Own an airline! Crowdfunded planes give new meaning to customer loyalty

12th May 2014

Ever fancied owning a fleet of aeroplanes? It’s a pretty unlikely dream, but one that prospective airline Odyssey is pitching as part of a crowdfunding exercise designed to foster an almost unbreakable sense of brand loyalty from potential customers.

Founded by former banker Adam Scott and a team of “start-up veterans”, as City A.M. recently referred them, Odyssey Airlines has launched a £5m fundraising drive on crowdfunding site Crowdcube, with a current campaign aiming to raise £1m and offer a 5% equity in the business to investors, in return.

The airline proposes a completely new take on the traditional industry business model, offering flyers non-stop flights between London City Airport and New York with premium business class service and a promise of stress-free travel for the “time-conscious traveller”.

The company website claims planes will be smaller, more environmentally sound and luxurious than the currently available alternatives, with the first flight set for 2016, should the funding targets be reached.   

If successful and the idea gets off the ground, Odyssey could potentially revolutionise the idea of business class flying, and how crowdfunding can forge that all-important sense of loyalty from people, in an industry that’s becoming increasingly fractured. Why wouldn’t you fly with an airline if you had money invested in it?

"We are going after the traditional business traveler," CEO Adam Scott told CNN. "We are operating the most fuel-efficient and modern aircraft available, and flying out of London City Airport, with its proximity to the city centre and short walking times to gates, we are able to offer our travellers substantial time savings."

"The entire journey (to New York) will be significantly less than the journey that you might currently fly with one of the traditional carriers."   

Despite promising that “the experience will be more akin to that of a private jet”, Scott is still confident that the crowdfunding model will allow the business to go toe-to-toe with current competitors on cost too, telling CNN: "We're not going to be a discount carrier, but we're not going to be exorbitantly above our competition. We're going to be priced competitively in the market.”

As Scott explains, the proposal has the benefits of being able to tap into London City Airport, something other transatlantic airlines are currently unable to do. Odyssey's closest competition at this airport, at present, is a British Airways flight, which has to stop in Ireland and refuel because of the type of plane in use (City Airport's short runway means it can’t take off fully fueled and clear the London skyline), a time-consuming process.

The venture already has some influential backers, with renowned British investor Jon Moulton on-board, recently telling City A.M. he was impressed by the “very imaginative idea with abnormally determined management”.

However, it’s through Crowdcube that the idea has truly captured the imagination, with the project already receiving £293,000 (to date) of the £1m target, from 93 investors. The largest donor has committed over £60,000 to the business. That’s 93 prospective and potentially loyal customers dedicated to a service, despite the fact it won’t go into operation for 2 years. It’s a glimpse of the kind of route new types of personalisation and customer experience are taking in certain, quintessentially traditional industries.

"We're trying to get our name out and raise our profile," Adam Scott says. "It's a way to engage early on with our would-be customers; some who also could be early investors.”

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