, Edward Clayton, pointed out to the Times, these businesses may run into trouble scaling and adding customers beyond the early stage phase--after all, the vast majority of people don't go on business trips multiple times a month. But with an estimated $292.2 billion spent on business travel last year, according to the Global Business Travel Association, it's likely that the race to disrupt business travel isn't going to end anytime soon. 

 

Published on: Oct 27, 2015