Eye on the sky as flight-sharing app gains popularity in Europe
2017-08-10 10:02:00

A French start-up is reaching for the skies with a flight-sharing app, matching pilots with passengers looking for a low-cost way to take off in a private aircraft.

"It's a great way to get on planes. It's quite a unique experience. It's something new," said 27-year-old Adam Nicholas at an airfield near London.

Wingly, a French firm linking passengers to pilots for short flights, is the undisputed market leader in Europe with a community of more than 80,000 members.

On his first trip, Nicholas took his girlfriend on a surprise day trip to Le Touquet in neighboring France.

"We flew there in the morning, had some lunch, had some wine and then flew back again in the evening," he said.

For his second spin, he was flown by pilot Somasekhara Pemmiredy over London in a Cessna 172 aircraft.

Pemmiredy has clocked up more than 290 hours since gaining his pilot's licence in 2011.

Working in security at a London airport during the evenings, he flies for Wingly in the daytime as a way to add more flight hours which are vital to achieving his ambition of working for an airline.

Pemmiredy describes the set-up as a "win-win situation", as he checks out another flight request on his phone, using the Wingly app which allows clients to contact pilots directly.

"A month ago, I received a request for a flight with one-hour notice and I managed to fly," says Pemmiredy.

"The guy was very lucky as it was my day off, so I could fly the couple to celebrate their anniversary in France."

After the technical checks have been meticulously carried out, Pemmiredy and his passenger board the small aircraft which is owned by a flying club.

The duo return an hour later after their flight over the city, both smiling.

Leisure and discovery

Adopting a low-cost approach, Wingly co-founder Emeric de Waziers says he wants to "demonstrate that private aviation is accessible" and should not be restricted to a privileged few.

Waziers, also a pilot, explains that the flight-sharing model "allows you to fly cheaper and enjoy this passion without money being an obstacle".

Rather than compete with commercial airlines or other modes of transport, he explains the focus is on "leisure and discovery" through picking destinations which are usually hard to reach.

Wingly flights only cover short distances and, given the size of the aircraft used, can be cancelled at short-notice due to poor weather conditions.

The London to Le Touquet route is among the most popular, costing around 100 pounds (about 133 US dollars) per person each way, along with Paris and the French islands Belle Ile or Ile d'Yeu.

The Parisian start-up attracts around 600 monthly passengers, while there are more than 30,000 flights listed on the platform.

Its competitors include Coavmi in France, SkyUber in Portugal and FlightClub in Germany. The Federal Aviation Administration has banned private pilots from offering flight sharing to the public in the United States, ruling out competition from across the Atlantic for now.

However, Waziers has his eye on the horizon, predicting an increasing number of people will come to understand that private planes "are not reserved for the elite".

With Wingly’s expansion, he hopes "everyone can enjoy it in the next ten years".

Source:CGTN Editor:Hiram