Amidst new aviation schemes in 2022, flyv is one with great promise that aims to change the industry forever. With its promise of connecting people in secondary cities to anywhere they wish to travel in Europe, flyv aims to bring mobility to its highest point on the continent with 9-seat electric aircraft, a focus on customer centricity and an endless amount of new route connections.
Our journalist, Luca Zocche had the opportunity to interview its founder Tomislav Lang, in Munich who shared his insights on flyv and the future of travel. Without further ado:
How did flyv come to be?
It came about with four to five people who had a lot of time during Covid to think about how aviation could be reshaped. We thought about many ways and today we’re very happy that our vision is very clear.
We will be the first on-demand air mobility airline and we are looking ahead to reach fully sustainable operation as soon as the technological advancements will permit us to do so.
But already today, with the way our operations are supposed to work, and the airplanes that we will use, we will be able to be more sustainable on the specific route network that we will deploy within Europe than any other airline today.
How does flyv aim to change aviation?
It’s very easy. Imagine you want to fly from Limoges to Modena. You will tell us the date of departure and earliest time of departure during the day from Limoges and the latest time you want to arrive in Modena.
We have programmed an algorithm on software that will gather all requests from all of our customers and show us the best possible schedule based on our limitations, on our restrictions, on our crew, and the operations basis of our airplanes.
"We don’t have a fixed network schedule. The network is about being broad and being built by algorithms and built by our passengers and their requests."
This algorithm is calculated based on the requests that we have and informs you 3 days before departure at what time we will pick you up in order to bring you to Modena. What’s it all about? It’s all about the fact that we don’t have a fixed network schedule. The network is about being broad and being built by algorithms and built by our passengers and their requests.
Do you plan to operate this with newer type of aircraft at lower costs or with the present technology that we see today?
First of all, we’re looking into reaching markets that are not seen as competition. If you’re searching for flights between Munich and Hamburg, you have much better choices on that route. With our aircraft we will only fly into sites by looking at the German infrastructure map.
We will be able to land at more than 150 sites that cannot be flown by any airline because there is no airline doing that besides us. This is opening up a totally new market. You will tell us in the future from which address you depart from and to which address you have to arrive.
We will calculate all the airports in your nearby vicinity and get you via this airport closer and faster to your destination than any other transport organization that can deliver that. If there is somebody who can do that faster than us we will simply not do it. That’s what I meant on routes from Munich to Hamburg.
We are beatable because there are already other products in the market but from smaller airports like Ausburg, Rosenheim, Bremerhaven, Lubeck, Erfurt, Bern, etc., we see an opportunity. All of these commercial airports that could be used but are not used based on the fact that there is no model in place, we will use. Why are we going to do it?
We’re planning to start our operations based on a nine-seater aircraft. We can do this already today with existing technology such as the Tecnam P2012. Italian Aircraft manufacturer has a very interesting airplane that is already being used by an airline in the United States, the Cape Air model.
The airplane was actually designed by Cape Air out of the fact that they need this airplane because they’re very focused on that type of operation and at the same time, we need this airplane as a proof of concept to grow our network and to make people aware that we are there and that they have the possibility to book any place on the map of Europe and that we can bring them there. That’s our promise.
At the same time, there is more than 150 new aircraft manufacturers starting up with new airplanes. We decided for the Electra that is being built in Langental, Switzerland and in the United States. It’s an aircraft that is basing their technology on a technology that's basically been on the market for many years but could not be efficiently used until now. The technology that I’m talking about is basically an ESTOL technology that allows the fixed wing to start and depart on very short routes.
Once the Electra is installed, we are opening up the market to even more destinations because this airplane needs less than 200 meters of runway to depart with maximum load capacity. The nice thing about it is I think that's exactly the way we need to move forward in aviation.
It’s a hybrid airplane so the airplane has six engines all installed over the wing. This is why the ESTOL technology gets to be more efficient because with lighter engines the ESTOL technology can be used in a much more efficient and economical way.
The hybrid engine is important because we think that the infrastructure will not be ready for a full electrical powered battery yet. It will not promise 100% sustainability but it will drive down costs significantly so we will be able to offer tickets at the price of a train ticket once we start scaling the system.
This will not happen from the beginning, but once we start and we foresee that by 2035, we should have a fleet of about 100-120 airplanes deployed in Europe, then this model gets very interesting.
Our vision is that you can book the flyv airplane just like a car ride sharing company or like an Uber. Basically people know they don’t have to look at Munich only but they can look from their private address to know whether on a specific date they can fly.
That's the very interesting thing here. We’re actually also solving a mobility problem. We’re not bringing traffic onto roads and highways. We’re actually taking this traffic off the roads.
This is completely sustainable how we see it. We are bringing more passengers to the same destination with less noise and with less use of fossil fuels and our goal and aim is to start to work as soon as possible without using fossil fuels. That is already possible very soon.
You’re only focusing on a small group of passengers. Will all flights be direct or will there be a multi-stop model as what we saw in the 1930s and 40s when propeller aircraft stopped in many small cities?
This is what the algorithm will tell us. Our algorithm is calculating new routes every day and will know the most efficient way to fly. We will have different booking scenarios. If you as Mr. Zocche tells us, I want to fly 07:00 and I want to fly direct, we will assure that but you will have to pay more. If you tell us “well I don’t care at what time I fly ” then you get a cheaper ticket. If you say “I basically don’t care, I just want to get from A to B” on a time period of days selected then you have the most flexible ticket and like this you will get the best price.
Then it could happen that we start the flight in Lubeck, Augsburg, load on passengers, bring in new passengers and keep them flying till we arrive in Modena. That's something that the algorithm will tell us. This is why we need to start slow and in a very clear pattern so that our algorithm can learn. It’s a highly complex calculation algorithm so it takes a lot of machine power for the calculation.
"We see ourselves as a very interesting model for the intra-model concepts that are coming, the new mobility concepts and to assist existing airlines by feeding their hubs."
We will need to use the best software that are in place currently. We are working here with a company from Germany that is already programming our specific approach to commercial sales and translating that also into artificial intelligence that later will assure that the algorithm will learn to make things better for the future.
It will all be a constant adoption and control of the algorithm and that was the main idea when we started. We asked, “how can an airline be different?” It can only be different if you make it customer centric and the customer comes first so the customer can decide where to go and how to move forward.
Not just offering a clear flight plan because it will not be realistic to have a flight plan set up from Augsburg or from Erfurt like in a classic airline network approach nowadays. This is a much more dynamic system which again is a supplement to many existing airlines.
We don't see ourselves as the one fighting with others. We see ourselves as a very interesting model for the intra-model concepts that are coming, the new mobility concepts and to assist existing airlines by feeding their hubs without putting them into the need of flying smaller and thinner routes that are actually not efficient enough for them.
What is the estimated target market size? Unserved or underserved?
Well, it depends on who you see as your competitor. we’re touching a huge market here because what we’re seeing as well is that many people are moving out of the cities and people have to drive, for example, 40-50 minutes in order to connect to the first/next-best possible airline.
Let's say I’m flying to Rome. I have to start my day at 05:00, drive to the airport, go through check-in, walk to the gate, fly to Rome, arrive at my gate in Rome and leave the airplane. My total travel time is much longer than just the flight.
With our model your travel time is being reduced. You can move within Europe quicker without the flight scan that you have in place in the future and you’re flying sustainably.
We have another added value that flying — which I see as a necessity — becomes viable again in the whole discussion that we have about global warming. On the other hand, it will be a multi-layer market.
There will be a new market because people will understand “Oh wait I don’t have to fly from Munich or Stuttgart, I can fly from Augsburg actually”. There will be passengers who didn’t fly anymore based on the global warming discussion of the last few years so they’ll start flying again.
If you look at the whole aviation market, we’re still in a growth phase and people and the world are getting closer. More people are living in our greater region. I think it’s a multi-layered approach and it can be even extended into supplementing and getting traffic away from the hubs that we actually don’t need and that other airlines would be very happy to not have the need to serve these smaller destinations.
We have existing infrastructure. We have existing regional airports. That’s most likely the first one that we will look at. We’ll start growing into existing markets before we start growing into, let's say, a non-commercial airport infrastructure sites, before we start landing maybe into total new infrastructures like helipads and possible landing sites that can be used for commercial aviation. Then it gets very interesting because then we can get you much closer to any place in a flight time of 1-2 hours.
The Electra will be able to fly at 10,000 feet at a speed of 190 knots carrying 9 passengers but landing at sites less than 200 meters. Basically, I could bring you in front of your door if I wished to do so. Regulatory wise this is why we are not looking at building infrastructure sites.
For example, in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, there are so many existing landing sites that could be used commercially that we don’t see the necessity in building new places. And then let's see what the future brings.
Do you plan on virtually interlining through Dohop or Kiwi?
Actually the technology that they’re using is nothing new. So what are they doing? They’re gathering all information into their database with an API connection and resell your seats.
Currently we are additionally developing a one-stop shop together with BloXMove. They are offering a B2B Mobility platform solution based on Blockchain technology. This tool connected to flyv will be extremely powerful. With Bloxmove we will solve the last mile and offer door-to-door travel solution being seamless and sustainable.
Our approach on the commercial side is as well a move from classical distribution into new technology by using and combining old sales channels and evolving into new technologies in order to scale the system and bring more passengers into the air.
In the end most of your ticket sales have to go through your hands. If this is not enough, then you don’t have a viable business model. This is cherry on the cake. For Lufthansa a different story. Huge airline, but if you’re talking small scale in the beginning, GDS is not the first distribution tool that you need.
"Our approach on the commercial side is as well a move from classical distribution into new technology by using and combining old sales channels and evolving into new technologies in order to scale the system and bring more passengers into the air."
Also Kiwi is not the first distribution tool that you need. What you need is market presence so you first have to build your brand before you do anything else. If you don’t build the brand, you can’t resell wherever you want simply out of the reason that if people don’t know you, they will not book you.
How do you plan to expedite the check-in process when you still need to be at the airport 30 minutes before departure at airports as small as Lubeck and Rostock? JSX in the United States is an example of an airline that has expedited this process.
We don’t need a check-in. Our flight product is an actual flight product. You will not need to carry your luggage and you will not need to officially check-in at the airport. You will be able to park your car or to be distributed at a landing site and you will be able to enter our airplane without any extra additional security checks, gate checks of your boarding pass or whatsoever. It will be all digital.
Have airports been supportive of your product?
Absolutely. We attended Routes World. We talked with more than 150 airports. There are airports who don’t see the need which is clear to me. They don’t see it today. Why should they if they have traffic, but especially those airports that are really looking for markets and having thin markets.
Our product is for thin markets. Our product is not there for the classic markets that have existed for many years. What could happen is that a specific date and time after a long time of operation we do know that for example in Bern we need to have 1 airplane being positioned every second day to fly the Munich route and there will also be fixed routes that we will be flying.
On the other hand, I know from personal use that there are many flights from specific airports like Bern like Esbjerg or many other smaller regional airports that change on a daily basis but no airline will put an airplane of their size with their current technology into any airport just to fly anything any day.
So that is something again we are offering to airports which airports are very interested in because there are many more models out there that will support that. Response is very positive.
"There is a clear need for the aviation industry that we know today but there is also a clear need in using new technologies and this is why we believe strongly that we are really different."
We’ve been curious to see how the response is but after all of these talks we feel certain that we’re moving ahead in aviation. We’re not saying that we will change everything about aviation.
There is a clear need for the aviation industry that we know today but there is also a clear need in using new technologies and this is why we believe strongly that we are really different because, like Ryanair, we’re not building this on an old model.
We’re building this on a new sheet of paper and this is the only way forward. We were thinking about doing this together with another airline. We were talking to many airlines. Once we evaluated all of that, we came to the point that we need to have our own AOC, our own company and to manage this all by ourselves because we need to get the complexity out of everything.
The whole operation needs to be rethought differently. For Example, one of the big questions will be how many pilots will we need? With our aircraft we only need 1 pilot, so with 9 seats I cannot pay the pilot the same price as an Airbus A320 captain, so for us it's more a flight manager then, just a simple pilot.
Then we can already pay this pilot the same amount of money, but he will have other tasks so it will be not only flying airplanes. It will be managing the whole surrounding that is taking care of our passengers. That’s already a big step in changing aviation because pilots will need to be trained to be different, not to be the classic pilot. To be more than that, to be a manager of the whole flight process.
Will you serve markets above 4 hours of flight time?
Not yet because we don’t see the technology. What we need is efficient technology. We need to have as much electrification as possible. I don’t see that happening before 2030 and a clear answer is something I could give in 2026.
In 2026, we will see how many of the models that are supposed to be realized are actually going to be realized. This is why we’re not going to wait. This is why we’re looking into the TECNAM P2012. This airplane can be reconfigured into an electrical airplane quite quickly. It’s prepared for that already.
Currently it’s running on a classical propulsion piston engine which again is more sustainable than one fuel from my perspective, if you take into account the total costs of operation.
It’s not the best way, but it prepares everything. We are as well very positive that our partner Electra Aero will be successful and that the aircraft they are building will be available for our plans soon. Together with Electra Aero, we are working closely together in developing this aircraft and to bring it to market.
"There is no better way to get home than by air."
We already looked into the new Dornier 328ECO which is a promising aircraft coming along in the future but the questions are when, how and at what costs? If the costs are not in line, we’re not going to do it. Once the technology is ready we believe strongly that by 2035 we will have bigger airplanes.
We will be the ones who have set the market. Scaling is not a problem anymore, but virtually we need to evaluate our most valuable product until scaling it into a bigger one. Not taking it from the other side. We don’t want to grow too fast for what we have. This is why I really like to refer to my father who has created this thinking in my head that there is no better way to get home than by air.
Have present customers been positive towards electric EVTOL aircraft?
Who are our customers? We’re not talking to the final customers. Currently, we’re talking more on the business side, B2B. B2C if we talk. Could be potential for family, friends, people who know us but if you listen to the market.
If you listen to the discussions there is no other way forward because we’re risking losing connectivity within Europe. Again we’re losing the economic power that we have. There are discussions about closing down routes, short-haul routes. France has already started it.
Germany is discussing it. Actually everyone knows though that we can’t live without those flights but I agree with them if the CO2 emissions that we’re producing is so much higher than anything else, then we should do something about it.
Forbidding it is maybe a political quick shot, but in the long run, it’s not fair because we’re not looking at the CO2 emissions that we will be using more by driving the car because there will be a better alternative. Train networks, it takes years to build new train lines. Ten years ago I didn’t have that idea with Skywork Airlines because this technology was not ready.
We couldn’t think about that. Today we can think about that though. We have a lot of critics and the more critics we have, the more I like the idea because a lot of people criticized other innovations in the past and use them today without thinking about it.
What do you think the Government's reaction has been and will be?
I think that they’ll be very supportive. We are already talking to two government programs where it comes down to being sustainable and to offer sustainable air traffic services.
That's another efficiency that we have not calculated in our business plan yet because what could happen very easily is that, if we’re really proving that we can at least reduce CO2 emissions strongly and quickly with the airplane that we’re basing our model on, it could happen that we’re basically flying without any fees for the next few years. This is something we will use.
Do you expect any reaction from legacy carriers?
The big carriers have a clear goal and a clear task and the task is to transport passengers on routes that are longer than 2 hours, which makes sense. But what I also think is that we have to stop flying to Palma for 19 Euros. It makes no sense to fly to Palma for 19 Euros. It’s total nonsense to do that.
We would love to talk to the big airlines, but it will take, let's say from start of operations, if we’re in the market for more than 5 years (that's how it went with Skywork Airlines, this will be the same here), there will be airlines talking to us very seriously because they will understand that they can use us for good things in their own networks.
Give us a timeline. Where are you in your fundraising process?
Currently, we are already talking to many community partners. We’re talking to many investment partners. We’re positive that in 2022, we will realize the first series in financing our company.
We’re more looking into private investors as the first ones to join our company, but then quite quickly (2023/2024), we also want to offer our company to a bigger audience. 2024 is the realistic date when we will deploy the first flights.
Where do you see the company 5 years after starting operations?
After 5 years, our growth path will have shown that we were right with a lot of things and that we had to adapt to many things as well because we will have realized some learning curve on our mistakes that will come.
The fleet will have grown into 35-40 aircraft and flyv will be known as a product that is available in any non-classic airport, being a demand driven model and being focused mainly on the needs of the customer and the airport that we’re serving.
We’ll be initiating the next growth phase in 2025. We’re crossing fingers and we’re positive that our partner’s (strategic partnership with Electra Aero) airplane is ready for commercial entry into service.
There we see quite a big expansion coming because then we’re starting to become electric and sustainable and we will reach out to a much bigger audience at that moment and then I’m very happy to see our growth happen in a very exponential way almost.
What has motivated you to do this as you were at a start-up airline before (Skywork)?
As I said for me there is no better way to travel home than by air. I want to offer our customers sustainable, quicker and easier connections worldwide. Secondly, I have gathered the right people currently around this company. This gets me motivated to grow this company.
I’m the founder, I’m the one pushing things forward but the CEO, Mr. Lutz, he is a high caliber potential candidate to grow into something very big and I want to help realize that. By coincidence, we decided to build an airline, but it could have been any other project because we as a team are harmonized and everybody is purely focused on flyv and the vision to offer an on demand air mobility solution complementing the current mobility world.
"The moment that we aren’t connected is the moment that we’re not efficient anymore."
Looking into the future, I want to offer an air-service that can be used on a daily basis that is being accepted without any flight shame by the public or by the market. I believe strongly that with the invention of flying, and with flying as such we do, that we are able to realize the economic and living standards that we have today.
With flyv, we could realize these standards that we already have today for other markets as well. We didn’t talk about Africa, we didn’t talk about South America. Huge markets that can become more prosperous if they have a better connection because it’s all about connectivity. The moment that we aren’t connected is the moment that we’re not efficient anymore.
Are you going to expand your operations to other continents?
That’s definitely a plan. We’re already talking to the U.S out of the reason that our manufacturer is coming from the U.S. We have more than 5,000 landing sites in the U.S, plus with a newer plane, it becomes a really interesting market. We could also think about having flyv placed as a brand and offering this knowledge.
I think that we have put in more knowledge into what we’re trying to do, but if you look into the U.S., you already have Connect air who are trying to do something similar on a different basis.They’re also talking about demand driven flights. You also have Link, which is more business aviation oriented.
The EVTOL market is something that we aim to look at later. This again can scale our model quite quickly because we could offer all of the knowledge that we have already gathered for all of these EVTOL companies and to close the last mile. To connect the last mile with these EVTOL aircraft when it comes to flying the last 60 kilometers, coming even closer to your neighborhood.
Are these aircraft able to fly long-haul?
From what we know today, it will be a possibility but it will take many years before we can give a final answer on that. Electric propulsion will most likely not work. Battery power is not there yet and the mass you have to move for a battery is out of the density and out of the strength that you can get out of the battery.
That power source will not work. We have other power sources. You either have sustainable fuel, SAF (which you need a lot of energy, producing a lot of it), Hydrogen which has the same problems as SAF but even more because the storage of the tanks have not been invented yet and there are a lot of risks.
"What we should never forget, an aircraft that we build today will be on the market for the next 30 to 40 years so before this aircraft will be exchanged it will take 30 to 40 years."
The engines are also not there yet. For Long-Haul flights, it will take a lot more time than we think. Other than that somebody invents something very crazy, but from what we know today, this will take the longest time before Long-Haul will be possible on a sustainable engine.
What we should never forget, an aircraft that we build today will be on the market for the next 30 to 40 years so before this aircraft will be exchanged it will take 30 to 40 years. No Lufthansa, no Air France will buy airplanes today and get rid of them earlier than they have to, so even if we had this new aircraft ready today, before this would scale into something new and big, it will take at least 20 to 30 years before you re-fleet this whole sector.
That is an aspect a lot of people are not talking about and this is why we are already looking into this new technology. This is why there is no hustle. We will wait. We will wait until the right moment to start.
We would like to start today but it’s not necessary. It has to fit with the plan, it has to make sense, and then we can grow steadily and slowly rather than quickly and fall as quickly, as we maybe thought would be the right place and right time.
Do you want to take part in Long-Haul though?
It’s a different type of operation. No, I don't think this is something we’re good at. We would be good at connecting this market and building this market where it is non-existent, to be the best one in this market and to supplement it with airlines that know how to fly long-haul.
Long-haul flying is a different type of operation. There you have to think about many other things and this would just make it too complex. We don’t have to do everything. We want to be the best we are in what we’re doing. We are happy to connect with the airlines who serve these markets from their main Hubs.
Do you have any final words for us?
We’re using the most efficient form of flying, transforming it into a new market that didn’t exist until today.