TBY talks to Enrique Aguilar, Country Manager Mexico for Voom, on air services, user numbers in 2019, and expansion to new cities.

Why is Mexico the second-largest country in the world in terms of demand for air services?

The mobility issues in the country are the primary cause of demand for air travel. Traveling within cities that are important in terms of industrial and economic activity is fairly difficult due to traffic congestion. Air mobility significantly reduces the amount of time it takes to travel from one place to another. The country has a strong oil and gas industry as well that requires the use of helicopters and air taxis frequently. This volume of helicopter use is an area of opportunity for a company such as Voom. We are a digital platform that does not own a single air taxi; our goal is to connect operators with users through an application. A city as congested as Mexico City with a high amount of economic activity requires people to get from one place to another on time and quickly, especially at the airport.

What is the future of air mobility?

The nature of Voom at the moment lies with helicopters, though the future is with Electrical Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL), an autonomous vehicle that is being developed around the world that could change the face of urban air mobility. At some point, we will have to incorporate such services. It will ultimately make air mobility more efficient and less costly. These vehicles will likely be electric and less noisy than helicopters as they use smaller blades. The first step for us is to help clients get used to air mobility; since one day, it will be as normal as taking the train, car, or bus.

How many riders did you target by the end of 2018, and what are your goals for 2019?

We have over 50,000 users in our website spread out between Brazil and Mexico, with most of them in São Paulo, which has been operating for a year and a half now. Brazil has a stronger client base and more helipads, and we plan on tripling the number of riders in the system. We are confident in our business in Mexico and have seen steady levels of growth when it comes to people adopting air taxi services and repeat customers. Some clients have already used our service up to 12 times. Owning a helicopter is expensive, and before we entered the market, only those with a fairly high net worth could afford them. Voom allows all people to take advantage of this form of transportation; we are democratizing the use of helicopter and air mobility.

What strategies do you use to make the service more accessible?

We price by the seat, which makes the service significantly more accessible in comparison to renting an entire helicopter. Our pricing is 80-85% lower than the market because of how we structure our business model. We use our own algorithm to coordinate flights and seats around the city to ensure the best prices.

How do you plan on expanding to other cities and countries in Latin America?

São Paulo has 10 heliports, including three in airports and air bases, while Mexico City has five, two which are in CDXM and Toluca airports. We want to further expand into other parts of the city, as the service is needed in south and north of Mexico City. Our business model can be applied to any city in the world and our first step is to consolidate these two cities. It is a great honor to pioneer these services in Mexico and disrupt my own country. Mexico and São Paulo are at the forefront of this urban air mobility movement worldwide. In terms of on-demand urban air mobility, Voom is unique in the world at the moment.

How do you ensure there are enough heliports for your application?

We have contracts between heliports, operators, and our digital platform. We are only allowed to use heliports with commercial permits since we charge landing fees. Mexico City only has three heliports with these permits, and all are part of our platform. Private licensed heliports that want to be part of our network will have to switch and apply for the commercial permit.

How do air service trends differentiate in Latin America compared to other regions?

Mexico and Brazil have strong cultures of private aviation, which makes them important markets for us. Other cities have much larger commercial aviation markets that are well known. Our point is not to compete with private air mobility service providers but to collaborate with them and allow them to use our platform. We are not bringing more helicopters into the country, we are partnering with them to create a bigger market and demand. Our booking window is between 24 hours and a week, as we want to do it on demand. Perhaps in the future we will extend the booking window to two months.