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Michael Scott

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Michael Scott majored in International Business at San Francisco State University and University of Economics, Prague. He is now working as a news editor for…

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Could Airbnb Take To The Air?

Airbnb

It hasn’t taken log for Airbnb to try to live up to the first part of its name after making the second part a smashing success.

It already offers home-sharing, boutique hotels, experiences, and dining reservations, and for the past couple of years it’s been debating whether to launch its own airline.

And co-founder Brian Chesky is keen to turn the company into a full-on, one-stop shop for travel.

“We’ve seriously considered a lot of things around aviation and we’ve spent a lot of time exploring different concepts…We definitely want to make sure, though, that we can get into the end-to-end trip business,” Chesky told The Sunday Times.

We’ve heard about Airbnb working on a tool to book flights in the past, but Chesky now seems to be re-focused on a much bigger idea to accompany the “air” part of the company’s name.

Chesky’s social media activity in April hinted at making air travel faster, cheaper and more luxurious.

(Click to enlarge)

Building an airline from scratch would take a very long time; and while electric planes are being realized, this is still very early days.

Chesky will certainly be watching Norway’s electric plane progress, which saw the successful testing of a two-seater in June, predicting the launch of passenger flights by 2025. So things could move a bit faster than normal, considering how far Norway’s come when only a few years ago it’s aviation chiefs were skeptical about electric flying. Now they predict their entire aviation fleet will be electric by 2040.

Likewise, travel industry experts are skeptical about the potential for an Airbnb airline—even if they don’t outright reject the possibility. Instead, they gamble that the company would seek a tie-up with an existing operation, and it already has partnerships with some through its travel business.

Initially, the idea of launching flights as a travel ‘super brand’ was floated in 2016, but there’s a lot that needs to come together first. Back in June, Jeroen Merchiers--Airbnb’s managing director of Europe, Middle East, and Africa—suggested an Airbnb airline was really on the company’s radar at the moment and that there may have a bit overenthusiasm about the idea.  

Related: Uber Falling Victim to Investors’ Short-Term Thinking

But that was June, and now we’re in August, and the idea has re-emerged as Airbnb prepares to go public, possibly in 2019. After years of rapid growth and regulatory battles, Airbnb’s management announced recently that company will be ready to go public as soon as 2019 but not later than late 2020.

Today, Airbnb has nearly 5 million lodging options in 81,000 cities spanning 191 countries, and during its land round of funding March 2017 it was reportedly valued at $31 billion. That would make it the second-most valuable start-up in the U.S., second only to Uber.

The company has experienced regulatory challenges in several major cities, including New York Berlin and Paris, where Airbnb is banned from listing short-term rentals. Critics argue that Airbnb contributes to rising rent costs and a lack of affordable housing in major cities.

But Chesky has a dream, and it’s fast, cheap and … better. And it’s not just about more tourism, according to Merchiers. It’s about “allowing a broader range of the population to participate in the wealth that is being generated and also some of the decentralization that is happening and that … social connection that travel is missing […]”.

By Michael Scott for Safehaven.com

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