Aero is disrupting the private jet industry by allowing people to split the cost of flying private jets with other passengers. Uma Subramanian, CEO of Aero, speaks to Globetrender about making private aviation… less private.
What’s the story behind the founding of Aero?
“At Aero, we’re on a mission to redefine air travel. We saw an opportunity in the aviation industry to reimagine air travel and offer a service that connects travellers to coveted leisure destinations.”
What is your professional background?
“I joined Aero in March 2019, when the company was founded. Before this, I was the founding CEO of Voom.flights, an Airbus company that attempted built the world’s first urban air mobility network using helicopters [it ceased operations due to the pandemic in March 2020].
“I’ve always been interested in the aerospace industry, which led me to study an undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering, before completing an MBA at Harvard Business School. As well as being CEO of Aero, I’m also on the advisory board of Volocopter GmbH, which aims to change the aviation industry with its all-electric air taxi proposition, and a venture advisor to UP Partners – a pioneering urban air mobility fund.”
How is Aero disrupting the private jet industry?
“Aero is different from other players in the market. Aero lies in the sweet spot in between first class commercial and private air travel, and provides all the benefits of private air travel at a more accessible cost and with more flexibility. Many first-time Aero guests are surprised and delighted by the level of service we offer, and how seamless air travel can be.
“We also have direct control over the aircraft, and being operated by a wholly-owned subsidiary means we have the flexibility to respond quickly to guest feedback, adapt design and curate the perfect guest experience accordingly.”
What kinds of aircraft do you use and how many do you have in the fleet?
“Aero’s growing fleet is best represented by the increasing number of routes we serve, which has tripled in the last two years. Our marquee aircraft are EMB-135 Regional Jets and Legacy 600 Business Jets, reconfigured with fewer seats and premium design details, as well as a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system.
“We’re really challenging the conventional air travel product and guest journey. This begins with our jet’s black exterior and continues with the aircraft’s thoughtfully-designed interiors.”
How has the company grown since its launch?
“There’s no question that semi-private aviation is experiencing an unprecedented boom, and Aero is benefitting from these tailwinds. Aero fills a gap in the market between premium commercial and private travel. We offer our guests safety, privacy and ease-of-experience – all key decision criteria in a post-Covid world.
“Traveller demand has allowed Aero to continue growing, offering routes in the coveted destinations that our guests are eager to visit. Since 2020, Aero has tripled the destinations it serves, adding nine new locations across four new countries.
“Most recently, we announced our European expansion with the debut of new routes from London to Geneva and Milan and the first winter flights to Nice. This summer, we will re-introduce our popular route Ibiza-Mykonos route among others. In the US, we introduced routes from a private terminal in Los Angeles (Van Nuys airport) to Aspen, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, Las Vegas and Los Cabos in Mexico.”
How much do seats cost?
“From London, seats cost £1,200 one-way.”
Who is a typical user?
“Aero caters to the discerning leisure travellers – people who value time, privacy and the quality of seamless experiences. Our customers span a wide range of interests and demographics.
“During the pandemic, we built a loyal following with couples and families – many traveling to their second homes, and, increasingly, many looking to travel with their pets. Working remotely during the pandemic has also allowed travellers more flexibility to book quick getaways or stay longer in a destination.”
Do you only fly if the plane is full?
“Two or more passengers must book the flight before it can be scheduled and confirmed for all Aero flights into and out of London Farnborough airport. We make a decision on whether to fly five days prior to the scheduled flight. And our Concierge team is always on standby to offer assistance to rebook a later Aero flight or find a commercial alternative.”
How do you decide what routes to launch?
“We introduce our routes based directly on guest feedback, which allows us to determine when and where our guests want to fly with us. Our goal is to connect travellers to coveted destinations when demand is highest, while delivering an impeccable design and service experience.”
Why will Aero succeed when other shared charter jet companies have failed?
“We have a unique model that allows us to be flexible when introducing new routes. We can quickly meet customer demand as and when it’s necessary, and offer routes either year-round, seasonally or event-specific based on where and when our guests want to travel. This month, for example, we’re flying our London-Milan route with specific times for Milan Fashion Week.”
What are your ambitions for growth?
“Our guests remain at the heart of everything we do and we always aim to meet customer demand by flying our guests to the most desirable destinations around the world. We’re continuing to look at ways we can build upon our success in both the US and Europe and grow our network from there.”
In other news…
Aero has announced its inaugural flight from London’s Farnborough airport to Linate airport in Milan in time for Milan Fashion Week February 2022.
The semi-private jet service has added specific flights on February 23 (departing at 9am) and February 28 (departing at 6.45pm) to accommodate the fashion jetset, and is also partnering with Net-A-Porter to offer guests free styling services when they book.
Aero’s Concierge team will connect guests directly to a Net-A-Porter stylist, who will curate customised looks from the brand’s catalogue featuring more than 800 of the world’s most coveted designers, including Italy’s most iconic designers – Prada, Missoni, Gucci and Bottega Veneta.