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Flightcar emerges from shake-up ready to provide better service

Airport car-sharing service FlightCar wants everyone to give them another chance, according to VentureBeat. FlightCar launched in 2013 and was going great guns by 2015, but customer service was an issue. There were many unhappy and disappointed customers and car owners. So it’s starting over with a new focus on customer service and the improved experience for both customers and car owners.

FlightCar’s model seemed ideal when the company launched. Car owners flying out on trips park their cars for free at FlightCar locations near major airports. FlightCar rents the cars to incoming travelers and shares the proceeds with the owners. When the car owners return from their trips their cars are waiting, clean and ready to go.

Related: Need a ride? BMW’s new car sharing service gets you behind the wheel in two minutes

As part of the deal, when cars are dropped off for rental FlightCar takes dozens of photos inside and out to document vehicle condition. FlightCar insures the cars for owners with $1,000,000 liability, zero deductible policies. Customers are also covered by a liability policies.

So from one perspective, FlightCar is a rental car company without the huge expense of an inventory of cars. From the car owner’s viewpoint, it is a chance to save money on airport parking and make some money from their car rather than just have it sit in a parking lot. Customers can pick from a wider variety of cars than they’d find at conventional rental companies and save money on the rental. What could go wrong?

The problems started with unclear expectations for both owners and customers, and were compounded by poor customer service. No one questioned the business model, but the experience didn’t live up to the concept. There were issues from owners about cars not returned on time and repairs not handled well. Customers found the software confusing, and there was only an iOS app, no Android. To top it off, apparently both owners and customers experienced less than consistently professional, courteous service.

In the revamping, two of the three founders left FlightCar along with about half the staff. With new management, spiffed-up locations with more local team leaders, more professional employee appearance, and better training for employees, the people side has gotten in line. The agreements between all parties have been simplified; and in addition to an improved iOS app that the company says is easier to understand, there’s now an Android app so more people can access the service.

According to FlightCar CEO Rujul Zaparde, “The [car-sharing] space is an evolving one. We’re finally getting to a point where it’s maturing and becoming mainstream. Consumers are getting comfortable with the idea of sharing. With work that we’ve done, we’re working on the experience, removing friction. We have a foundation today upon which we can build. We’re in the middle of the transaction, so it’s our responsibility to take better care of our customers.”

FlightCar currently has locations in 12 airports. There are three in the northeast, two in Texas, one in Denver, one in Seattle, and the rest are in southern and northern California. The company plans to expand in the U.S. and internationally, but the first focus is to reprove themselves to their customers and car owners.