Private Jet Travel For The 99 Percent: Book Your Private Jet Via Facebook Or App

jetsuite jet
Image via JetSuite

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!

Here’s why it’s time to buy a private jet

private jetGetting your own private jet has never been easier. If you’ve had sticker shock in the past, it’s time to start shopping again. Prices have dropped severely, which means you now have a chance to travel without the rabble.

The latest from FT.com is that “[p]rices of some of the world’s best known business jets have plunged to remarkable lows as the stumbling global economic recovery puts a brake on spending by even the wealthy.” The implication, of course, is that you can make someone else’s loss your gain.

So, what do you want? A Learjet? You can score one that’s a year old for a mere $8 million – as opposed to the $13 million price tag hanging on a new one. How about a Cessna Citation XLS? You’re looking at a cost savings of around $4 million.

If you were on the fence about shelling out for a private jet, it’s pretty clear that the market is sending you a message right now.

Luxury air travel not taking off

While other areas in the travel industry are talking about a recovery, luxury travel remains in rough shape. In fact, it’s only on long-haul flights that the big spenders are even asking for upgrades, let alone chartering flights or firing up their own planes. According to Peter Yesawich, CEO of travel marketing firm Ypartnership, “Luxury air travel has essentially been grounded.”

Meanwhile, the airlines are struggling for ways to restore the revenue they used to be able to pull in from its top passengers. Notes Yesawich, “It’s said that real profit in any flight is front of plane. The rest covers the overhead.”

While Delta and British Airways are playing with in-flight amenities for first class passengers, such as showers, it doesn’t compare to the relatively blissful conditions offered on the likes of Eos, which no longer exists. People with private jets are buying airline tickets more often, it seems, though fractional jet ownership remains fairly popular among those with means to access it.

Despite the shift in conditions, one thing remains true, according to Mike Weingart of Travel Leaders: “The super rich fly anyway they want.”

Flexjet members get extra bump on Korean Air

This is a first: a fractional jet provider and an international airline are partnering up. Flexjet’s fractional owners can now access premium services when they fly overseas on Korean Air. Under this new arrangement, the Flexjet Connect program, members will receive incentives to buy first class tickets on , not to mention elite status for a full year, dedicated check-in and luxury concierge services in select airports. And, Korean Air passengers can reach more than 5,000 U.S. airports with as little as 24 hours’ notice on high-performance Bombardier business jets.

According to Fed Reid, President of Flexjet, “This first-of-its-kind collaboration with Korean Air adds value to our program offerings, while further expanding our global reach.” He adds, “For our discerning fractional customers, this strategic partnership between two industry leaders obsessed with excellence ensures they will experience the same level of comfort and high-quality travel they have come to expect from Flexjet.”

Walter Cho, Senior Vice President, Passenger Business Division, Korean Air, says, “Now our customers can fly privately from a local airport to catch their Korean Air flight, or get closer to their meetings by flying to regional airports, knowing that our partners at Flexjet and Jet Solutions will provide a seamless and convenient travel experience with impeccable service.”

White Collar Travel Extra: Helicopters signal return of the good life

What do you think a New York area commuter’s time is worth? Some of these guys will spend 14 hours a week or more sitting in buses, trains and cars just getting to and from the city. It adds up quickly. Well, if you take a look at what Liberty Helicopters is charging, a New Yorker’s commuting time is worth $100 an hour.

Ferrying people six at a time from Manhattan into New Jersey, Liberty is charging $200 a day for freedom from gridlock, not to mention the sheer frustration of not seeing the car in front of you move or the agony of being held captive by public transportation schedules. By helicopter, the hike from Port Monmouth, New Jersey to Manhattan takes as little as eight minutes … and the satisfaction of seeing the bumper-to-bumper below is a perk.

The fact that people are choosing this rather pricey form of daily transportation is leading some to believe that the worst of our economic woes are in the rearview mirror. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that compensation at Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley ticked 14 percent higher last year.

If you have to get out of the city for a Newark flight, this might just be the way to go.

Read White Collar Travel here.