The Times of London ran a deliciously click-bait headline entitled, “Airbnb founder Brian Chesky reveals secret plans to launch airline.” But what’s actually possible? Quite a bit, actually.
Like many of his contemporaries, Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky is a dreamer. It takes a certain person to run a tech start-up and he fits the visionary profile without the annoying attitude of Elon Musk or Travis Kalanick. But I digress…
He told the Times, “We’ve seriously considered a lot of things around aviation and we’ve spent a lot of time exploring different concepts.” That doesn’t mean much. But this does–
We definitely want to make sure, though, that we can get into the end-to-end trip business.
There’s a reason why Emirates has installed so many lounges around the world. It wants to manage the entire experience. It’s a form of quality control. From chauffeur pick-up to chauffeur drop-off, it’s possible for Emirates’s top customers to deal exclusively with Emirates staff (other than perhaps at security checkpoints and passport control) for the entire journey.
I don’t expect Airbnb to startup an airline like Virgin America. While the company is well-funded and I would not wholly dismiss the possibility, I picture something like what Four Seasons offers to its most exclusive guests.
Four Seasons owns a 757, which is uses for charter operations. It transports the brand’s most exclusive customers to properties around the world. Airbnb has now entered the luxury hotel business with the launch of its new Beyond by Airbnb product.
Beyond by Airbnb will offer custom-designed trips that include “the world’s finest homes, custom experiences and world-class hospitality.
In that context, I can see Airbnb managing the entire experience and needing a fleet of aircraft to do it.
It’s true that Airbnb has a massive database of customers from around the world and could use that to instantly build an airline clientele. Even so, I doubt Airbnb will stray so far from its core competency. Don’t look for a whole new airline with new fuel efficient airplanes and an exciting new loyalty program. Instead, look for a small fleet of private jets that will be used for Airbnb’s most lucrative customers.
images: Four Seasons