With urban air mobility (UAM) and advanced air mobility (AAM) just around the corner, travel managers must consider how it will change how travelers get around, especially as they work on reducing a client’s carbon footprint. Airline investments indicate air taxis will likely be part of corporate travel manager offerings as early as 2026.

Right now, sustainability is driving the demand in electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and retrofitting of fixed-wing aircraft to electric, hydrogen or hybrid. France is already banning some short-haul routes while Denmark and Sweden want all domestic flight fossil-fuel free by 2030.

But the flexibility in how these aircraft can be used will boost interest for an increasing number of missions. The idea is getting people out of cars in the 100- to 500-mile trips, accounting for 200 million trips per year.

eVTOLs also have the potential to disrupt hospitality, with one company, BEONx, a provider of lodging revenue management solutions, warning hotels to think about securing their own vertiports. The purpose would be to attract guests and generate additional revenue from non-guests. “The advent of eVTOLS could potentially make hotels outside central business districts more competitive and reduce the need to be close to attractions and downtowns,” said Alex Barros, chief marketing and innovation officer.

At the very least the reduction in cost from city-center to airport will bring savings and increased productivity. Indeed, many cities – Paris, Miami, Los Angeles, Osaka and Singapore – are already working on incorporating AAM to combat congested roadways and provide city-center-to-city-center service. Most important is the question of how it fits in to the door-to-door service the traveler sees as the holy grail.

“It’s a really important topic right now,” eVTOL Insights executive editor Jason Pritchard told Business Travel Executive. “We are discussing what it will be like, companies are flight testing and showcasing their work. This is exactly the time to ask questions about the aircraft, how the new service will work, and how it impacts the traveler. It is starting to gather momentum and key stakeholders in communities including city planners, manufacturers, airports and airlines are all in the mix.”

But emerging technology promising to disrupt travel is about more than urban air mobility. It also encompasses advanced hybrid-electric and hydrogen-powered aircraft, all designed to lower aviation’s carbon footprint. Indeed, there are only two big levers the industry can use to meet its pledge of zero emissions by 2050. One is Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), expected to account for 65 percent of emissions reductions. The rest will have to come from new electric-and-hydrogen powered and hybrid-electric aircraft, in addition to system efficiency improvements and technologies like carbon capture.

At a time when short-haul flights are under fire worldwide, AAM promises to restore the less-than-500-mile route segments the hub-and-spoke system is losing to rising airline costs, the pilot shortage and, in Europe, government sustainability efforts.

According to Eurocontrol, flights under 500 kilometers account for a quarter of all European flights. So retaining these routes would be important to the network as a means of countering current plans by Lufthansa and Air France to abandon short-haul flights under 2.5 hours, and instead pushing train-to-plane connectivity which is really an option at only a few airports. Such initiatives mean gigantic investments by governments, airports and airlines to make airports intermodal. AAM will come before such infrastructure can be built.

Pritchard points to a 2021 white paper, The Future of Advanced Aerial Mobility, which compares airport trips from various UK sites. The study indicates emerging technology could dramatically shift passenger travel. For instance, AAM could replace many train trips such as Liverpool to Hull. An eVTOL aircraft would take 50 minutes versus two hours by car or three hours by train. Similarly, a flight from Cambridge to Heathrow would be about 28 minutes at the estimated cost of £58 per passenger, compared £52 for a train ticket which takes nearly two hours.

eVTOLs for Business Aviation
Of the hundreds of AAM programs in development around the globe, the ones receiving airline and business aviation investment are furthest along, giving us a good indication of which aircraft will likely make it to service entry. These programs are backed by aviation giants Boeing, Airbus, NASA, Embraer, Toyota, and numerous airlines.

Pritchard notes that business aviation is already partnering with new AAM companies. For instance, Global Air is planning to use Lilium aircraft to serve the French and Italian Rivieras. Meanwhile, Lilium is looking to develop intrastate Florida service from Orlando. Bristow Group has signaled its intent to work with Embraer’s Eve Air Mobility. In the South American market Brazil-based Flapper is eyeing service in Colombia and Bolivia while Helisul is working on plans for Brazil, Pritchard says. Similarly, Luxaviation is developing eVTOL plans while US-based Blade Air Mobility intends to transition to eVTOL using Eve Air Mobility.

Clearly, it is not too early to discuss how business aviation will deploy eVTOLs and hybrid-electric aircraft since the industry is already providing these services with conventional aircraft and helicopters.

Innovative companies like Chapman Freeborn and Air Partner are already looking at uses. “As the eVTOLs technology matures, it has the potential to revolutionize short-haul travel and offer new opportunities for enhancing the services we provide to our clients,” says Kari Bigot, Chapman Freeborn vice president, passenger sales Americas. “We are committed to staying at the forefront of innovation – monitoring the adaptation of existing regulations and airspace management systems, addressing the unique operational requirements of eVTOLs and, when the time comes, ensuring a seamless transition for passengers.”

Air Partner vice president charter UK Clive Chalmers agrees. “It is only a matter of time before we start seeing a demand,” Chalmers told BTE. “Today, with the environment a huge consideration for our industry, any new technologies that achieve what the current technology does at a fraction of the emissions is always going attract attention,” he says. “Then there is the entire electric-hydrogen-Sustainable Aviation Fuel retrofitting of fixed-wing aircraft that are also being developed to become part of what we can offer our customers in the future.”

Air Partner regularly charters helicopters for short, point-to-point hops. “Where time is precious and the helicopter is the ideal solution, I can envision eVTOLS will become available and compete and eventually replace many traditional rotary-wing aircraft available today,” Chalmers says.

“But it is a matter of economics. It will be a very similar model though for business aviation operators as it will be for airlines,” he predicts. “Point-to-point transfers and speed are driving factors for customers when using this method of transport. However, cost is also important. For example, while there won’t be the same fuel costs to consider, the price of operating and subsidizing that development of eVTOL technology will at least need to be in line with the traditional helicopter for it to be successful. This will take time.”

Elevate Aviation Group is adopting a similar strategy, having already integrated helicopter offerings to clients while keeping an eye on the emerging eVTOL market. However, the company is taking a cautious approach, according to Jon Reed, chief sales officer. Since there are no eVTOLs certified yet, it won’t be a matter of urgency until these technologies mature and enter the market and it is clearer how they will complement current private aviation services.

“We’re a client-first, hospitality-led organization dedicated to serving our client with solutions no matter how complex the need,” Reed says. “These new aircraft types hold a lot of promise by lowering costs and emissions. There is such a variety of aircraft in the works; some will be convenient for short hops, supplementing business jets and getting passengers from airports-to-downtown or to suburban locations faster than driving, and possibly at close-to-driving costs. We see this technology replacing helicopters and ground transportation predominantly on short-haul flights and, later, regional ones. Others may replace short-haul turboprops on some regional routes. But we must be realistic. Much work needs to be done to certify these aircraft and their pilots, and to develop the electric infrastructure to charge them. This will be a gradual process.”

With reduction in maintenance and ultimately crew costs, aircraft developers expect costs to decline. Indeed, Eve, which has 2,770 orders from airlines like United, current helicopter operators, ride-sharing and charter companies, is designed to have more than six times lower cost-per-seat than helicopters.

“Our goal is to democratize air travel,” Eve Air Mobility co-CEO Andre Stein says. “That means an affordable ticket price, more routes and time available. Our eVTOL will have a range of 60 miles (100km) at entry into service, covering more than 99 percent of urban air mobility missions. Missions could include airport shuttle, commuting and tourism.

Combined with an affordable ticket price, this will be a good use of time and resources especially when on business travel,” Stein explains.

“At the beginning of operations in 2026, we expect the cost of a trip will likely be only a bit more expensive than a ride-sharing trip in a car,” Stein continues. “However, as interest increases and the market scales up, prices should lower. The addition of autonomous flight operations in the future will also help. We believe in mobility-as-a-service (MAAS) and as a sustainable, faster and safe way to move within urban centers and cities.”

Embraer’s Eve Air Mobility is the only AAM manufacturer developing its aircraft from the start with a conventional aircraft manufacturer mindset and a complex understanding of the airspace and regulatory requirements. “We are helping to develop the entire ecosystem,” Stein continued. “This holistic approach, along with the actual eVTOL and a full suite of services that also includes Urban Air Traffic Management solutions, positions Eve well in the market.”

eVTOLs & Airlines
While most airlines have been investing in the emerging aircraft technology, Scandinavian carrier SAS is the first to put its commercial electric flights on sale for 2028 departure dates. Depending on routes, the prices for flights on the 30-seat Heart Aerospace aircraft will range between $176 and $282.

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Delta is investing $60 million in Joby Aviation for operations in New York and Los Angeles while American Airlines is investing in Vertical Aerospace. Japan Airline is exploring services with Wisk, now wholly owned by Boeing, for autonomous air taxi routes launching in 2025. Virgin Atlantic is adding 150 aircraft to the order books at Vertical Aerospace, bringing to 1,350 the number of pre-orders for its VA-X4 aircraft.

Airlines also expect AAM to drive down operating costs. United Airlines Ventures, with an order for 100 ES-30 Heart aircraft, projects the aircraft will be 100 times less expensive to maintain. Delivery is set for 2028 to revive short-haul routes at currently unprofitable smaller airports.

United expects to launch its airport-to-city center routes in 2026 using the Archer Midnight air taxi and expects to have 100 eVTOLs operating by 2030. Midnight, with its 100-mile range, is headed to its flight test program and first flight this summer. Archer’s goal is to transform inter-city travel, replacing 60- to 90-minute commutes by car with a 10- to 20-minute electric air taxi flight. It also recently partnered with Eve to launch electric commuter flights in San Francisco in 2026.

Alaska is working with both ZeroAvia and Universal Hydrogen on developing a liquid-hydrogen fuel cell powertrain. The technology would be retrofitted on the carrier’s 76-seat de Havilland Dash 8-400 to replace current aircraft on Pacific Northwest routes.

EasyJet partnered with Wright Electric on plans for the Wright 1, an all-electric, 186-seat commercial passenger jet with an 800-mile range set for EIS in 2030. More ambitious is Wright Electric’s plans for an electric 100-seater, the Wright Spirit, in 2026.

While there are many hurdles facing UAM and AAM, manufacturers, community planners, airlines and private aviation companies are further along than you think. In 2022, NASA commissioned a study predicting that by 2030 there could be as many as 750 million urban air mobility passenger trips. Meanwhile, Swiss bank UBS expects a quarter of the industry to be hybrid or fully electric by 2035. Time to get ready.