Start-up offers low-cost way to fly on private plane

Passenger Adam Nicholas helping pilot Somasekhara Pemmiredy (left) to park the Cessna 172 plane after a Wingly flight over London, at the London North Weald airfield on Aug 1.
Passenger Adam Nicholas helping pilot Somasekhara Pemmiredy (left) to park the Cessna 172 plane after a Wingly flight over London, at the London North Weald airfield on Aug 1.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • A French start-up is reaching for the skies with a flight-sharing app, matching pilots with passengers looking for a low-cost way to take off in a private aircraft.

French firm Wingly connects passengers and pilots for short flights and is the undisputed market leader in Europe with a community of more than 80,000 members.

Adopting a low-cost approach, Wingly co-founder and pilot Emeric de Waziers said he wants to "demonstrate that private aviation is accessible" and should not be restricted to a privileged few.

Rather than compete with commercial airlines, he explained, the focus is on "leisure and discovery" through picking destinations which are usually hard to reach.

Wingly flights cover short distances and, given the size of the aircraft used, can be cancelled at short notice due to poor weather.

The London to Le Touquet route, located across the Channel in France, is among the most popular - costing around £100 (S$177) per person each way - along with Paris to French islands Belle Ile or Ile d'Yeu.

"It's a great way to get on planes. It's quite a unique experience," said Londoner Adam Nicholas, whose first experience with Wingly involved taking his girlfriend on a surprise day trip to Le Touquet.

On his second flight with Wingly, the 27-year-old opted to be flown over London aboard a Cessna 172 by pilot Somasekhara Pemmiredy, 34 . After the technical checks, Mr Pemmiredy and his passenger boarded the small aircraft, which is owned by a flying club, for the hour-long flight.

While flight-sharing is proving popular in Britain and Germany, it has been slower to take off in France owing to restrictions on short flights by the civil aviation authority, which were lifted in June.

Between the three countries, over 80,000 people have registered with Wingly, including 6,000 pilots, and the community is growing by 20 per cent each month. The start-up attracts about 600 passengers monthly, while there are over 30,000 flights listed on the platform. Its smaller competitors include Coavmi in France, SkyUber in Portugal and FlightClub in Germany.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'Start-up offers low-cost way to fly on private plane'. Print Edition | Subscribe