Retail subscription services, despite the subjective quality of any particular one’s offerings, are not commonly thought of as “high-end.”
Sure, a consumer can purchase luxury items on the regular through some of the services, but by and large, a central marketing tenet of subscription retail is that it saves people money over time by allowing them to buy goods or services in bulk, rather than on an à la carte basis. Clothes, beauty products, meals, at-home entertainment … these and many others on the growing list of items available through a subscription model aren’t necessarily top-shelf, but they are almost always perfectly serviceable (at least) and, in many cases, essential.
One area where subscription services have previously been limited to the luxury set is in air travel. Could air travel be deemed an “essential” service? In the modern era, it practically is. Certainly, some people fly on a much more regular basis than others, but, sooner or later, almost everyone has to at times. And when one has to fly, that usually indicates that it’s a need arising at the last minute.
The latter fact is one that has been disregarded to date, as most subscription air travel services — companies like Surf Air, Rise, Beacon and Airly — deal exclusively in private planes. Although these companies are targeted towards businesses — meaning that the individual flyer doesn’t have to pick up the tab — the costs exceed what many small and medium-sized businesses are budgeted for, and the notion of patronizing them is all but out of the question for the average citizen traveler.
Or it was, anyway … before startup OneGo entered the space.
While the subscription air travel service, which launched its app this week (an iOS app is scheduled for release March 1, with an Android app to follow), is, like its predecessors, targeted towards the frequent business traveler, a major distinguishing factor of OneGo is that it puts its subscribers onto commercial airlines, tickets for which — subscription or no subscription — are always going to be a heck of a lot cheaper than private flights.
OneGo is working with seven major airlines and 76 major airports across the country, partitioning the U.S. into four regions to set subscription pricing. The service will charge $1,950 per month for flights in any of three zones, while a month on the West Coast costs $1,500. A nationwide plan comes to $2,950 monthly. Subscribers to the company’s basic plan will be able to secure four reservations at any one time; that number can be upped to eight bookings for an additional $750.
Are those prices in excess of what the average “casual” flyer spends on air travel in a month? More than likely. But, for the even semi-frequent business traveler — one who’s operating within the budget of a small or medium-sized outfit — choosing between the costs of a subscription service like OneGo and one of the private plane-centric subscription offerings is a no-brainer.
“By eliminating those factors, like price and payment, you really allow people to focus on where they need to be,” OneGo Founder Paulius Grigas told Bloomberg. “You let them focus on their needs.”
Another potential upshot for OneGo — an element on which all competitively priced subscription services, from Netflix to Costco, base their business models — is that when consumers have more ready access to goods or services, they tend to avail themselves to them more often.
As Grigas commented to Mashable, ”With all-you-can-eat kind of services, people eat more.” By that logic, it follows that when the process of having to worry about the individual costs of airline flights is removed, “you just naturally fly more.”
Essentially, then, what OneGo is banking on is that consumers’ tendency to “binge” on services like the aforementioned Netflix will translate to air travel.
“We’re not sure why anyone hasn’t tried this model before,” Grigas said to Skift.
It’s that kind of thinking that can often lead to a business taking flight.