How Would United Airlines Like App-Based "Limo Air?"

Posted on August 26, 2014 by - Also by this author

So if United Airlines can offer chauffeured ground service, whether its own or via Uber, couldn't a ground transportation company offer an app-based airline, say, Limo Air?
So if United Airlines can offer chauffeured ground service, whether its own or via Uber, couldn't a ground transportation company offer an app-based airline, say, Limo Air?

The recent partnership between United and Uber, in which United customers can access the Uber app via the United one, offers fliers the convenience of arranging air and ground transportation all-in-one.

But given the regulatory problems generated by TNCs, and the fundamental questions of insurance and safety, United Airlines may be traveling a treacherous path. So, it's time to teach United a simple lesson about partnering with Uber, since the airline misses the bigger point:

Let’s start an on-demand airline called, Limo Air, an extension of the first class limousine service that is available on the ground. Limo Air will feature business-class level seating and amenities, while it avoids greedy little stick-it fees, allows you to same-day book a plane ticket for one flat low fair  via an app, and uses non-union contract pilots, whose flying experience, well, let’s just say, is “diverse.” You may get ex-Air Force pilots, moonlighting airline pilots, retired pilots, civil aviation pilots, or single-engine hobbyists, as long as they pass a test and meet minimum flying hours.

Limo Air will build its route systems based on availability of leftover gates and routes at whichever airports have them, and of course, that reliable source of chauffeured business, FBOs. In the case of small- to medium-sized commercial airports, that would be most of them, since they have lost air service due to airline consolidation. Non-union pilots will still communicate with and obey FAA controllers, but beyond that, Limo Air will operate freely, since it is “app-based.” Departure times and planeloads will be determined in real time, based on demand, and prices may surge at the last minute if there is a rush. Best of all, no conventional ticketing, no baggage fees — all luggage is accepted as “walk-aboard,” with larger pieces left at the end of the jet-ways for cargo loading.  You just hit an app, reserve your seat, and your all-in fare is billed to a credit card. You get e-confirmations and e-receipts via smartphones and tablets. Better yet, Limo Air will share some of its profits with the TSA to allow Limo Air users expedited accesses. Or just offer a “TSA app-link” to offer customers permanent pre-screened status.

Given the vast market potential for Limo Air amid the crowded, rude and costly commercial service, the airline will likely attract billions in capital investment, which will fund federal lobbyists and political strategists (Karl Rove?)  to work Congress, the TSA, the FAA, and any other agency in their favor. Maybe there’ll even be a massive public relations campaign for Limo Air, about “flying the freedom skies,” and “getting Big Gov and Big Air out of the way of your trip.”

Does that sound fair to United and all of the big, unionized, entrenched-interest airlines with government connections? Would Jeff Smisek, the United Airlines CEO and President, have any objections to the Limo Air business and service model? Any competitive quivers or safety concerns, Mr. Smisek?

I sure hope not, since his airline is partnering with Uber, a Transportation Network Company, as opposed to the true first-class ground transportation of limousine services, or the widely available taxicab services, all of which are regulated and monitored and must pay all types of fees and meet standards — just like traditional airlines!

I’m just asking, and just saying. Point made, and I hope the executives at United finally get it.

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