Keyframe recently led a $20 million Series A for Aero, a luxury air travel start-up. Read more about the news below, where we’ve shared a re-print of the article from the San Francisco Business Times. The original article can be found here.
S.F. high-end air travel startup Aero scores $20 million in Series A funding
By Alex Barreira – Staff Reporter, San Francisco Business Times
Updated Mar 4, 2021, 2:52pm PST
Aero Technologies Inc., a high-end San Francisco jet startup from Uber co-founder Garrett Camp, has raised $20 million in Series A funding, the company announced Thursday.
The venture round was led by Keyframe Capital and includes Cyrus Capital Partners and Expa, the startup incubator run by Camp where Aero was launched in 2019. The funding, which brings Aero's total to date to $50 million, will help the company introduce new routes in the U.S. market.
"It’s totally counterintuitive to fundraise for an airline during the pandemic," said CEO Uma Subramanian, an aerospace engineer veteran who was previously CEO of Airbus' helicopter service, Voom.Flights. "But while it is a tough time to be a mainline carrier, it's a spectacular time to start from scratch because assets are at a historic low price."
Aero offers leisure travelers a luxury experience somewhere between what Subramanian called the "two extremes" of premium air travel: "very commoditized business or first-class experience on the commercial carriers, or a private experience that is unaffordable except for the top 0.1% of people."
Waiting in line? Forget it. The "semi-private" on-demand charter service gives passengers access through private lounges, white-glove concierge luggage service and VIP-level accommodations. Its distinctive all-black planes feature high-end touches such as hand-stitched Italian leather seats, suede interior walls and a custom sound system. According to Subramanian, the idea is to elevate the enjoyment of the journey to the level of the destination.
"Our thesis is, why can't we make air travel a part of the experience?" she said.
The planes' spacious interiors — the planes are designed to accommodate 37 seats but only have 16 — made the transition to Covid-era service all the smoother. Compared with commercial flights, the Aero planes offer fewer touch points and the pre-boarding process has been redesigned with Covid-19 in mind, Subramanian said.
After testing the concept for several months last summer in Europe — it ran Mykonos-to-Ibiza and Nice-to-London flights before pandemic-related restrictions grounded planes — Aero last month debuted its first U.S. route between Los Angeles and Aspen, Colorado. One-way tickets start at $1,250.
Aero specializes in shorter flights that offer greater opportunity for market disruption, the CEO said, compared with premium products available for coast-to-coast offerings from other carriers, such as JetBlue Mint. Aero's next route, slated to launch in April, is between Los Angeles and Cabo San Lucas.
While the Bay Area market is "on the radar," the focus right now is on the Los Angeles market, which Subramanian compared favorably to London as a destination of "trendsetters and discerning creative travelers." She's optimistic that leisure travel is on the cusp of a big rebound.
"Demand is going to come back like never before," Subramanian said. "People are ready to go places."
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