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Airline tries crowdfunding to take flight

Posted at 11:25 AM, May 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-08 11:25:39-04

(CNN) — You’ve finished your business in London and want to head directly home to New York.

Instead of traveling to far-off Heathrow or Stansted airports, imagine boarding a light-rail train directly to the closer London City Airport. There, you can quickly clearly security and customs and walk a short distance to your gate, where you can board an all-business-class airline for your nonstop flight to New York.

That’s the pitch from Odyssey Airlines, which hopes to start service in 2016.

“We are going after the traditional business traveler,” Odyssey CEO Adam Scott said. “We are operating the most fuel-efficient and modern aircraft available.” And flying out of London City Airport, with its proximity to the city center and short walking times to gates, “we are able to offer our travelers substantial time savings.”

“The entire journey (to New York) will be significantly less than the journey that you might currently fly with one of the traditional carriers. ”

Odyssey plans to start service with 10 specially outfitted 40-seat Bombardier CSeries aircraft to fly nonstop from London City Airport to New York and elsewhere.

To do so, the new airline hopes to raise about about 5 million pounds ($8.48 million) by crowdfunding, including a current effort to raise 1 million pounds on Crowdcube. It’s already raised about 5 million pounds from investors and peer-to-peer lending. Overall, it needs to raise more than 60 million pounds ($101.8 million), mostly through institutional investors, to launch the airline.

Artists, solo entrepreneurs and even the makers of the “Veronica Mars” movie have turned to crowdfunding to launch products. But an airline?

Through fundraising on Crowdcube, Odyssey officials hope to recruit customers and build brand loyalty before the first aircraft takes flight.

“We’re trying to get our name out and raise our profile,” Scott said. “It’s a way to engage early on with our would-be customers,” who also could be early investors.

Airlines such as Eos, Maxjet and Silverjet tried and failed around the 2007-08 economic crisis to lure travelers to an all-business-class model. Some Silverjet executives have joined Odyssey for another attempt.

Those airlines operated under different business models: flying older, more inefficient aircraft and flying into airports farther from the London city center, argued Scott.

Besides its central airport location, Odyssey will fly new airplanes. The Bombardier CSeries aircraft will burn 20% less fuel and have 15% lower operating costs than its peers, company officials said in documents.

Odyssey’s closest competition at City Airport is a British Airways flight. But the British Airways A318 can’t take off from City Airport’s short runway (about 4,000 feet) fully fueled and clear the skyline. It makes a stop in Ireland to completely fuel up before heading onto New York.

The Bombardier would be able to take off fully fueled from City Airport and fly nonstop to New York.

The company hasn’t announced its target ticket prices, but Scott posted some hints.

“We’re not going to be a discount carrier, but we’re not going to be exorbitantly above our competition. We’re going to be priced competitively in the market,” Scott said.

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