Geoff Mathieux was on his way to the airport one day when he had an idea for a business start-up. Would it be possible to get a ride from someone else also en route to catch a flight?
And so Wingz was co-launched by Mathieux (along with Frederic Gomez, Christof Baumbach, and Jeremie Romand) in 2013 as a scheduled ride-sharing service exclusive to airports that operates door to door. The start-up is based in San Francisco.
“It reduces the number of cars on the road and allows people to make a few extra dollars along the way,” said Chris Brandon, who joined Wingz as CEO in December.
In the fall of 2015, Expedia led an $11 million Series B investment in Wingz that also included the personal funds of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff. Brandon said that the Seattle-based online travel giant is continually on the hunt for ground-transportation innovators, which made Wingz a good fit.
In late March, Expedia said it is testing adding Wingz in markets where the rides are available. In one test, it has Wingz available as an option in its "Things to Do" section, filtered under "private transfers." (See image, above.) Expedia already lists some other airport transfer services, such as Blacklane, Carmel Limo, and ExecuCar, in this feature.
But the company told Tnooz that it is "testing the integration" of how it might, for the first time, "offer leisure travelers a seamless process for booking private airport transportation at the same times as their flights and hotels" -- a process that would give airport transfer services like Wingz more exposure.
A distinct model
Like Uber and Lyft, the cost of Wingz is cheaper for passengers than employing a taxi-cab service.
But here’s where it’s not like Uber or Lyft: Wingz is the only peer-to-peer transportation company that allows bookers to reconnect with the same driver again for future rides.
A “direct select” option when booking, either on a mobile device or through the website, allows the driver to receive larger revenue share. Another bonus: drivers can be selective about offers that come through.
Both of these options contribute towards Wingz feeling like a viable entrepreneurial option for drivers. All of the drivers’ driving records are checked through state department of motor vehicle records, and they are trained through Wingz. Such backstops may weed out unqualified drivers and provide peace of mind to passengers.
Some drivers may find the Wingz model appealing because they'll know that they likely won’t be transporting late-night partygoers around town but, instead, will be working mostly with business travelers and people on longer-haul trips.
“We’re really here to support the driver. They’re not forced to take every ride, unlike Uber and Lyft,” said Brandon. “We’re really trying to delight the driver in something that is familiar to them and that they trust.”
The goal is to target business travelers who would normally book in advance and seek out high-quality transportation options, such as a limo or private car, with this “highly predictable, personal and reliable service for business travel,” said Brandon. Right now, though, users are evenly split between leisure and business travelers.
Pricing is intentional. Using Wingz costs about the same as using a private-car service, but more than Uber and Lyft, “because it’s of higher quality,” said Brandon. Would-be users simply request a quote through Wingz’ app or through its website.
For example, it costs $37 to take a Wingz ride downtown San Francisco to SFO. Using Wingz to get to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport from Redmond, Wash., home to Microsoft, is just $47.
Currently offered at 15 airports (Dallas’ Love Field and Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, along with three San Francisco Bay Area airports, Phoenix, Seattle, Denver, San Diego, Sacramento, and five airports in the Los Angeles area), there are plans to expand further into Texas (to Houston and Austin) this spring.
Wingz hopes to debut in the Southeast by late second-quarter of this year, said Brandon. “We’re starting to migrate across the eastern seaboard,” he said.