Who the F*&@ is RISE?

While the chance of an airline starting from scratch to challenge the big four US airlines globally is tiny, it’s no surprise to see airlines trying to find niches with alternative models. Surf Air has been doing that in California for some time, and now we have RISE doing something similar in Texas. But it’s not quite the same. I’m a fan of all these airlines trying to do something different to fill a niche void. They may not all work, of course, but that’s not the point. Some will.

So what void is RISE trying to fill? It’s trying to provide a better private-style experience between Austin, Houston (2 airports), and Dallas with more to come. I spoke with RISE’s CEO Nick Kennedy to learn more.

Rise

The idea for RISE actually didn’t come together as a way to help passengers. It came together as a way to help private aircraft owners. There were operators with airplanes just sitting around hangars, getting very low levels of utilization. So was there a way to leverage that and use the downtime?

The answer is yes, but the feds don’t exactly let someone just borrow an airplane and start flying passengers around on a scheduled basis. There are a ton of safety regulations (for good reason), and operators must be thoroughly vetted. So what RISE did was create a platform that would allow companies that operated under Part 135 regulations to start getting better usage of their airplanes.

Nick was adamant in stating that RISE isn’t an airline, it’s basically a technology solution. Companies can get vetted through REOS, the “ride RISE enhanced operating system” and then begin flying passengers. In reality, this seems to mean that it’s not helping those individual aircraft owners who just wanted to get more use out of their airplanes. It does, however, help those larger organizations that have the ability to go through the certification process to get better utilization.

When Nick and I spoke, they had 5 aircraft doing most of the work but a couple others that would come in when demand was high. There are 5 different operators in the program. For the first couple of airplanes, they used to get a mere 300 hours per year in the air before RISE. Now they’re up to 1,200 to 1,500.

So far, all aircraft are King Air 350s which only hold a handful of people. The plan is to diversify the fleet as they grow. The aircraft themselves are supposed to be outfitted with RISE branding throughout, so it’s a consistent appearance for travelers (at least on the inside).

The end result is a less expensive private option for travelers going between these cities. The program is membership-based with a one-time $750 initiation fee plus as low as $1,850 a month. Members get unlimited flights with that fee. (If you’re interested, you can apparently do a trial flight for $250.)

If it sounds pricey, that just means you don’t travel enough. For road warriors, the price can be a bargain, especially commuters that go between the cities regularly. But the real point is for this to be a time-saver. All of these short-haul alternatives to commercial flying are all about improving the experience. With the security situation adding tremendous hassle for travelers and oil prices sitting well above their 1999 levels, short haul travel has gone down significantly since the turn of the century. But while a car trip may be an option for leisure travelers or those on a budget, it’s not an option for the busy businessperson. And for those people, RISE can make sense.

The basics seem to be working, so what’s next? Well, they’re trying to get New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Midland, and San Antonio off the ground with San Antonio getting regular service in the fall sometime. (Both San Antonio and Midland have occasional service now.) Nick told me they had identified 53 different city pairs that made sense, so they see nothing but opportunity at this point.

Of course, I asked if they were making any money, and Nick unsurprisingly wouldn’t tell me that. All he’d say was that “it’s a healthy business.” Take what you will from that statement.

He did say at the time that they had 750 members. And I know that they’ve flown more than 10,000 passengers so far. More are coming as they expand to new cities, but they do cap membership to ensure everyone who has paid is able to get seats when needed. (No memberships in Dallas are available for sale anymore, for example.)

Will this work everywhere? Probably not. But it might work in a few places. I’m all for seeing these little operations try to solve a problem with a creative solution.

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12 Comments on "Who the F*&@ is RISE?"

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matt.traynor
Member

Sounds almost like Uber for aircraft. A similar approach is being developed in some US cities for public transport minibuses called Bridj – all done through apps. As to making money, it depends where you want to take your money out from the chain – Uber recently sold around 5% to the Saudi Public Investment Fund for $3.5bn.

E
Member

Yep, Uber for aircraft owners…

I find it kind of curious that they are growing in all the same type of markets that Southwest effectively owned for decades prior to the end of the perimeter rule at Love Field.

Kilroy
Guest

Interesting to see that NW Arkansas is on their list of expansion cities. That makes sense, a lot of Walmart vendors out that way and pretty poor/expensive commercial flights.

Beyond that, sounds this makes a lot of sense for long distance commuters with money and for small business owners and high powered professionals.

Bill from DC
Guest

Different aircraft and pricing model but this still made me think of Ultimate Air Shuttle flying 30 seaters from Cincinnati LUK to Cleveland BKL, Chicago MDW, CLT and Morristown NJ at very reasonable rates. Maybe there is room for niche service by small providers targeting specific markets?

Oliver
Guest

So who are the owners/operators of those planes that otherwise just sit around most of the time?

Eric Morris
Guest

Beneficiaries of the Federal Reserve’s digital money printing. It allows both debt without tears and allows money to be showered on people closest to inflation spigot, like NY Fed Primary dealers, Fed members, and government contractors. This is otherwise known in Austrian Economics as malinvestment. Though this also shows “deflation” through technological improvements does fight the inflationary pressures and lower costs (deflation) is not the boogeyman it is made out to be by the Central Bankers and their cronies.

Dan
Guest

They did say existing Part 135 operators. They also said that those aircraft were being utilized at around 300 hours per year, which is less than one hour per day.

So my guess is that those aircraft are owned by some rich guy for his personal use, but then were leased (or whatever the proper term is) to a charter operator to make a few bucks during the aircraft’s down time. No charter company is buying aircraft to operate them at 300 hours per year, that’s for sure.

David SF eastbay
Member

Sounds like people who own and rent out a vacation home and have to make a reservation if they want to use their own property. Someone owns these planes but can’t use them when they want if they are booked to fly passengers, I wouldn’t like that as an owner. Plus I wouldn’t want strangers using my expensive airplane and doing who knows what in them.

With a name like Rise, who are they going after, the viagra crowd?

Oliver
Guest

And would I want RISE to fill my precious toy with their interior?
M
In that case, wouldn’t I be better net jetting or RISEing myself?

Andy
Member

You should do a Who the F*&@ article about GLO. They’re a relatively new airline serving New Orleans with plans to expand across the Gulf Coast.

Darkwater
Guest

Do they give out glow sticks? I want complementary glow sticks.

TC
Guest

Our city uses RISE as a basis of everyday operations:

R espect
I ntegrity
S ervice
E xcellence

I wonder how they decided on this name for their venture. If airlines were to use this acronym to their passengers, we would have a better traveling experience.

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