Electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, commonly known as eVOTLs, are less noisy, and take off vertically, like helicopters.

By Janet Miranda

The Houston Airport System says they plan to bring air taxis to the area within the next two years, just in time for the FIFA World Cup in 2026.

“Right now we’re looking at identifying landing and take-off locations for eVTOLs at all three of our airport locations in Bush, Ellington, and Hobby,” Houston Airports Chief Operating Officer Jim Szczesniak said. These eVOTL – electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicle – air taxis could hold five passengers, including the pilot, and have space for luggage. There are also plans for autonomous eVTOLs, where the pilot is driving the vehicle from afar, so the small aircraft can take up more passengers.

The planes take off vertically, like a helicopter, but they don’t have combustion engines. Houston Airport System officials, such as Szczesniak, are already making plans for when the technology becomes a reality.

Similar to the world depicted in Aldous Huxley’s futuristic dystopian novel “Brave New World,” Houstonians may soon have access to a helicopter-like aircraft that allows them to fly over the city and land in high-density areas. 

Szczesniak believes that the service would operate like a ridesharing service, such as Uber, offering rides to and from the airport at a similar price rate to an Uber Black. Approximately 2 million passengers are dropped off at Bush each year. If just one percent of them take air taxis, that would mean an estimated 55 air taxi operations per day, according to Szcezsniak.

The air taxi market is projected to reach $1.5 trillion globally by 2040, according to a study by Morgan Stanley Research. Last summer, the Federal Aviation Administration released an implementation plan outlining the steps it and others will need to safely enable air taxis soon, with a rollout arrival date of 2028.

Houston Airports is in talks with aircraft designers, and manufacturers who are purchasing eVTOLs, and the FAA to successfully launch the integration of these air taxis. United Airlines, which has a hub at Bush International Airport, recently purchased 200 eVTOLs for $1 billion from Archer Aviation, an aircraft manufacturer. It also signed an agreement with another eVTOL maker, Eve Air Mobility, to purchase up to 400 air taxis.

While the details on the timeline aren’t fully worked out, Houstonians can expect to see United air taxis in the future. The airline told the Houston Chronicle last year that it would bring eVTOL services to all of its hubs, including Houston. Szcesniak confirmed these plans to Chron but declined to comment on when they would potentially come to the city.

The FAA is currently in the process of finalizing rules and regulations that will govern the operation of air taxis. Despite this, there is already a lot of excitement in the industry, with various projects underway. In Arlington, TX, the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport has partnered with aircraft manufacturer Overair to develop the “Butterfly” aircraft. This aircraft is designed to accommodate up to five passengers and their luggage. 

Arlington aims to have air taxis operational by the time of the 2026 FIFA World Cup, during which the nearby city of Dallas will be one of the 16 host cities. Meanwhile, Houston which will also be a host city, aims for a similar goal.

“We want to make sure that we’re prepared for 2026,” Szczesniak said. “We will continue to watch how things play out in the industry.”