Running an airline is a tough industry, with many companies folding or merging with rivals to survive. Being an airline passenger is no picnic, for a litany of reasons anyone who’s ever been to an airport can easily list.
Landline, a four-year-old Fort Collins, Colorado-based transportation startup, thinks it’s found a way to create a better experience for airlines and their passengers. The big idea? Spread out the check-in process by processing people in many smaller hubs closer to home, long before they arrive at their departure gate.
If all goes according to plan, his customers will end up being dropped off just a hop, hop, and hop from the plane they’re about to board.
Of course, big ideas often start with the execution of smaller ones, and right now Landline, founded by Stanford graduate David Sunde, is largely a bus service, ferrying people from regional hubs to major airports. It came about after Sunde spent nearly four years, on and off, with aviation company Surf Air, where he saw some of the challenges of regional airlines, from their expensive operations to pilot shortages.
Yet Landline already does more than just punch tickets for passengers. It has already entered into partnerships with American Airlines, United Airlines and Sun Country Airlines, whose passengers unknowingly book travel with Landline, which operates as a white-label service. As far as travelers are concerned, they hop on an American Airlines bus – if that’s the provider – full of AA schedules and appointments, and that ride to the airport from the hub closest to at home is simply integrated into the overall cost of their ticket.
Meanwhile, through these partnerships, Landline is able to check in both passengers and their baggage. So, when they arrive at the airport, the last remaining step is to go through airport security.
Of course, this last step is not minor. The worst part of most passengers’ experiences are the long security lines. But Landline is also working on it. Indeed, Sunde says it would be a game-changer and says Landline not only would become the first ground transportation company in the nation to receive the Transportation Security Administration’s blessing, but that he expects its approval to come.
“There is pre-existing regulatory approval for regional airlines; for us, when it happens, it will be a first in the industry, which is really cool,” says Sunde. “I always want to be TSA-friendly, and they take their time; we have been working with them for a long time. But I’m optimistic about it. We managed to get into more complicated things.
The startup – which aims to bring passengers directly to a nearby doorstep eventually – is likely to get help from investor Tusk Ventures, a company that has positioned itself as something of an expert at the intersection of technology and politics. (The company’s founder, Bradley Tusk, has worked in politics before and was an early adviser to Uber.)
Other Landline backers include Upfront Ventures, Matchstick Ventures, Wildcat Capital and Drive Capital, which just led a $28 million seed round in the company which closed this week and brings its total funding to $38 million. of dollars.
In the meantime, the company is doing what it can to build an infrastructure that gives it a solid foundation for the future. For example, although it has its own ground transport certificate, it also has the insurance requirements and safety and security team that would be required of a regional airline.
Now, with his newly raised capital, he can put the pedal to the metal, so to speak. Although it operates in nine cities in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Colorado, it will add them as quickly as possible.
It will also use some of that $28 million to bolster its team of 100 people, about a quarter of whom work in operations. (Many of the others are drivers who are considered full-time company employees.) currently on trial, where travelers don’t even have to drive to a nearby hub, but can be picked up at home.
It’s not a very sexy business, but it could be an overlooked opportunity, especially given the overcrowded state of airports at the moment, as well as customer frustration with most airlines. aerial.
“The future of the coach industry is fundamentally based on the idea that the airport no longer needs to be next to the runway,” says Sunde. “It could be in the basement of the building or in a mall. And we can distribute recording and loading away from those places where it’s really hard to improve the infrastructure.
“I see that 100% in our future one day,” he adds.