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April 6, 2022updated 30 Jun 2022 5:09pm

Empty leg flights and technology’s role in reducing them

Global commercial travel has declined 52% since the start of the pandemic. However, the number of private jet flights has increased by 16% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

By Jasleen Mann

The aviation industry, including the private jet sector, have been dealing with the issue of empty legs and repositioning flights. Private jet hailing app TailHail aims to utilise technology to provide passengers with access to empty legs, limiting resource wastage.

Regulations requiring UK airlines to use their airport slots for a minimum of 80% of the time were suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic to preserve some competition amidst restrictions. However, TailHail suggests that data has shown nearly 14,500 empty/near empty flights went ahead between 2020 and 2021.

James Moon, founder and Chief Aviation Officer of TailHail, says: “With all the technology we have been creating, it has been addressing the pain points that currently exist in the sector from an operators point of view and user point of view.

“It is clear that there are a lot of inefficiencies that exist, such as aircraft flying empty, which is not ideal given the current climate, and that is what we have been focusing on.”

TailHail’s new website will launch this month and the app will follow in early May, with the aim of overcoming issues associated with booking flights within the private aviation sector.

“At the moment the industry is narrow in terms of what is available. What we are trying to bring to market is a variety of options. Choice is a core principle that we are working on,” says Moon.

TailHail aims to have bookings of private jets completed quickly, within seconds or minutes, to make the process less time consuming. The platform would handle the bookings digitally. The current process is a manual one which entails submitting a flight request and waiting for someone to respond. It also involves scrolling through PDFs to find a flight.

With TailHail, once a flight request is submitted the user will be matched to an approved aircraft. The platform offers users the opportunity to view more aircraft than they would if they were using a broker.

TailHail also expects that by filling seats on empty leg flights rather than by a direct charter, the carbon footprint of each flight will be minimised.

“What we are doing is putting it in the digital world, making it easier to understand and making it transparent,” says Moon.

With a geolocating feature, in future TailHail expects to provide users with private flight sharing opportunities near their location. The app will help operators push surplus capacity while dealing with on demand charter flight requests.

Moon says: “Our sector has been left behind and we are bringing new technology to market which will be a constantly evolving process. There are a lot of companies who claim to be the Uber of aviation but they do not have the technology to back it up.”

Due to concerns surrounding hygiene, raised during the pandemic, there has been in an increase in first time private aviation users. This includes families, individuals and businesses who have realised the benefits of flying privately.

The private aviation sector can benefit from the fact that while confidence in travel is growing, people remain cautious and prefer to avoid crowds.

Moon says: “Through our platform and unique algorithm users will be able to see a wide range of aircraft that match their profile. One of our key findings is that users think they have to fly from one of the big airports that are nearby, but private aviation offers the chance to fly from a different airport which may be closer to their departure point.

“In the US, commercial airlines serve 500 airports but private aviation can reach 5,000. In the UK, private aviation is seen as luxury but elsewhere it is seen as a necessity.”

TailHail expects to release a flight sharing functionality soon, this could lower prices of flying privately and also has the benefit of building a community within the sector.

With regards to the private aviation sector, in the US there were around 300,000 flights just in the last month compared to 8,000 in the UK.

Moon says: “Flight sharing is prevalent in the US but not here in the UK, it has not been explored properly. We feel we can capitalise on a market that is there to be taken. There is a lack of understanding here.

“A number of people we have spoken to are sometimes surprised that they can afford to fly private.

“First class flyers and business class flyers would be interested, but the current processes are off-putting. It’s not like booking an airline ticket and we want to make it that simple through our platform.”

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