Last updated: 02:00 PM ET, Wed February 03 2016

Will 'The Netflix Model' Be The Next Big Thing in Flight Booking?

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | February 03, 2016

Will 'The Netflix Model' Be The Next Big Thing in Flight Booking?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

For some things, subscription-based services make perfect sense. Netflix and its peers provide unlimited streaming for a monthly fee. If you get your kicks from music or books instead of movies and TV, there are similar unlimited monthly subscriptions for those things as well. 

This kind of business model could hypothetically be extended to anything that people do frequently. One of the newest trends in travel is geared towards frequent fliers, evidenced by a company in the U.S. that is starting a subscription flight booking service. The basic premise is not unlike that of a video streaming company like Netflix: you pay a monthly fee and you get unlimited service. That’s right, the company, called OneGo, is offering unlimited flights for one month for a set price. 

Nationwide and regional flights for one monthly fee

Some people hear this and they expect OneGo to be some sort of charter service. It is not. OneGo uses major commercial airlines to offer flights to 76 airports around the country. Fees for nationwide service are $2,950 per month. 

There are also cheaper offerings for people who will be flying in a specific region most of the time. Fliers who only need to travel along the West Coast can get away with a $1,500 per month subscription. This regional membership covers major 14 airports and 35 routes in California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada and Arizona. Similar region-based subscription are available for the Midwest and East regions for $1,950 and $2,300 per month, respectively. The cost for the East is more expensive because the region covers more airports (39) and more routes (158).

READ MORE: More Choice Sometimes Means More Complications in Airfares

Catches and drawbacks

The obvious drawback is that members still have to pay for the month even if they end up not flying. Because of this, OneGo is only really useful for frequent fliers such as business travelers, who will take to the skies more than once or twice during the month. The other major drawback is that, although the company offers access to pretty much every major airport in the Lower 48, it does not connect fliers with many out-of-the-way destinations. 

Some small cities are included in OneGo’s list of options, such as Boise, Idaho; Pensacola, Florida; Savannah, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; and Louisville, Kentucky. That said, if business takes you to places like Little Rock, Arkansas; Colorado Springs, Colorado; or Helena, Montana, this service is probably not going to be worth the monthly investment. That is not to say that the route menu couldn’t expand to include these less-visited airports in the future. The OneGo site explains: “For our launch, we chose cities and routes that are popular for business travelers and frequent flyers. As OneGo continues to grow, we’ll be adjusting our route offerings.” 

How and why it works

Reserving a flight is pretty straightforward. A mobile booking app is at the heart of OneGo. Members can search flights and apply filters like time, destination and favorite airline. According to the OneGo site, members still earn frequent flier miles for the flights they book using the app.  

Travel buyers for large corporations probably won’t want to use OneGo because they probably have already negotiated discounted bulk fares with airlines. Actually, OneGo operates under a similar premise to this kind of corporate travel deal. It passes the same kind of bulk buying power on to individuals:

“The consolidated buying power of OneGo’s customers allow us to obtain better pricing that we can then pass on to those travelers. Additionally, the airlines benefit since they do not need to incur the high costs associated with having a large sales staff to manage multiple smaller accounts; instead, they are able to work directly with OneGo.” 

READ MORE: US Business Travel Industry Will See Steady Growth, Study Finds

Other subscription-based air travel services

An Australian service called Airly is planning to launch later this year with a slightly more modest subscription model. The company will use eight-seat Beechcraft King Air 350 turboprop planes to fly between Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. Passengers can take these flights if they sign up for a monthly service. They will have to pay a $1,000 start-up fee and then a monthly payment ranging from $2,550 to $3,750. 

The advantage of Airly over OneGo is that the Australian company will fly out of private airports, which will cut down on the amount of time that members will have to spend in the airport. The obvious drawback is that Airly has a very limited number of routes (although there is probably as much demand for Sydney-Melbourne flights as there is for any U.S. route that OneGo offers).  

OneGo is not for casual fliers, but business travelers who take to the skies at least once per week and who don’t qualify for the best corporate bulk rates might find this a very useful tool that is worth the membership price.  


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