A Flat Fee Airline Industry is Emerging in Europe

flat fee airlines

In the last year or so, the US has seen the emergence of a whole new segment of air travel businesses: the subscription based airlines, where you pay a monthly flat fee and fly as many times as you need.

I found this phenomenon so interesting that I even wrote a piece about it on CNN, including not only airlines such as Rise or Surf Air, that own their own "metal", but also aggregators such as OneGo, that offer the same concept on regular airlines.

This is a concept that may appeal to those travellers that have to commute very frequently and on a regular basis between two given destinations. 

In most cases the new flat fee airlines are not competing with other airlines, but with ground transport. For example, an executive at Texas-based Rise mentioned to me that a significant proportion of their customers had switched from car travel. In the case of Europe, high speed rail should also be counted on as competitor.

Nevertheless, good ground transportation infrastructure has not deterred a whole crop of startups that are bringing flat fee flying to Europe.

In a recent post we explained the case of Go!Aviation of Finland and its ambitious plans to spread its network through Northern Europe with a fleet of Pilatus PC-12 aircraft.

But it turns out that Go!Aviation will have some competition. Well, at least not initially as each of the new entrants is focusing on separate markets, but, I guess, if they are successful at some point they will overlap.

Amsterdam-based Instantair aims to link the Dutch financial center with London, Paris (Le Bourget) and Frankfurt (Egelsbach). Monthly memebership is priced at €2,250 and customers will be able to enjoy early morning and late afternoon flights during workdays, specially suited for business travellers. 

This is a similar model and operational set up to that of Take Air, just that in this case flights will be, at least initially, between Antwerp and Zurich. Take Air will be using Beechcraft King Air, with capacity for between 6 and 9 seats. In addition to the monthly subscription, Take Air will also offer "travel cards" for 1, 5, 10 or 20 flights, not unlike the public transport passes on offer in many cities.

And, then, there is the European off-shot of Rise, one of the flat fee pioneers in the US. Not much information is publicly available about this project, but it looks like it might be operating out of the UK and one would expect it to develop along the same lines as its US counterpart.

Will the concept take hold in Europe? Setting aside the pricing, which can be quite competitive for ultra-frequent-fliers, the model has some obvious advantages, such as the comfort it can offer to travellers For example you can show up for your flight, literally, minutes before take-off,  and enjoy an executive flying experience. However, it is also undeniable that this is quite a niche market and competition from other modes of transportation is strong.

The US has seen already some casualties in this segment, such as the demise of Beacon, that was developing this concept in the East Coast. At first glance, though, Northern Europe, with its dense network of business centres, often separated by not very long distances, should be a particularly fertile ground for this type of business model.