Wingly is carpooling for private planes

Don’t call Wingly the “Uber of the Sky” — Wingly co-fonder Emeric de Waziers would like to nip that little misinterpretation in the bud as the French startup looks to expand into the U.S. If anything, the startup’s mission is more akin to carpooling for small aircrafts, helping pilots fill up empty seats in small passenger planes.

The distinction is an important one, with regard to the company’s ability to operate. After all, allowing private pilots to turn a profit changes the math significantly, both with regard to specific licenses and the company’s ability to operate inside different countries. Ninety-five percent of pilots who use the service don’t have a commercial license.

“What often happens with hobby pilots is they set a budget for the year. They’re going to fly as many times as they can with this money. If they can fly four times cheaper, they can fly four times more. We have many pilots posting what we call ‘flexible flights,’ saying, ‘hey, I’m available for a roundtrip from San Francisco to Tahoe.’ The passenger says they’re interested and they book the flight.”

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Founded in July 2015, the company faced regulatory challenges early on in its native France. It was enough to cause Wingly to relocate operations, setting up shop in Germany in February of the following year. That launch was a sort of a proof of concept for the novel flight booking app. It was successful enough to convince Wingly to take on its home country again, pushing back against French regulatory bodies.

These days, it operates in Germany, France and the UK, with those markets composing 45, 30 and 20 percent of the company’s business, respectively (with the other five percent belonging to various parts of Europe). Wingly’s flight matching service currently hosts around 2,000 passengers a month, with each flight averaging about 1.8 passengers.

It’s not a huge number, but, then, these aren’t huge planes, with the prop and twin-engine crafts sporting between two and six seats each. Profitability for Wingly means pushing into high volume numbers, but the current pace has been successful enough for the startup to begin pursuing the U.S. as its next major market — a move the company plans to begin in earnest as a Battlefield contestant at Disrupt today in San Francisco.

Currently, Wingly takes a 15-percent commission on each flight, along with a €5 charge. The company has also raised €2.5 million including a €2 million seed round back in December. It’s been enough funding to help the company thrive in Europe, but coming to the States will require additional cash, particularly its current launch time frame of early 2019. From there, Wingly hopes to reach numbers comparable to the business it’s doing in Europe by August/September of next year.