All you can fly start-up Airly aims for third quarter launch

Airly, the start-up offering an all you can fly service between Sydney and Melbourne for $2550 a month, says it has signed up nearly enough potential members to launch.

However, the start date has been delayed beyond this quarter because Airly has yet to complete a capital raising of a few million dollars or secure an aircraft operator for the flights.

"We are probably aiming for the third quarter of the calendar year for the first flight," co-founder Luke Hampshire said. "We are about to cap off our launch number which is a great sign. Sales isn't an issue. It is just a long process getting the required funding."

Airly is in talks with domestic and overseas investors about taking a minority stake in the company. Mr Hampshire said term sheets were being worked on, with hopes of finalising funding within the next month.

Airly could then have the first of three initial King Air 350 turboprops shipped to Australia and placed in the hands of a licensed operator.

Unlimited travel

Mr Hampshire said Airly was considering three potential operators for the charter flights, all of whom are licensed for regular public transport services.

For a $1000 joining fee and $2550 a month, Airly plans to offer unlimited flights between Sydney's Bankstown Airport and Melbourne's Essendon Airport. It will also offer flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Canberra, with more destinations to come later.

To date, about 150 people have expressed interest in becoming members, with Airly expecting about half of those to join for the initial launch. 

"They are CEOs or managing directors of small to medium companies," Mr Hampshire said.


"We've also got individuals from some of the largest Australian companies who manage their own travel who are interested."

Airline industry sources have expressed doubt about Airly's business plan. There are very frequent flights between Sydney and Melbourne, Sydney Airport is closer to the CBD than Bankstown Airport and perks like lounges can keep business travellers loyal to Qantas and Virgin Australia.

Quicker, better?

However, Thomas Mahon, the Melbourne-based chief executive of promotions platform Peazie, said he flew once or twice a week to Sydney in economy class on commercial airlines and hated it. 

"Anything that makes it a more convenient experience without blowing the budget is worth consideration," he said of Airly. "I wanted to vote with my feet that disruption of the commercial airline business is a good thing."

Troy Busch, a Sydney-based client director at employee recognition group Solterbeck, said he was interested in Airly because nearly two-thirds of his flights were delayed due to Qantas or air traffic control.

"There is a lot that appeals to me: smaller aircraft (quicker loading/unloading), smaller airports, quicker transit times, fixed budget per month," he said of Airly. 

Airly has been working with other start-ups such as Uber, Deliveroo and Vinomofo to enhance the food, beverage and ground transport experiences once it starts flying.

"Other disruptive tech-based start-ups have taken a real shining to us," Mr Hampshire said.

Airly's business model is based loosely on that of Surf Air, which launched in 2013 in California and has proven successful. However, Surf Air founder Wade Eyerly's attempt to start a similar business focusing on flights between Boston and New York was less successful.

Beacon, which had reportedly raised $US7.5 million in funding, shut its operations at the end of January. The shorter route it served, unlike Sydney-Melbourne, is linked by a low-cost high speed train.

Mr Hampshire said Beacon had also been flying older aircraft with less capacity, which pushed up the costs. "We have learned a lot from Beacon," he said.

This article All you can fly start-up schedules launch was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.