Plane-sharing service takes off in Japan

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Air Share Inc. Chief Executive Officer Hiroya Shindo stands in front of an aircraft in Obihiro, Hokkaido, on Nov. 13.

Air Share Inc., a start-up in Obihiro, Hokkaido, has launched an aviation service that connects small, unused aircraft with pilots looking for work and tourists who want to take a scenic flight.

The service, similar to a car-sharing service, is said to be the first of its kind in Japan. Air Share Chief Executive Officer Hiroya Shindo said the service is aimed at “connecting pilots who want to earn a little extra money and travelers who want to be able to travel freely, with small planes that are currently unused.”

As part of the service, customers can select a route that does not exist for current commercial flights at departure time of their choice.

For example, a one-way flight between Tokyo and Noto, Ishikawa Prefecture, costs about ¥40,000 per person. A flight to enjoy a view of the Northern Alps region, a mountain range in central Japan, is offered at an airport in Komaki, Aichi Prefecture, at about the same price.

Around 60% of the about 700 small aircraft registered in Japan are unused. By putting these aircraft to use, it will allow the owners as well as pilots to earn extra income.

Air Share started its service on a trial basis in January 2020 after the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry approved the company’s application. The service is now operating in full force with 32 pilots and 30 small planes and helicopters registered at its bases in Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Naha and other cities.