“If you can get the Wahanca Project in your story, then yes, please, do go ahead and mention it,” exhorts Jonny Nicol, MD of British technology start up Stratajet. Wrong person to challenge. I don’t have that sense of propriety that most journalists do, and consistently get into trouble for saying the wrong thing. However…I can mention it here in my blog – for a more sombre publication I’d simply say that I have seen the new offering that’s garnered £5m in investing funding and has a valuation of £25m before it even takes flight –and am seriously impressed.
So what’s going on? A new paradigm is about to hit the global business aviation charter market. A real-time, online private aircraft booking search engine will spread its way across Europe in the third quarter of this year, and then will expand internationally.
Nicol explained, “Stratajet are at an advanced stage of forming partnerships with European Operators and FBOs.”
Like the taxi app Uber, users type in the journey they’d like to make – eg London to Dubai, and the day they’d like to go with the number of passengers in the party. The software instantly calls up all the available aircraft on that date with information on how comfortable the flight would be depending on aircraft type and cabin configuration. It also offers all the available options – it might be more practical or cost effective to travel from London’s Southend Airport, for example, than London City. Pricing is based on a huge number of variables, including airport landing fees, airspace and handling charges. Once the booker is happy the aircraft they choose is reserved for them instantly.
The firm has spent five years developing the software, pulling plenty of all nighters and working themselves to exhaustion, and are passionate about the product. They’ve also forged relationships with airports, management companies and operators, who install the system on their servers and connect in to offer their aircraft. The benefit to them is that it minimises the number of empty legs, or half empty legs they fly.
The firm is heading off on a four-month tour of Europe to bring other operators and FBOs into the fold. Nicol will be flying them in the company aircraft a Piper PA-34 Seneca piston twin. They’ll have a lot to talk about on board – especially on the topic of the Wahanca Project, which frankly I don’t remember a great deal about, except that it was real and after a convivial lunch caused a great deal of snickering among both Stratajet employees and those gathered to record the event for posterity. They’ll be at EBACE so pop over and see them.