Can an Electric Airline Make Regional Flights Cheap Again?

And perhaps more importantly, can they stay in the air?

April 5, 2017 9:00 am

Times have been tough for travelers who rely on regional airports.

Though exceptions exist, in general, smaller populations mean lower demand — which in turns creates less competition. That is a recipe for higher fares: according to USA Today, the airports with the highest average ticket prices in 2016 were Dane County, WI (near Madison); Harrisburg, PA, and McGhee Tyson Airport, near Knoxville, TN. At Dane County, the average ticket price was $511.58. That sucks. Crazy fact: “95 percent of all U.S. air traffic emanates from only 2 percent of the country’s 5,000 airports.” That’s great if you live in Queens, South San Francisco or within eyesight of DFW. For everyone else, that means total travel times have either held steady or climbed. 

A consumer’s problem is the entrepreneur’s opportunity, though, which is perhaps why the aviation start-up Zunum Aero is focusing on regional airports. The Kirkland, Washington-based company wants to fly between underserved regional airports with small, electric hybrid planes that seat as few as 10 passengers. When flights start (Zunum is hoping for the early 2020s) flights should top out around 700 miles. They hope to get that up to 1,000 within a few years of launch. Helping the company with that goal are backers including JetBlue and Boeing.

Rumor has it those guys know what they’re doing. 


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