Keith Hunter, Chief Retail Officer for Urban-Air Port (UAP) tells TRBusiness that the official opening of Air-One in Coventry, UK has galvanised ‘dozens’ more brands to sign up as partners, who are eager to take full advantage of the benefits of the Urban-Air Choice App, among which is the opportunity to ‘engage directly with their consumers’.
In an exclusive interview with TRBusiness, Hunter says the reaction to the launch of Air-One in Coventry, from their partners and the general public has been ‘huge’, encouraging rapid developments for the UK-based developer.
In April, TRBusiness was invited to the world-first demonstration of a fully-operational hub for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicles – such as air taxis – and autonomous cargo drones.
Heralding a new age of zero-emission, low-congestion urban transport, it was extremely apt that TRBusiness was invited to host a sustainability-themed workshop at the launch event, involving two experts on the subject, Rees Bramwell, Senior Nutritionist at Compass Group UK & Ireland MS as well as Emma Keller, Head of Sustainability at Nestle UK&I.
Hunter tells TRBusiness that the reaction to the launch event and proceeding weeks was extremely positive. “The reaction was huge, especially when we invited the general public inside.
“Some people were initially a combination of sceptical and intrigued, but once they stepped inside and were greeted by a lounge flooded with natural light from the impressive central FATO (Final Approach and Take-Off area) and the welcoming cafe bar and retail offer, emotions changed to engaged enthusiasm and excitement for this new form of innovative infrastructure and mobility.
“Visitors felt that the future had arrived and it quickly became clear that Urban-Air Port and its ecosystem of products and services, could bring multiple opportunities and sustainable air mobility to their city.”
One of the challenges for UAP and its partners is of course end-user buy-in. Following the trial in Coventry, Hunter believes they have achieved this.
“Absolutely, there has been overwhelming support for the Urban-Air Port family of concepts and the opportunities they present, especially from some of our younger visitors who even requested to apply for apprenticeships.
“Being able to demonstrate first-hand, what passengers can expect to experience from this new infrastructure, including its processes and services, was essential to achieving that end-user buy-in. People could see that this new urban air mobility is here and is no longer a pipe dream you can only see in the movies.”
According to Hunter, the Urban-Airport App generated a great deal of ‘interest and positive comments’. The App facilitates the planning, booking, payment, and check-in of flights for UAP passengers, whilst also giving all users access to Urban-Air Choice; a retail and F&B offer, which also offers users the chance to pre-order, as well as provide access to a suite of additional services and event bookings, with online payment and options for delivery.
“This all gives the user total flexibility and control, which is intended to make them feel more at ease, as it aligns with current trends with how people want to engage with their travel experiences,” adds Hunter.
When asked what surprising discoveries he had made whilst staging the event in Coventry, Hunter returned to his initial observations.
“Probably the overwhelming support shown by both the public and industry for the sector. We were slightly concerned that we would encounter similar negativity that has been experienced with traditional airports and their plans to expand and add new services.
“However, that negativity did not really materialise. If anything, most people felt that it was about time we enhanced the options of travel, and loved the fact that Urban-Air Port could facilitate sustainable solutions to deliver that.”
Retail and F&B opportunities
TRBusiness asked for the reaction of UAP’s retail and F&B partners. “By way of participation, you can see just how many partners got involved in our launch, especially in travel retail.
“Whilst there were over 16 brands involved in Coventry in different forms, we signed up dozens more as a result and we will continue to grow and evolve those partnerships in preparation for our full commercial launch, which will potentially be as early as 2025.
“Our brand partners were keen to look beyond the traditional models, looking to engage with consumers in new and exciting ways, beyond the traditional brick and mortar concepts.
“Our e-Commerce platform will enable us to offer a comprehensive customer experience, that most other infrastructure solutions are not focusing on, with an ability to continue conversations across borders, boundaries and physical structures.
“Brands are keen to engage directly with their consumer, without having to dilute the experience, and the Urban-Air Choice platform creates opportunities to do that.”
While Hunter could not go into detail regarding new developments on the retail side, he did say that UAP will be making some important announcements very soon; particularly as a result of their involvement with the highly-respected Farnborough International Air Show taking place in Hampshire, UK.
Stay close to TRBusiness for further updates from UAP.