Closing This Chapter: Our Learnings On Transforming How People Move
In early 2016, we started Voom with the ambition to democratize access to the skies and transform how people move in urban environments. Over the last four years, Voom has grown from a project inside Airbus’ innovation center in Silicon Valley, Acubed, to a multinational company operating in Brazil, Mexico and the US, flying passengers in three of the most populous and congested metropolitan areas in the world. We have taken great pride in delivering the best possible service to our customers, and have gleaned key insights into the potential of the air mobility market and passenger preferences along the way.
Scaling globally isn’t easy for any business, and we found this to be especially true in an expensive industry with a truly transformative model for both Airbus and the transportation market as a whole. Couple these truths with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, and we have been faced with some hard choices, as are so many businesses today. On March 23, we were forced to cease global operations due to the virus, and today, with our Airbus leadership, we have made the tough call that Voom will not resume its operations.
While we would have loved to continue our ambitious work, we have achieved our two major initial goals for this project. The first one was to create and launch the first-to-market mobile helicopter booking platform providing Airbus with valuable behavioral and operational data about UAM in today’s global markets. To that end, we learned a lot about customer preferences— booking and movement patterns, most popular routes, willingness to pay—as well as about operational challenges related to lack of infrastructure, public acceptance, on-demand versus scheduled routes, etc. We also shared valuable data with Airbus to help inform the company’s decisions on the design of any future electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle (eVTOL), including the average number of passengers per flight and flight time, the optimum end-to-end customer experience and infrastructure-related costs.
Our second goal was to democratize access to the urban skies. I am proud to say that over the course of our operations, we acquired nearly 150,000 active users and flew more than 15,000 passengers. In our first year of operation, 60% of our customers were first-time helicopter users, proving that we truly opened the skies to a new audience. We achieved a 45% repeat customer rate and an average ticket price equivalent to 2x the cost of a private taxi service for 1/10th of the time, making accessible and affordable urban air transportation a reality.
I am extremely proud of and grateful to the global team we built. Voom employees are an amazing group of talented and diverse individuals and aviation enthusiasts who are passionate about urban air mobility. Together, we have worked hard over the years to improve people's lives by giving them access to urban skies. As co-founder and COO, and now CEO of Voom, my greatest source of inspiration has been the mission we set for the company and the team assembled to achieve it.
I would like to thank our strategic partners, the helicopter operators and the helipad management companies in São Paulo, Mexico City and the San Francisco Bay Area who have all demonstrated an exceptional level of commitment to customer service, professionalism and passion. You have been incredible partners.
This is just one chapter in urban air mobility, with so much more to come. It is not a question of whether the UAM market will open up, but when. Having been in this space for the past four years, leading one of the few companies providing a UAM service to passengers, I am well aware of the challenges to making UAM possible with eVTOL within this decade. I still believe they can be overcome, and I remain excited and optimistic about the progress being made to build out the interconnected ecosystem required to make UAM a reality. In that regard, Airbus continues to invest in the UAM arena and will be able to leverage the knowledge gained through Voom.
Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to the leaders of Airbus and Acubed. Without their support, we would not have been able to transition an idea into a project and grow it into a global company that customers around the world relied upon to transform how they move.
Thank you to everyone who has been part of this fascinating adventure with us. It has been an amazing journey!
- Clement Monnet