Last week, I was so bold as to call out the entire airline industry. Not enough innovation, too much nickle and diming, poor customer service. You have heard it all before, but my mistake was to assume (you know how that ends) that the airline industry was acting as a unified block. In most cases, they are. If American raises prices, Continental and United follow along the next day. If United adds a new “cost option”, the rest act like sheep or more likely, lemmings to offer the new selection.
But then I read this story about three guys who came up with a new way to skip a lot of the nonsense that is associated with flying. This is an entrepreneurial story that makes my heart sing, because these three non-aviation experts were able to think outside the box and come up with an entirely new aviation model in SeaPort Airlines.
The idea of getting around the FAA’s rules about security screenings by using planes that are under the legally mandated size is genius. They have started small, flying between two heavily trafficked cities, Portland and Seattle in business turboprops outfitted for commuter use. They fly into in-city airports, saving commute times on both ends. There are 10 scheduled round trip flights each weekday, so customers have plenty of options. Recently they have added some additional destinations both in the Northwest and in MidSouth as part of the FAA’s Essential Air Service Program.
From this we can learn a couple of key lessons. The first is that the entrepreneurial spirit does not limit itself to technology companies. Second, even the most moribund industry with the tightest controls can be attacked by a nimble competitor who is focused on serving a niche. Don’t lo0k at the Facebooks and YouTubes of the world as the only example of exemplary entrepreneurship — that is the lottery, a one in several million chance. Rather, find a place where people are unhappy with their options and give them something better. Be the best in your niche and you will reap the rewards.