The Future of Advanced Air Mobility

Helicopter Charter Booking Platform Seeks Place in eVTOL Air Taxi Market

Helicopter charter booking platform GetHeli is laying plans to offer eVTOL aircraft flights when the models begin commercial operations around 2024. The UK-based company this week expanded its database to include international operators and has introduced a subscription-based offer for charter brokers to use its platform and software.

When former investment banker Laurent Vallet launched the company in 2018, his longer-term objective was to provide a retail platform for booking eVTOL air taxi and charter services. He concluded, however, that his team should first try to improve what he views as a grossly inefficient helicopter charter market, characterized by what he referred to as “time-wasting, pen-and-paper transactions and a lack of visibility” for both customers and service providers. He said that a typical flight booking can take an entire day to organize with an average of around nine emails being exchanged.

“It’s a very old-fashioned business,” Vallet told FutureFlight, describing a process where aircraft operators and charter brokers can spend hours preparing and seeking quotes for trips. In short, what barely works adequately for an outdated helicopter-based charter marketplace simply would not be adequate for the sort of high volume of operations envisaged by the advanced air mobility sector.

Having built up a solid base in the business-to-business helicopter sector, the GetHeli team uses its technology to make business-to-consumer flight booking processes more productive. This may involve operators integrating the company’s software into their own platforms.

“This is going to be a transition, because at the moment with business-to-consumer platforms you [the consumer] get a price but really it’s just an estimate and before it can be a confirmed booking someone [from the operator or broker] has to do more work,” Vallet explained.

GetHeli is developing a real-time pricing algorithm that can ensure accurate pricing to confirm bookings more quickly and with greater transparency for everyone concerned. Its platform will soon include a “fleet diary” showing the exact status of any given aircraft at a given time, rather than having operators depend on scribbled notes on a whiteboard.

However, this begs the question as to exactly who will be offering rides in the new eVTOL aircraft and on what terms. Many of the leading eVTOL aircraft manufacturers seem convinced that they will handle all aspects of operating flights, the booking process, and the customer experience. They seem to have little to no interest in selling their electric vehicles to the existing helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft operators in the charter market, which might seem to be an obvious customer base.

In Vallet’s view, eVTOL air taxis will almost inevitably replace existing rotorcraft and, gradually, helicopter operators will include the new aircraft in their fleets. “There are lots of manufacturers [trying to bring eVTOL aircraft to market], and I tend to believe that those already closest to the regulators will be in the best position to be first—companies like Airbus, for instance,” he said. “In any case, this is a totally new type of aircraft and they will have to win acceptance from the public as well as the regulators. I don’t see the eVTOL companies doing this overnight.”

Currently, GetHeli’s platform includes around 100 helicopters and it is adding more now that the service has been opened up for international operators. The new subscription model gives brokers the opportunity to have the service customized for their needs.

Depending on how much they use the platform, customers can choose to pay a commission on bookings of around 3 to 5 percent or a monthly subscription rate starting at £1,000 ($1,400).

Operators do not have to pay to list aircraft on the site and market their availability. Before allowing an operator onto the site, GetHeli verifies that it holds the required commercial air operator certificate covering the aircraft being offered, and that appropriate insurance is in place.