AirBnB Exploring Aviation and Transportation Opportunities
Airbnb hires aviation veteran to focus on transportation opportunities. And no, Airbnb doesn’t plan to build an airline. But it just hired a major aviation veteran to help the company move beyond its core rental business.
Airbnb has been interested in aviation for years. In 2016, the company was reportedly working on a flight booking feature, and tech news site The Information reported last year that Chesky had once considered launching an airline.
Airbnb Hires Aviation Industry Veteran to Lead New Transportation Division
The company announced on Thursday that Fred Reid — the founding CEO of Virgin America and a former president of Delta Airlines and Lufthansa Airlines — will join Airbnb as its global head of transportation.
Most recently, Reid was the president of Cora Aircraft Program, which is a part of the Larry Page-funded startup Kitty Hawk that is working on flying cars and taxis.
Airbnb is on a mission to build a platform that helps people with all aspects of travel, including where to stay, what to do, and how to get there. Someone with Reid’s background could potentially assist with that last step.
“Whether in the air or on the ground, there are tremendous opportunities to create products and forge partnerships with other companies that make travel easier and even fun,” Reid said in a statement.
Reid will focus on partnerships and integrating services with Airbnb but said “those opportunities will take years.”
On Thursday, Chesky clarified that he’s “not interested in building our own airline or creating just another place on the internet where you can buy a plane ticket.”
Chesky said in the statement the company hadn’t “settled” on what partnerships or ideas it would explore, but “there is a tremendous opportunity to improve the transportation experience for everyone.”
Airbnb, which is valued at $31 billion, is one of a handful of big tech “unicorns” — privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more — that is expected to go public this year. Others include Uber, Lyft, Pinterest and Slack.
When Airbnb was contemplating getting into the air travel business a year ago, CEO Brian Chesky considered launching an airline to reinvent the “actual experience of taking a plane,” according to a person familiar with the situation. CFO Laurence Tosi, a former Wall Street executive, thought it would be wiser to integrate with an existing flight-booking app, according to two people familiar with the matter.
The dueling ideas show the differences between Messrs. Chesky and Tosi, who have emerged as a key power duo amid Airbnb’s continued rise in Silicon Valley. More than two years in, Mr. Tosi has brought financial discipline and new focus areas—like luxury travel—to the company, which is preparing to go public as soon as 2019.