For those who commute frequently by air, commercial flights can be a hassle and the cost can add up substantially. The super-rich and major corporations solve this problem by purchasing their own plane, but for most people that’s not an option.
Beacon, a new subscription flight service based at the Westchester County Airport, aims to solve this problem by disrupting the traditional ticketing model of commercial airlines. The new business launched its inaugural flight to Boston on Tuesday with a water-canon salute, a tradition reserved for new airlines and retiring pilots.
“For frequent commuters, flying isn’t fun,” said Beacon CEO Wade Eyerly. “It’s usually work-imposed travel, and for those frequent commuters this is a life-altering improvement to the way they travel. We’re turning overnight trips into day trips and day trips into morning trips, and it’s changing the way people do business.”
Eyerly, who is in the process of moving to New Canaan from Texas with his wife and children, said he understands the time people save is sacred and thinks that will be the key to this new business model. Instead of waiting in security lines or running through an airport on a commercial layover, people will be able to get where they need to go — and come back — faster.
Beacon is beginning with service between Boston Logan International Airport and Westchester Airport. The line’s three Beechcraft King Air 200 turboprops will make 18 scheduled flights per day. Eyerly said he plans to add service to Washington, D.C., within the next year, and seasonal service to The Hamptons and Nantucket will start next summer. Eventually, Eyerly said Beacon plans to operate 27 aircraft traveling to destinations all over the country.
“Anywhere high-speed rail works, we work because we know that’s where the majority of our commuters are,” Eyerly said. “New York to Boston is just the beginning, and to be frank, if we had 300 people say they were ready to sign up if we traveled to D.C., we’d have it up and running in a matter of weeks.”
The subscription service will work similar to Netflix’s original business model, Eyerly said. For a monthly fee — $2,000 for personal memberships and varying rates for corporate memberships — people can book up to four flights at a time and as soon as one boarding pass is used or canceled, they can book another. Corporate memberships may allow more flights to be booked at one time depending how many people are covered by the membership, Eyerly said.
Flights can also be booked, canceled or changed up to 20 minutes before takeoff, allowing users even more flexibility. The small, yet comfortably spacious planes carry up to six passengers.
Eyerly said basing the company at the Westchester Airport, a popular airport for many Westchester and Fairfield County residents out of convenience, was a no-brainer thanks to the affluent communities in both, the proximity to New York City and the availability of the runway. There are 27 overburdened airports in the U.S. — LaGuardia and JFK top the list — but of the remaining hundreds, they’re 90 percent underutilized, Eyerly said. He plans to capitalize on this statistic and fly into the airports everyone else ignores. This new subscription model for flight has also taken off in California, where another line, Surf Air, offers flights between the Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas.
A last-minute, round trip commercial flight from Westchester to Boston can cost anywhere from $300 to $900, and availability varies. So for those making frequent trips, and for companies who send their employees and clients between locations, the $2,000 membership fee could save money and time.
After nine months of working to get the airline up and running and to market and sell subscriptions in the area, Eyerly said it was unbelievable to finally see his new business take flight.
“My wife is pregnant with our third child, and doing this is a lot like having a baby,” Eyerly said. “It’s super exciting and you do all you can to prepare for it in the nine months leading up to it and you still don’t know what to expect, but all that stress … it’s all worth it.”