Get Heli is delivering previously unknown levels of digital efficiency to the helicopter charter market. CEO Laurent Vallet reckons it facilitates: “…business as usual, only better!”
Several options exist for brokers and passengers looking to charter fixed-wing private aircraft via app or website, and many prefer a few taps on a phone screen as their route into a bizjet cabin. The market is adapting to a world with COVID in it, and that’s driving new customers into private aviation. For many of them, an app is the ideal introduction.
The digital offering for helicopter brokers and passengers has been less robust, but now Get Heli is making rapid headway with its online platform. The service is more than an app, being closer in concept to a marketplace, for now centred on the UK but set for rapid expansion into mainland Europe, the US and beyond. EVA spoke to Get Heli CEO Laurent Vallet to find out more.
What was the inspiration behind Get Heli?
The company founders observed a market inefficient at all levels but with considerable growth potential. It was time for the charter booking process to become quicker and more transparent, but there was no technology just for helicopters. Get Heli was therefore formed as the first rotary-dedicated, fully integrated, end-to-end productivity tool and marketplace. It aims to prioritise rotary by digitalising the industry and connecting brokers and operators in a more efficient way, providing wider choice, simplicity and enhanced security.
The company has come a long way since it launched in 2019. We’re currently developing new features to improve processes for charter professionals, revisiting the ‘platform’ concept and taking it to the next level, way beyond the scope of being a place simply for requests and quotes.
Get Heli has global ambitions, but you’ve initially targeted the UK. What’s the plan?
It is our vision to be a global platform. Charter professionals need a digital solution wherever they are, to do business wherever they need to. We’ve started with the UK because it’s a great market for helicopters – its geography is ideal. Road travel between many British towns and cities is slow, but the journey too short, or impractical, for fixed-wing connections. Helicopters make travel much faster and more convenient. The engagement we’ve seen from UK operators has been beyond our expectations and it’s clear the industry was craving this technology. We’ve learned a lot from the UK market and we are optimising the platform for new countries, with Europe a significant next step. We’ve already had major European operators sign up and seen considerable interest from North American operators.
Some users will already have in-house solutions for aspects of the charter process. Can they interface Get Heli with their own software?
We have an API [application programming interface] in place and we’re building white label capabilities to enable simple and efficient use of our technology on interested parties’ platforms.
What’s the process of signing up? Why should an already successful broker or operator bother?
Brokers and operators can sign up at our website. The process is quick and easy, and they don’t need to contact anyone. Only registered users may access the platform, so sign-up is essential. The platform brings speed and convenience to the entire booking process, with important benefits including security, vetting, standardisation, integration, wider choice and the ability to do business 24/7, on any device. The platform ensures that only quality requests and quotes are generated. There’s no requirement to speak with us to sign up, but we love engaging with potential users to discuss how the platform can really help them and cater for their bespoke needs.
Get Heli guarantees that it will only generate quotes from quality operators, but how can you be sure that’s the case, especially as you expand and perhaps serve countries where regulatory oversight is less robust than in other regions?
Anyone who signs up to Get Heli undergoes our vetting process – we only allow space on the platform for genuine charter professionals. For operators, we obtain documents about regulation and run background checks. We frequently maintain and update our database as a priority, ensuring active operators (those able to quote) are fit to do so. We are transparent about the vetting process to make brokers’ lives easier. We also look at customer service, which is of paramount importance to the end user. We research operators, no matter what country they are in. Brokers will be able to confidently reach operators in any country, where they otherwise may be unaware of what’s available.
What’s the process when a broker uses the platform to request quotes?
Brokers submit requests to operators via Get Heli’s standardised request process, which includes all the information required by an operator while still allowing for a large degree of flexibility. This enables operators to return quotes that are as accurate as possible, so that brokers make the right choices for their customers. Operators are instantly alerted about new requests relevant to their fleet and location and, as a result, a broker may receive multiple quotes concurrently, offering a wide choice. Our real-time online chat function allows operators and brokers to communicate directly, suiting the bespoke, complex nature of booking helicopter charters. We’ve also recently added a progress bar to the broker’s request page. It’s a real-time indicator of their request’s status in the marketplace, with updates on activity and quotes. It’s business as usual, only better!
Is the platform suitable for corporate customers?
Corporations usually have a preferred agency for business travel, but there is no reason why our API couldn’t work for a corporate travel agency. Our current focus is on brokers and operators in the B2B helicopter charter space, but corporate travel is something we’re exploring and may move forward with if it makes sense.
Why have you chosen a headquarters close to London Heliport when your product seems not to require anyone to visit an office, ever?
Fundamentally, we’re a tech company. Our vision is to bring the helicopter charter industry into the digital age and with that in mind, there will be no need for anyone to visit an office. But we love meeting our users, visiting their hangars and offices. It helps us keep in touch with them, build relationships and meet new clients. Our presence at the heliport seems logical for a heli-centric company and it is a unique place to work, especially for rotary people like us. It’s ideal in terms of innovation and we want to help push it to become a thriving, helicopter charter hub, maybe even with capabilities for future eVTOLs.
How has business looked over these past, peculiar months?
The number of requests for helicopters has inevitably slowed during the pandemic, although we’ve kept busy. We have seen a great deal of interest from operators around the world, helping us spread the message that tech is a good thing that can help people capitalise on business opportunities. We’ve been able to focus intently on our tech development and taken time to prepare to grow the market. And our team has expanded, with a new Sales and Marketing Manager, and additions to the development team.
What are your hopes for the future?
We’re working to perfect a globally accessible platform ready for anything the future may bring. We’re making sure to keep up to speed with any advancements in drone operations too and, since the platform was built to understand all the parameters of bespoke flying, it is more than capable of catering for the coming generation of eVTOLs and anything else that emerges. The need for urban air mobility is approaching fast and we hope to work closely with operators. The future is looking very bright indeed!