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Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

February 27, 2013 at 6:21 PM

New Seattle-Silicon Valley air shuttle doubling fleet

A new air shuttle between Seattle and Silicon Valley won’t start making regular flights until this summer, but it’s already planning to double the size of its fleet.

Arrow, a startup flight service operating out of Boeing Field, has been overwhelmed by response to the new service it’s starting, according to founder Russell Belden, a Seattle maritime entrepreneur.

The company has flown a few demonstration flights and established a counter at Boeing Field this month.

Memberships are sold for $500 per month to companies that can then book flights on a quasi private jet that cost an average of $500 for trips between Seattle to Oakland or San Jose, Calif. For regulatory approval, Arrow is working with Kenmore Air, which will operate the service using a customized Piaggio Avanti turboprop.

There’s especially high interest in southbound flights on Mondays and return flights from the San Francisco area on Thursdays and Fridays — for tech workers, lawyers and others who make the weekly commute.

“There’s a huge demand. We’re going to have to adjust our modeling to accommodate that better,” Belden said.

Belden said Arrow is planning to start service in the summer with at least two of the $7 million planes.

“We’re going to be more than one [plane] for sure on day one,” he said.

The planes are configured to seat eight passengers. That’s small enough to enable passengers to board the planes directly at the airport without security hassles.

Time savings over commercial flights are the company’s big selling point. Arrow also arranges for rental cars to be at hand upon landing.

Belden said two-thirds of the customers so far are in the tech industry. Arrow also is getting backing from tech entrepreneur Andy Liu, chief executive of BuddyTV.

Lawyers are another market, especially with dozens of firms operating offices in both Seattle and the Bay Area. He said the quicker service enables them to bill another hour on the trip.

Arrow already is thinking about additional routes, such as charter flights from Seattle to Spokane and service between San Francisco to Los Angeles and San Francisco to Phoenix, where it sees an opportunity to provide regular shuttles that offer the private jet experience at prices lower than companies providing fractional plane ownership.

Belden said the Seattle to San Francisco area tech shuttle is just a starting point. Longer term he sees Arrow operating routes all over the country, including links between Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

“Our goal would be that we have about 50 aicraft in five years,” he said.

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