No, Airbnb doesn’t plan to build an airline. But it just hired a major aviation veteran to help the company move beyond its core rental business.
The company announced on Thursday that Fred Reid — the founding CEO of Virgin America and a former president of Delta Airlines and Lufthansa Airlines — will join Airbnb as its global head of transportation.
Most recently, Reid was the president of Cora Aircraft Program, which is a part of the Larry Page-funded startup Kitty Hawk that is working on flying cars and taxis.
Airbnb is on a mission to build a platform that helps people with all aspects of travel, including where to stay, what to do, and how to get there. Someone with Reid’s background could potentially assist with that last step.
“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 statement.
Reid will focus on partnerships and integrating services with Airbnb but said “those opportunities will take years.”
Airbnb has been interested in aviation for years. In 2016, the company was reportedly working on a flight booking feature, and tech news site The Information reported last year that Chesky had once considered launching an airline.
On Thursday, Chesky clarified that he’s “not interested in building our own airline or creating just another place on the internet where you can buy a plane ticket.”
Chesky said in the statement the company hadn’t “settled” on what partnerships or ideas it would explore, but “there is a tremendous opportunity to improve the transportation experience for everyone.”
Airbnb, which is valued at $31 billion, is one of a handful of big tech “unicorns” — privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more — that is expected to go public this year. Others include Uber, Lyft, Pinterest and Slack.