Private Air: FlyMiwok launches private air service in Southern California

Private Air: FlyMiwok launches private air service in Southern California

The company will fly passengers between more than 28 municipal and commercial airports from Santa Barbara south to San Diego and as far east as Las Vegas.

The recession continues to pummel the nation’s airlines, but that has not stopped a couple of local entrepreneurs from launching an air service for traffic-weary Southern Californians.

FlyMiwok is not an airline. It’s more like an air-taxi company that can fly passengers between more than 28 municipal and commercial airports from Santa Barbara south to San Diego and as far east as Las Vegas.

For example, if you need to get from West Los Angeles to Palm Springs for a business meeting, you can go to the website at www.flymiwok.com to reserve a flight on a luxury Cirrus SR22 single-engine plane to make the trip in less than an hour, going from Santa Monica Airport to Palm Springs International Airport.

By automobile, the journey is a four-hour round trip, in light traffic conditions.

Another alternative is to jump on a regularly scheduled flight from Los Angeles International Airport and deal with the parking hassles, security lines and baggage checks for a 50-minute nonstop flight that will cost you about $1,200.

On FlyMiwok, the prices vary by distance, but on average a flight from Santa Monica Airport to Palm Springs International Airport will cost about $1,950. You can cut the cost by splitting the ride with other passengers.

But the biggest advantage to getting a private flight is that you avoid the delays and hassles of an airline flight. This service is likely to appeal to wealthy business owners who detest delays and have the money to pay for a private flight.

Charter air companies are nothing new. But FlyMiwok lets an online reservation system eliminate the need to call several private pilots and charter companies to make reservations and get a price quote.

The business is the brainchild of Gad Barnea, a former Israeli Air Force air traffic controller and a Silicon Valley software entrepreneur.

It has not all gone as planned. Barnea attempted to launch the business last year but had to delay takeoff after his partner — an aviation company operator — went out of business.

Barnea has a new partner, Tom Bressan, head of Santa Ana-based New Vectors Aviation. The operation will begin modestly, with two planes and six pilots. But Bressan hopes to add an airplane each month for the next 14 months, plus at least two dozen pilots.

How can this business succeed when major airlines are struggling to stay in business?

Barnea hopes the prices will remain competitive because the pilots and planes will be hired on an as-needed basis. Also, he expects demand for the service to surge as long-distance commuting grinds to a halt amid Southern California’s notorious traffic congestion.

“We want to be there to offer customers an alternative that they didn’t have before,” Barnea said.

By Hugo Martín for LA Times

[latimes.com]

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