It’s easier than ever to travel like the 1%. Tech-savvy travelers know that they can use services like Uber in many major cities to call a town car or SUV on demand. But what about air travel? Historically, private jets have been reserved for the ultra-wealthy and celebrities who can afford to keep that G-4 on 24/7 call.
Companies like NetJets have attempted to democratize the private airline industry, offering purchase of private jet hours at much lower price points than full ownership, but the barriers to entry are still there. A NetJets Marquis Jet Card allows people to purchase as few as 25 or 50 jet hours, but the cost is still around $120,000 for just a few hours in the air.
Of course, this may not seem pricey to companies who need to get somewhere now or those people who are already used to chartering planes for private use – the cost has been proven to be money saving, in some instances, for groups of business travelers used to traveling first class commercially.
But now a new breed of private jet companies has infiltrated the marketplace. Names like JetSuite and BlackJet are revolutionizing private aviation, transforming the term “jetsetter” into something nearly anyone can afford.
JetSuite, a private jet airline that launched in 2009, offers a guaranteed price quote for flights to more than 2,000 airports across North America and the Caribbean. CEO Alex Wilcox, a founder of JetBlue, certainly aims high – his goal is to make JetSuite “the Southwest Airlines of private jet travel.”
He’s well on his way. Through the company’s “SuiteDeals,” released daily via Facebook and Twitter, consumers can find empty leg sales opportunities ranging from $499 to $1,499 for next-day, one-way trips. The price isn’t per person; it’s per aircraft – on a Phenom 100 (seats four) or a Citation CJ3 (seats six). The type of aircraft is confirmed after booking.
Today, for example, one could fly from San Diego to St. George, Utah, for $536.43. A commercial flight on Delta would be $406, economy, with one stop in Salt Lake City.
BlackJet is essentially the Uber of private jets. The company lets you book private flights via iPhone app, reserving seats two days in advance on flights between San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas and South Florida. Other cities are coming soon, like Chicago and Washington, D.C. Well-behaved pets are even permitted. The company has generated some serious buzz, raising over $3 million in funding with names like celebrity Ashton Kutcher and SalesForce CEO Marc Benioff backing the company.
It’s a bit less populist than Uber. You have to be a “member” to book a trip – which means signing up online and waiting for approval. There’s also a $2,500 “member fee” for your first flight. You won’t get charged until you book that first ticket, but it’s there. After that the flying part is pretty easy. You travel, then pay, and members enjoy guaranteed seats on flights. The cost is a bit more than JetSuite too, but the planes are bigger and the flights often longer.
A seat on a flight from DC to San Francisco for next week would cost $3,351 per person, compared with commercial economy flights from $253 (with stop) or first class from $732 (with stop). It’s pricier than flying with the public, but still a lot cheaper than the comparable $20,000 to charter that plane on your own.
What do you think, readers? Would you try one of these new private jet models? We’d be thrilled to test either – but probably need to check our savings accounts first!