Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Airlines

Dubai Sets 2026 for Launch of Air Taxis

1 year ago

Dubai has yet again revealed its plans to connect the city through flying taxis and expects to launch aerial taxi operations by 2026.

In 2017, the city had test-flown a driverless vehicle called the Autonomous Air Taxi, that was touted to be the world’s first self-flying taxi service set to be introduced by Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority (RTA).

Announcing the plans for the aerial taxi on Sunday evening, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of United Arab Emirates and ruler of Dubai, tweeted, “We approved today the design of the new air taxi stations in Dubai, which will start operating within three years.”

The prototype models of aerial taxi vertiports have been developed by the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.

Vertiports encompass a range of facilities such as designated take-off and landing zones, a passenger waiting area, security protocols, and electric charging stations, said Mattar Al Tayer, director-general and chairman of the board of executive directors of Dubai Roads and Transport Authority.

“These stations seamlessly integrate with other modes of transportation,” Al Tayer said.

The aerial taxi vertiport will be located near Dubai International Airport, which when complete will make Dubai the first city in the world with a fully developed network of vertiports.

The terminal for aerial taxis will be connected to the Emirates Metro Station via an air-conditioned bridge, according to a release.

“The next step involves identifying exceptional investors who are experts in building the necessary infrastructure for the air mobility industry,” Al Tayer added.

With top speeds of 186 miles per hour and a maximum range of 150 miles, the aircraft will seat a pilot and four passengers.

The promotional video released by the Dubai government features an aircraft from air taxi startup Joby Aviation.

The initial network of vertiports will connect four main areas of Dubai — Downtown Dubai (Burj Khalifa area), Dubai Marina, Dubai International Airport and Palm Jumeirah.

While working on a comprehensive framework for the operation of such vehicles, Dubai Roads and Transport Authority will also outline the flight paths for the vehicles, identify take-off and landing sites, and specify necessary equipment for safe and efficient operations.

“The launch of the service hinges upon the preparedness of the companies and the legislative requirements for operating aerial taxis. This also involves a thorough examination of all operational details and ensuring that all safety and security measures are in place,” Al Tayer explained.

Airlines

Delta, JetBlue Air Taxi Supplier Joby Delays Commercial Flights by a Year

2 years ago

Joby Aviation has delayed the introduction of its new electric air taxi by about a year to 2025, as the certification of the new aircraft proceeds slower than hoped. The developer disclosed the delay in a letter to shareholders on Wednesday.

The delay has immediate implications for Delta Air Lines, which in October unveiled plans to launch a premium air taxi product with Joby in 2024. Delta will sell and market the flights on what are officially known as electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, while Joby manages operations and branding under the exclusive partnership. The airline will invest up to $200 million in the air taxi company and be its sole partner on the new premium service for at least five years after commercial launch.

“The new timeline helps clear the air with some cautious optimism that the FAA expects to have necessary [regulations] in place by” the end of 2024, Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth wrote Thursday on the delay.

A Joby electric air taxi on a test flight
(Joby Aviation)

Joby, and other companies in the urban air mobility sector, claim that electric air taxi technology will revolutionize how people get around cities. In their partnerships with airlines, they tout fast, carbon-free rides on the battery-powered aircraft from downtowns or regional centers to airports. All of the in-development eVTOLS seat only four passengers and are able to fly no more than about 150 miles on a single charge.

JetBlue Ventures is also an investor in Joby, though its parent JetBlue Airways has yet to specify an order or operational plan for the air taxis in its network. Joby also counts Japan’s All Nippon Airways among its customers.

Read Joby's Shareholder Letter

Ground Transport

Ex-Spirit CEO Ben Baldanza Thinks Electric Planes Face Huge Commercial Challenges

2 years ago

The future commercial use of electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, or eVTOLs, will be “highly challenging,” according to former Spirit Airlines CEO Ben Baldanza, who’s a fan of the technology’s potential, but thinks industrial and military applications would take place first.

The Archer Aviation Maker aircraft on its first flight in December 2021.

Baldanza, writing in Forbes about these helicopter-like electric vehicles, said they indeed face tech challenges regarding battery life, the intent to operate in congested areas, a lack of trained pilots, and the costs would preclude eVTOLs becoming a popular transportation alternative anytime soon.

Instead of carrying passengers, these electric flying vehicles would likely first see their initial applicability in carrying cargo and transporting packages, Baldanza wrote.

Transporting equipment during battles may also be an initial preferred use for electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, he wrote.

“Timing of flights likely would not conflict as much with other airspace uses, and utilization can be improved,” Baldanza wrote. “Also, industrial and military uses won’t be especially helpful in only the biggest metro areas, meaning that some issues will be easier to work out. This makes sense, and this eVTOL equipment will compete with smaller drones for some operations.”

Special purpose acquisition company mergers have been a popular funding mechanism for electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, Baldanza wrote, “even though revenue streams may be many years away.”

And Baldanza, who pioneered everything from charging for boarding passes to overhead bin space during his 11 years (2005 to 2016) as CEO of Spirit, knows a few things about revenue streams.