New Services Make Private Jet Travel Affordable(ish)


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Jet-sharing services that take a page from Uber and Airbnb are driving down the cost of private flights -- putting that luxury within reach for a growing number of travelers.

Want to get somewhere in style, and without the hassle of TSA lines and airline baggage fees?

Now with a few taps on an iPhone ap,p you can land a comfy seat on a luxury private jet at prices that are coming down to earth.

Jet-sharing services such as JetSmarter are causing turbulence in the air travel industry, just as Uber and Lyft disrupted the hold of taxis over local ground transportation and Airbnb changed the game for travel lodging.

These jet-sharing services apply the same technology that helped lower prices in other segments of the travel industry.

To be sure, private jets are not priced for everybody — not just yet — but they are getting competitive enough to lure first-class travelers now. The aim is for a much bigger market, however.

With big data at his company’s core, Sergey Petrossov, CEO of JetSmarter, says someday apps could be so efficient they could make private jets compete in price with road travel. JetSmarter is backed by rapper and businessman Jay Z and the Saudi royal family.

“Traditionally, private aviation was accessible to the point-one percent — not even the one percent,” Petrossov recently told Billboard magazine.

For instance, only the insanely rich were able to fork over the money for a whole new Gulfstream G650, which runs about $65 million.

Very wealthy people traditionally gained access to private aviation by preparing for a certain number of flight hours. At the entry level, that means paying $125,000 to $135,000 for about 25 hours of flight time with a jet card on a light jet, says SherpaReport.com, which analyzes the shared luxury property market. Technically, that’s a sublease of a fractional ownership of a jet — like a flying timeshare — which starts at about $275,000 for a 1/16th share of a plane.

JetSmarter’s entry-level membership runs around $9,675 annually after a $3,500 initiation fee. You can book complimentary seats through its “Jet Shuttle” service to a limited number of cities. The company also offers members “Jet Deals,” complimentary seats on last-minute pop-up flights to random destinations. You can also book a traditional charter, not free.

JetSmarter and similar services offer deals mainly to fill seats on “empty legs,” when hundreds of private jets would fly without passengers on their way somewhere to pick up people. That’s about one-third of all private flights, says CNN.

More ways to get away

With Magellan Jets, you can buy a block of flight time and get matched to planes through an iPhone app. A 25-hour block is good for five to 10 trips a year, Magellan Jets says. Prices range from an hourly rate of $4,350 to fly on a Hawker 400XP to $14,500 for a flight on a Gulfstream G450.

Magellan can arrange a domestic flight within 10 hours of a member’s request, its president, Anthony Tivnan, recently told The New York Times. The Quincy, Massachusetts-based company says it works with 95 aircraft providers.

“It takes us seconds to find this availability,” Tivnan told the Times. Without the internet, “we couldn’t do that, so you had to go to one of the legacy fractional carriers.”

With startup Victor, an online marketplace for charter flights, instead of paying $1,000 for a first-class round-trip airline ticket from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, you could team up with five friends for a charter that costs $4,750, or less than $750 per person.

“With private, you can show up to any one of [a number of] regional airports five minutes before your scheduled departure,” David Young, a Victor executive, told Billboard.

Victor also offers whole empty-leg jets, which it says can save you up to 75 percent of a conventional private jet charter. For example, a recent posting offered a Chicago to Scottsdale, Arizona, charter for up to six passengers for $11,603, or about $1,934 a person for all six.

Not all jet-sharing startups will make it.

BlackJet, actually touted as “Uber for Jets” and supported by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp and a host of celebrities, shut down early in May, Business Insider reported. BlackJet required an annual fee, giving members access to a network of jets on which they could book seats on predetermined routes. It followed the demise of Beacon, a company that charged a $1,000 deposit and $2,000 a month for unlimited travel between Boston and Westchester County, New York.

Would you sign up for a jet-sharing service? Let us know in comments below or on our Facebook page.

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