AirPooler Could Be the Uber of Flying


Pieter v Marion CC BY

There's a lot of buzz around services like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar, which facilitate convenient, competitively priced rides around cities. Given the state of the airline industry—the cost of flying is creeping up every year while the experience of flying gets worse—it's no surprise that someone figured out how to take the ride-sharing business model from cars and adapt it to planes.

This week a service called Airpooler is launching on the East Coast. Last week it got off the ground on the West Coast.

AirPooler allows private pilots to post listings about upcoming trips, requiring them to input important information about their own credentials and experience and their plane's weight limits. "Most pilots listing flights on AirPooler fly small single-engine piston airplanes that carry from 2 to 4 passengers," explains AirPooler. For passengers, requesting a ride is no harder than ordering a ticket on a commercial flight, and one can even send questions to the pilot beforehand.

The Daily Dot's Brendan O'Connor, incredulous, asks why anyone would get on some stranger's plane, calling it "an insane idea." He also insists that AirPooler is "a thing that the world doesn't need and 99 percent of it could never use!"

But the service regulates itself, notes BetaBoston, by "only working with pilots who are members of flying clubs like East Coast or Associated Pilots," which "have processes in place for vetting pilots, and ensuring the airworthiness of the planes."

Prices, meanwhile, are far from prohibitive. Right now, the service lists a round-trip flight from Palo Alto, California to Sacramento this weekend for under $180. A comparable economy ticket from United Airlines with such short notice is over $800.

Part of the reason tickets are so cheap is because the Federal Aviation Administration prohibits private pilots from accepting personal payment; they can only be reimbursed for "flight costs" such as "fuel oil, certain airport costs or rental fees." One consequence of restricting profits, though, may be that pilots aren't able to expand operations and offer even more flights to meet consumer demands.

Still, AirPooler's take off is yet another example of the sharing economy's ability to disrupt the status-quo in surprisingly simple ways.