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French carpooling platform Comuto profits from volcanic cloud

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There have certainly been a lot of travelers who have not appreciated the transportation issues caused by the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland.

However, French carpooling platform Comuto (Covoiturage.fr) is one start-up that is actually profiting from the recent fiasco – and its traffic has more than doubled in the last few days as a result.

Comuto’s platform essentially facilitates carpooling and carsharing by putting passengers in touch with drivers – who are free to put a price on the rides they offer. The site obviously suggests prices that are supposedly reasonable, but drivers are free to ask for less or more as they see fit. Today, roughly 100,000 passengers find rides through Comuto per month and the site’s traffic has more than doubled since the volcanic eruption in Iceland. The company, which was founded in 2007 also recently hit the 500,000 member-mark in the beginning of the year.

But in France, the story gets better: it wasn’t only the closure of 23 airports that challenged travelers during the last week – but also a national railway strike in the South of France at the same time. Fun. Comuto claims that its traffic also peaks during strike periods, as the company offers a very practical alternative to standard public transportation options. Some larger companies, like Ikea and Carrefour, have also started offering Comuto’s platform to their employees in hopes of minimizing commuting issues related to strikes, construction, etc. And hey, it’s more eco-friendly, too.

Comuto competes with the likes of 123envoiture and Covoiturage.com in the French market, although according to their site, 123envoiture is yet to hit 500,000 members but has been in the online carpooling space for roughly 7 years already.

In addition, Comuto also launched in Spain last month in order to accommodate the growing number of carpoolers it has crossing the Spanish border. The site also currently offers an English translation of its French platform for non-French speakers and released its French iPhone app in December 2009.

Ok, sure, it isn’t every day that an Icelandic volcanic cloud stops you from traveling – but if nothing else, Comuto provides a viable option for anyone trying to get around Europe during the not-uncommon strikes.

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