Californians are getting plenty of alternatives to commercial airline travel these days. There’s Surf Air, which uses an all-you-can-fly, membership-based model; there’s JetSuiteX, which has a growing network of intrastate flights with 30-passenger aircraft; and now there’s Blackbird. The question becomes, How many airlines can the market bear?
Blackbird calls itself “a new, technology-driven airline delivering a private flight experience at a budget airline price.”
The company is partnering with independent charter operators to offer small-plane service, with its first scheduled flights due to begin January 12 between Palo Alto and Truckee near Lake Tahoe. (The big airport alternative to that would be Southwest’s OAK to Reno flight, Alaska’s SJC-RNO flight or United’s SFO to Reno flight.) It’s website says, “Imagine skiing in Tahoe until 4pm on Sunday and back home to the Bay Area by 5:30. Blackbird is the cure for Sunday night driving dread.” Depending on traffic, the slog between the Bay Area and Lake Tahoe can run from 4-7 hours.
Blackbird said it will initially operate between the two cities from Friday through Sunday at fares starting at $125 per seat, with no sign-up or membership fees. Flight frequencies will expand to more days as customer demand picks up, and “Blackbird will add six additional routes throughout California in 2017,” a spokesperson said.
The company promised its flights would operate on a regular schedule, and said seats will be bookable through a mobile app, “just like Uber.” (Well, it’s obviously not just like Uber because it’s not an on-demand service, but many start-ups these days can’t seem to resist the Uber comparison.)
While the app is not yet operations, Blackbird has a website at www.flyblackbird.com. A spokesperson says that the app will be available for reservations starting in early January.
The new entrant’s competitors seem to be doing well so far. JetSuiteX recently announced an equity partnership with JetBlue, and Surf Air (which already flies to Truckee from three Bay Area airports) said it is expanding its all-you-can-fly concept to Europe.