Reno’s growing tech sector draws interest from a new Silicon Valley charter startup

12 March, 2018

Northern California based startup Blackbird is eying a new flight from Palo Alto to Reno after debuting a hybrid-like charter model in late 2017.

Blackbird launched flights from Palo Alto to Truckee locate near Lake Tahoe in late 2017 and is gearing up to introduce flights from Palo Alto to Santa Monica in Feb-2018.

Passengers book flights through Blackbird’s app, and the company partners with independent charter operators to perform the flights. Blackbird prices its flights far below traditional charter operations, with fares starting as USD199.

Blackbird uses a proprietary logistics and demand software to determine underserved routes, calculate pricing and manage flight logistics. Its ability to uitlise proprietary software is an example of how nimble technology startups can penetrate niche markets without the legacy systems and challenges larger US airlines face.

The company believes its model helps utilise idle charter capacity, calculating that on average charter companies have 45% unused capacity. One of Blackbird’s aircraft operators, Centurion Flight Services, told Bloomberg Businessweek in 2017 the company’s fleet was airborne 30% more since partnering with Bluebird, and it was aiming to purchase more Pilatus aircraft.

If Blackbird opts to serve Reno, Pilatus PC-12 aircraft would be used on the flights. “Reno is full of potential and is proving itself to be a hub for technology and innovation,” says Blackbird CEO, Rudd Davis. “We want to help support and fuel the growth taking place in the city by making Reno more accessible.”

Reno’s prospects for emerging as an alternative to Silicon Valley are growing. A recent article in the city’s News and Observer cited data from Zillow showing that in 2017 the median 20% down payment for a home in San Jose, California was equal to the full median price of a home in the US. Apple, Tesla and Panasonic all have facilities in the Reno area.

Obviously Reno is welcoming Blackbird’s possible new air service to the region. The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada stated Blackbird’s new flights “allows us to expand our efforts to attract additional technology companies, high-level talent and venture capital to reinforce our growing technology community”.