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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.
“There is a population in the area which is willing to pay a premium to actually fly over traffic and get to their destination in 15 minutes versus two hours,” Monnet said. “Our service will make it easy and affordable for business travelers to travel quickly from locations such as the San Francisco airport to San Jose in only 20 minutes, rather than sitting in traffic for hours trying to get to a meeting.”
San Francisco is a launchpad for Voom to establish operations elsewhere in the U.S., but the company plans to collect extensive data on its Bay Area operation before choosing its next city, Monnet said. The company has flown tens of thousands of passengers over São Paulo, Brazil, since launching its helicopter service there in 2017. It began operation in Mexico City the following year. It operates networks of six helipads in and around both cities.
The ongoing expansion of Voom is one line of effort in Airbus’s multi-pronged pursuit of the feverishly contested urban air mobility and eVTOL markets. While Voom is focusing on the booking and logistics piece, City Airbus and Vahana are developing air vehicles. Another business unit is developing the necessary infrastructure to allow both manned and unmanned air taxis to fly in dense urban areas safely, while yet another is working on urban air traffic management.
“The goal is for us to move people from A to B in a convenient way through the air,” he said. “It happens to be helicopters today, but we definitely want to do it with eVTOLs tomorrow, working closely with Airbus on how to make that happen so we are safe, green, quiet and efficient.”
Voom is also launching its Voom for Business solution that makes it easy and efficient for companies to manage their employees’ travel with Voom. With a specialized dashboard, Voom for Business is designed to simplify billing under one account and to enable the easy booking of flights for employees by other team members.