Why high flyers are hopping on air taxis… it’s a new way to travel without the hassle of an airport – and far cheaper than you might think
- Niche website Wingly.io has reported a surge in interest for private flights
- It puts ‘hobby pilots’ in touch with passengers who share the cost of fuel
- A return trip from London to Newquay in Cornwall, is from £166 per person
Fancy a day trip to Cornwall? Or how about afternoon tea on the Isle of Wight? Or perhaps a spot of lunch in the Channel Islands, or is northern France more your thing?
A niche website for flying enthusiasts —Wingly.io — reports a surge in interest from travellers keen to take to the skies in the comfort of a private plane or helicopter, avoiding the clamour and queues of major airports as well as traffic jams and people spluttering on trains.
And now social distancing rules have been relaxed, private flights with guest passengers are taking to the skies once again. Operating out of more than 500 airfields in the UK, Wingly puts ‘hobby pilots’ in touch with passengers who are asked to help share the cost of fuel and take-off/landing charges.
A niche website for flying enthusiasts —Wingly.io — reports a surge in interest from travellers keen to take to the skies in the comfort of a private plane or helicopter
A return trip from London to Newquay in Cornwall, is from £166 per person with a total flying time of 3h 20m.
The cost-sharing system allows pilots to indulge in their passion for flying, while passengers enjoy exciting journeys to parts of the UK as well as Europe including France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany.
Among the more exotic options on offer is a day trip to Antwerp in Belgium from North Weald Airfield in Essex. The flight on a Diamond DA-42 Twin Star, four-seater, twin engine propeller plane, costing £312 per person, crosses the North Sea before touching down at a small airfield. After sightseeing, the pilot arranges lunch at a 17th-century coaching house, before flying back.
Trips to the beach at Le Touquet in the Pas-de-Calais department in northern France are also possible, with passengers recommended to book a table at one of the many haute cuisine restaurants in the fashionable resort, also known as ‘Paris by the Sea’. The price? £177 per person for a round-trip of 1h 25m, also from North Weald.
‘People want to avoid waiting around in airports,’ says Ahaad Adiji, UK country manager for Wingly, set up five years ago and based in Paris. ‘They like being in small groups — that’s the difference to travelling on a commercial airline.’
The company has 300,000 registered users including 20,000 pilots who have flown more than 15,000 flights in 45 countries since 2015. The cost-sharing plat-form has proved especially popular in France and Germany. Most travellers have been those celebrating special occasions.
Wheels up: Enjoying a front row seat on a Wingly private charter plane
In anticipation of a large growth in those aiming to keep to themselves on trips, Wingly is also launching a commercial wing, called Wingly Pro. This will make it possible to order specific routes.
Matthew Aiello, 56, who has been flying planes since he was 21 and carried more than 100 passengers in the six months before lockdown using Cessnas out of Blackbushe Airport in Hampshire, says he is getting a lot of interest from people considering UK breaks, northern France and skiing weekends in Courchevel in the French Alps: ‘They want to avoid the big airports.
‘It’s been so much fun — I get to fly more and meet so many new people.’
Just looking at the trips on offer is enough to fire up a feeling of wanderlust: Ostend for ‘moules frites for lunch’ (on a Cirrus SR 22 single-engine five-seater), a day-trip to a country inn outside Chichester, West Sussex, (from Kent in a helicopter) . . . and beer and currywurst in Berlin (after flying over on a three-seater Piper PA28R-201 Arrow III). Yes, please, or ja bitte.