Air taxi Services Entering Expansion Stages in U.S. and Europe is Main Conclusion From Recent Industry Conference; Improved Business, Personal Travel

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Research 2.0 participated in the International Air Taxi Convention held January 23-25 in Ft. Lauderdale Florida. The industry in the US enters 2008 with strong business trends and expansion plans. This will be a year about scaling up the model with these companies and key suppliers like Eclipse Aviation. Europe was the biggest surprise as conditions there are favorable for the development of their own air taxi type market with many new companies focused on adding services in 2008 and 2009.

Over 130 participants gathered at the event to share progress and plans around their businesses around the world. After two days of presentations and discussions some themes emerged:

1. Some states are beginning to see air taxi services as a way to relieve congestion at commercial airports and major roadways as well as stimulate economic development and growth in their state. North Carolina is sponsoring research, economic development, and market awareness programs to help realize the potential. Other states like Virginia and Florida are working on this as well and it's expected that more states will follow.

2. Early air taxi operators like DayJet and SATSair are experiencing strong business trends and expanding their operations and markets. Both operators reported on the order of 50 flights per day, 90%+ on-time performance and strong demand for additional flights and coverage.

3. Europe may turn out to be more fertile ground for air taxi services based on population density and other characteristics. From a standing start the European market is poised to zoom right past the U.S. in the next year given the number of players and plans for 2008 and 2009. There are some key differences in operating requirements and cost structure but Europe looks very promising for operators that can field enough planes.

4. Although the data was mostly anecdotal many early air taxi customers were replacing 3-4 hour drives or sometimes making trips they wouldn't otherwise make if not for this new option. Some quantitative data is emerging that provides metrics for initial trials of the service and the conversion to regular air taxi clients.

5. Some forward-thinking charter operators are buying very light jets and experimenting with them as part of their existing offering. So far experiences have been good but their overall model remains the same and caters to the affluent traveler versus the mainstream business traveler. Still these operators could find ways to leverage very light jets with new services.

6. The need to attract, retain and motivate pilots for these new services remains a concern. Recent industry trends suggest no crisis in the next 18-24 months but solutions will be required to meet demand for pilots over the longer term.

7. Information technology is beginning to emerge to help solve problems in terms of reservations, sharing data, providing marketplace information and acting as the back office system for the air taxi business. Several companies presented major pieces of what will be required as enabling technology for the industry to operate effectively.

8. Very light jets like the Eclipse 500 and Cessna Mustang are leading the market but there is still plenty of room for a wide range of existing and emerging players. Eclipse is clearly the market leader but more choice and planes with different characteristics are emerging for parts of the market.

For all the information provided there are still quite a few areas to develop for the manufacturers and the operators. Network effects, utilization rates and business models are still fairly up in the air and are likely to gel differently depending on regions, customers and aircraft types.

Research 2.0 has launched a dedicated practice for on-demand air travel and clients can find out more and register for free research alerts at our Air 2.0 Theme Page.

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Kris Tuttle
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