Voom has officially extended its app-based, on-demand helicopter service to the San Francisco Bay Area, confirming that the Airbus subsidiary is now active in the United States as well as in Brazil and Mexico.
Today’s announcement comes months after initial reports that the venture was beta-testing its service in the Bay Area. Based in San Francisco, the company also operates a Seattle engineering office.
Customers can now use Voom’s app or website to book trips with connections to five Bay Area airports: Napa, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Francisco and San Jose. Prices start at $215, and a quick check of the website shows that the per-seat fare for a trip from San Francisco to San Jose is $285.
That’s significantly more than an Uber or taxi fare, but Voom is counting on customers to put a higher value on their time.
“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,” Voom CEO Clement Monnet said in a news release.
Flights can be booked up to one hour before departure, and Voom says passengers can check in at their designated helipad just 15 minutes before boarding time. The service pools travelers heading to the same destination to keep costs down.
There’s also a “Voom for Business” platform offering that lets companies manage their employees’ travel with a specialized dashboard and a single billing account.
Voom emphasizes that it’s not an operator. Instead, it works with third-party helicopter operators and helipads to deliver service. Voom is also offering access to full-helicopter charters to additional regional airports in California, such as Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Livermore and Sacramento.
The model has been field-tested over the past couple of years with tens of thousands of passengers in São Paulo, Brazil, and in Mexico City.
“Based on Airbus’ aviation expertise and our proven success offering our helicopter service in Brazil and Mexico, Voom is uniquely positioned to lead the transformation of air travel in the world’s most congested cities,” Monnet said. “We are excited to offer our service in the U.S. and to launch in the same location where Voom was born.”
LinkedIn lists about 55 Voom employees, including 15 in the Seattle area. The Seattle operation is primarily focused on software engineering and product design.
Voom isn’t Airbus’ only subsidiary focusing on urban air mobility: Vahana, a Silicon Valley company that’s also part of Airbus’ A3 portfolio, has been testing an electric-powered, vertical-takeoff-and-landing craft that could serve as an autonomous air taxi. The first flight tests were conducted last year in eastern Oregon.
Airbus is partnering with Audi and Italdesign on yet another eVTOL project.
One of Airbus’ main competitors in the air mobility market is Uber, which is working with several eVTOL manufacturers including Aurora Flight Sciences, a Boeing subsidiary. Uber plans to conduct flights in Dallas, Los Angeles and Melbourne on a demonstrator basis in 2020 and begin commercial operations in 2023.
Update for 3:30 p.m. PT Sept. 26: In response to an email inquiry, Monnet provided a little extra perspective on how Seattle figures into Voom’s plans:
“Some of our engineering resources are indeed located in Seattle. As per city expansion, we are definitely looking at additional cities in the U.S. Any city facing daily congestion issues, with a population willing to pay a little premium to fly over the traffic and save countless amounts of time, is of interest for Voom.”
Does that sound familiar, Seattleites?