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Voom, the Airbus helicopter-seat booking service, will now begin booking passengers above the traffic-clogged San Francisco Bay area, marking its entry into the largest vertical lift market in the world.
One of Airbus’s lines of effort to capture the emerging urban air mobility market, Voom chose San Francisco as a U.S. launch city because of its gridlock ground traffic, an existing problem the service can immediately help alleviate, according to CEO Clément Monnet.
“It was recently reported that the Bay area has the second-worst traffic in the nation,” Monnet told Vertical during a Sept. 25 phone interview. “So, we are providing a solution to an existing problem.”
While the service does not mirror Uber’s user experience, exactly — a helicopter will not come to pick you up at your house — it is nearly on-demand. Riders can sign up for flights on most routes that leave every hour between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. In Mexico City, 60 percent of its reservations are made the same day, Monnet said.
With Voom, travelers pay on a per-seat basis, and in order to keep prices affordable, the platform pools passengers traveling to the same destination. To schedule a trip with Voom, travelers can use the Voom app or book online at www.voom.flights. Passengers can book flights up to one hour before departure. On the day of travel, the passenger simply checks in at the designated helipad 15 minutes before boarding time.
Voom works with existing Airbus-vetted third-party helicopter operators and helipads to deliver its service, and is not an operator. The Voom platform connects passengers with certified helicopter operators in the Voom network.
“Some of these operators have been doing different types of missions from surveillance to aerial surveys, EMS,” he said.
Voom provides them a new business avenue and supplies the accessible booking service through its app and website. While most of its partner operators fly Airbus helicopters — the most common aircraft is the H125 — Voom partners with any operator willing to submit to its parent company’s vetting process. Many of its partners also fly Bell helicopters, he said.
Around San Francisco, business travelers and international airport travelers are a major target user base, with routes like SFO to San Jose and back expected to become popular. Service is available between five Bay Area airports: Napa, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Francisco and San Jose. The service also will link passengers to full-aircraft charters to additional regional airports, such as Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Livermore and Sacramento.
A seat on that flight should go for about $285, Monnet said. Flying from Oakland to San Jose will cost about $245, while San Fran to Napa is more expensive at about $425 a seat.