Fly by the minute

Taking a cue from the cellphone industry, an upstart South African
airline is selling flights by the minute and allowing customers to buy
tickets and book flights via text message.

Airtime Airlines takes to
the sky later this month, offering three flights a day from its base in
Durban to Johannesburg, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. Passengers
purchase minutes much like they would for a prepaid cell phone and
redeem them for a ticket. Fees are assessed according to the length of
the flight – say, 75 minutes for the run from Durban to Johannesburg –
and could save as much as half of what competing airlines charge.

Here is the article.  It’s not yet clear whether they have managed to lease planes, but here is another part of the business plan:

The cost for Airtime minutes can fluctuate, presumably according to
promotions and market factors, so topping off
becomes an exercise comparable to fuel hedging. Buy a big block of
minutes when you think they’re at their cheapest and you look smart,
unless the price drops again the next day. Then again, it might go up.
The price recently rose from 3 Rand to 5 Rand, meaning the cost of a
round-trip flight from Durban to Cape Town climbed from about 750 Rand
($81) to 1,250 Rand (about $134). Still that’s cheaper than the $200 it
would cost on South African Airlines.

But can you sell minutes short?  I thank Christopher Balding for the pointer.


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