Airbnb Hires Founding CEO of Virgin America to Expand Into Transportation
Airbnb has snagged a big name in aviation to fill a brand new role: global head of transportation.
The company has hired founding CEO of Virgin America airlines Fred Reid, who has more than three decades of experience in global aviation. Reid’s job is to build partnerships with travel and tourism companies to help provide Airbnb users with transportation in addition to lodging accommodations. The company has not detailed its plans, only saying that it would “explore a broad range of ideas and partnerships that can make transportation better.”
“I’m not interested in building our own airline or creating just another place on the Internet where you can buy a plane ticket,” Brian Chesky, Airbnb co-founder and CEO, said in a statement, “but there is a tremendous opportunity to improve the transportation experience for everyone.”
For Airbnb, Reid’s hiring marks another step in expanding outside the company’s core business of renting homes. In 2016, the company introduced “experiences,” which provide Airbnb users the chance to book activities with local residents. The company’s eventual goal is to build a travel service that can help users with lodging, activities, and transportation—all in one place.
Reid comes to Airbnb from Cora Aircraft Program, a division of Kitty Hawk, where he was a president overseeing development of the division’s autonomous electric aircraft. Prior to that, he was president of private jet firm Felxjet. He also previously served as the president of Delta Airlines and CEO of Lufthansa German Airlines.
At Airbnb, Reid plans to explore how he can improve the travel experience.
“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 release. “Realizing those opportunities will take years and require constant experimentation.”
Airbnb projects that by the end of the first quarter, more than 500 million guests will have stayed at an Airbnb listed home since its founding in 2008.
As the company grows, it continues to deal with pushback from some of the markets it enters. The company has been scrutinized for allegedly driving up housing prices in cities in which it operates, reducing local tax revenue that is typically collected from hotels, and driving out local residents to bring in tourists.
At the end of 2016, Airbnb released what it calls the “Airbnb Policy Tool Chest” to offer local governments resources as they draft rules for home sharing. In mid-May the following year, the company said it had since entered into tax partnerships with more than 275 jurisdictions and was working with local governments to develop strategies that “sensitively promote tourism.”