The Sharing Economy and What it Could Mean for Flight Training

The sharing economy refers to economic and social systems that enable shared access to goods, services, data and talent.  The proliferation of the sharing economy has been undeniable over the last several years thanks to the Internet, social media, and mobile devices.  From cars, to homes, to farmland -- there’s been seemingly no limit to what people will share.  Coming from one of the hubs of the sharing economy (Boston), where companies like Zipcar were founded, we have long wondered when plane-sharing would be next and the impact it would have on the business of flight training.

According to this recent article from the Boston Globe a few companies have indeed tried to promote the idea of plane-sharing.  But as the article points out, the notion of sharing a private jet hasn’t seemed to resonate just yet, “if you have the wealth to fly privately, the likelihood of you wanting another person on your plane is…well…zero.”  In my opinion the sharing economy will never work for the private jet world, but for general aviation, a few new startups give me hope.

Take companies like AirPooler and OpenAirplane, both are reinventing private flight. AirPooler, which is launching in beta soon, pairs pilots with passengers who share common destinations.  Pilots split the cost of flight with their passenger and the passenger gets to hitch a ride to a destination that may not be served by the airlines. OpenAirplane allows pilots to find, book, and pay for aircraft rentals when away from their home club, all through their platform.  Perhaps these innovators will help reshape the business of flight training. 

Unlike private jet owner’s cost and access to equipment are two hurdles many flight training schools face.  Having the option to share aircraft and training equipment could help address the issus of affordable access.  Would you share your equipment with other flight academies in your area? Or with pilots looking to rent aircraft? Take OpenAirplane for example. Your flight school could benefit from their rental program. When an aircraft isn’t in use, OpenAirplane could connect you with pilots looking to rent aircraft in your area that have already gone through a check ride.  This added rental revenue could help alleviate costs and address the issue of equipment affordability. 

With the right platform the shared economy can provide access to unused capacity and create additional revenue streams for operations that historical have been challenged by low utilization. What the shared economy is really good at is connecting two parties, one with access to supply the other with access to demand.  That dynamic exists in many places in aviation beyond just flight training, but with the down economy and rising costs the ability to share could help propel new life into the business of flight training.

How do you leverage the sharing economy?  Would you like to see it become a part of your business? Leave your thoughts in the comments.