In California Pilot Trial, AirPooler Offers Ride-Sharing in the Sky

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general aviation pilots are thrilled at the opportunity to defray the cost of flights they are making anyway for personal business or pleasure.

“The plane as an asset is way under-used,” he explained. “Because of rising fuel costs, the average flight-hours for pilot-owners has declined by 30 percent.”

AirPooler charges passengers a percentage of each trip’s cost. As an incentive for early adopters in San Diego and Silicon Valley, the company is offering a discount for the first 25 Xconomy readers who book a flight (use the discount code FLYX).

“One of the things we’ve discovered is that pilots can’t wait to get their hands on this,” Lewis says. “These are pilots who just wouldn’t be flying if they didn’t have someone to share those costs.”

For people who are willing to drive a few hours to get away, AirPooler offers a way to travel farther and a lower cost.

AirPooler Map

AirPooler Map

For example, Lewis says a trip from San Diego to Catalina Island that might take 2½ hours and cost $55 (including ferry) would take only 30 minutes in a single-engine Cessna 180—and would cost only about $24 in fuel and related operating expenses. A 4½-hour drive from Palo Alto to Tahoe that cost $95 would only take one hour and would cost about $49 by plane.

Lewis says he came up with the idea for AirPooler while running product marketing for the Cambridge, MA-based travel technology company ITA Software, which Google acquired in 2010 for $700 million. Lewis founded AirPooler last year with CTO Andy Finke, who previously provided strategic technology consulting services to Zipcar and others.

AirPooler came to California to test the idea because flying conditions are almost always good, Lewis said. “We thought this was a wonderful place, both in terms of pilots flying and in terms of early adopters.”

It seems likely, however, that AirPooler will face the same sort of questions that have bedeviled other sharing-economy startups. Once a friendly cost-sharing arrangement has been formalized through an online business agreement, how is asking passengers to pay a pro rata share substantially different from any other air taxi that transports passengers for hire?

Now that AirPooler is taking off, it shouldn’t be too much longer before the lawsuits start flying.

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Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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