Airbnb has “no plans” to launch an airline despite recruiting aviation industry veteran Fred Reid as global head of transportation in February.

Greg Greeley, president of Airbnb Homes, said the accommodation platform plans to develop “across all transportation”. But he insisted: “We are not going to launch an airline.”

Reid is a former chief executive of Virgin America and ex-Delta Air Lines president, was chief operating officer at Lufthansa and involved in establishing both the Star Alliance and SkyTeam airline alliances.

Speaking at German travel trade show ITB in Berlin on Thursday, Greeley said: “We brought Fred on board with a remit to consider how we develop across all transportation. There are a lot of parts to that.”

He said Reid would help “find areas on the edges where we can sprinkle some Airbnb dust”.

Expedia chief executive Mark, speaking earlier at ITB, suggested: “Airbnb may be thinking about starting a transportation business.”

But he said the company would find it hard to move beyond accommodation to offer airline bookings.

Okerstrom said: “Airbnb has built an incredible business. It’s a niche business. It’s a beautiful niche, but it is a niche business.”

He argued: “It’s very hard to take a brand into other lines of business, and the technical challenge of the airline business is huge. We do incredible numbers [of airline bookings].”

Okerstrom added: “Airbnb can build what it wants, but they are going to need airlines and GDSs to help them [and] who wants another third-party distribution channel?

“Expanding into a low-margin business that is incredibly expensive, and the people you need to work with don’t want to work with another distribution channel, will be very difficult.”

tw5