Thanks to the ubiquity of ride-hailing services like Uber, Lyft, and Gett, we’ve gotten used to the idea that we can have a private car come to wherever we are in minutes.
A whole crop of companies both new and old are aiming to bring the same innovation to private jet travel. That accessibility, combined with the fact that commercial plane cabins continue to get smaller and more uncomfortable, could mean that more and more people who can afford the extra cost will turn to private jet travel.
From a startup popular with the Saudi Royal Family and Jay Z to the more traditional Magellan Jets, here are the companies high-rollers are using to travel without the hassle of the airport.
JetSmarter is appealing to the typical traveler who flies commercial but hates the inconvenience of it.
According to CEO Sergey Petrossov, 1.6 million hours of flight time each year are done on what the aviation industry calls “empty legs,” meaning that they are vacant while en route to pick up someone else.
JetSmarter purchases about 35,000 hours of reservations on those flights ahead of time, then makes them available exclusively to people on its app. JetSmarter members pay $9,000 a year – roughly $800 a month, plus a $3,000 initiation fee – to get unlimited access to private flights.
“We’ve brought in a completely new group of people who could never afford flying private before,” Petrossov said to Business Insider in July. “We’ve seen a college kid, for example, buy a membership for traveling to school and split the cost on two credit cards.”
JetSmarter announced in July that it has closed a $20 million Series B funding round. Contributing investors included the Saudi Royal Family, several unnamed entertainment moguls, and “high net worth individuals,” as well as executives from Goldman Sachs and Twitter. Business Insider also learned that Jay Z contributed to the round.
Wheels Up allows users – through FAA-licensed and DOT-registered operators – to arrange flights on a fleet of Beechcraft King Air 350i and Citation Excel/XLS aircraft. Through an app, members can book flights, arrange a ride-share, and even plan luxury experiences for when they land.
The startup recently raised a funding round of $115 million led by T. Rowe Price. The latest round of investment valued the startup at $540 million.
“Private air travel has been the domain of the ultra-wealthy. This is attractive to that consumer base and the one right below that which is much bigger,” T. Rowe Price portfolio manager Henry Ellenbogen said to the Wall Street Journal in September, when the investment was announced.
Blade, an aviation startup cofounded by former Sony and Warner Music Group exec Rob Wiesenthal and GroupMe cofounder Steve Martocci, uses an app to crowdsource flights on helicopters and seaplanes that you can book seats on in an instant.
Destinations include Quogue, Southampton, East Hampton, Montauk, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and Cape Cod. You can even snag a seat on a helicopter going to one of the New York area airports, a five-minute ride the company calls Blade Bounce.
Tickets range from $395 to $695 for a trip from Manhattan to the Hamptons, Blade’s most popular destination. For a few hundred more dollars, you can do a custom charter flight to a destination of your choice, and you can even choose to fly on a faster aircraft if you’d like.
Blade completed a $6 millionSeries A funding round in May of this year. Google chairman Eric Schmidt, Discover Communications CEO David Zaslav, IAC’s Barry Diller, Alex von Furstenberg, Raine Ventures, and iHeart Media chairman Bob Pittman all contributed to the startup’s most recent round.
Currently operating out of a few hubs on the West Coast, Surf Air offers unlimited flights starting at $1,750 a month.
You can choose to book a seat on-demand, though you’ll need to choose between flights that are already scheduled on Surf Air’s fleet of eight-seater Pilatus PC-12 turboprop planes. Reservations can be made four weeks in advance or even 15 minutes before a flight leaves, given there are still seats available.
The service was originally conceived for business execs needing a shuttle between Los Angeles and Silicon Valley. Surf Air is available in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, Carlsbad, Monterey, Truckee, Napa, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and Scottsdale.
Private jet charter company XOJet has been around for a while, but it continues to introduce features that make its on-demand services more attractive to travelers. Members can put down a depost of $200,000 or $100,000, depending on their preferred level of access, for the ability to charter Challenger 300 and Citation X jets whenever they want.
XOJet offers a number of carefully curated travel experiences – like a trip to Costa Rica, where travelers will pay $5,995 each (not including cost of flight) to kayak, golf, and go white-water rafting through the rain forest. There’s also a $10,995 per person trip to Whistler and an $8,595 wine-tasting vacation in Napa.
XOJet also happens to be the official private jet partner of the Golden State Warriors.
Launched in 2008, Magellan Jets was the first private jet company to have an app on iTunes and the first to guarantee in-flight WiFi. Users can book flights based on their origin, destination, and desired type of aircraft – and have it arrive anywhere in the US within six hours. It’s popular among business executives who want a solution for both work and play.
“Owning a plane is the most expensive way to fly private,” Tivnan said. “We can give customers all of the benefits of owning a plane without the headaches.”
Magellan Jets can personalize pretty much any part of your charter, from the magazines you’ll find on the plane to the snacks you’ll munch on during your flight.
“Where we’ve seen a lot of success is understanding the consumer,” co-founder and president Anthony Tivnan said to Business Insider. “We bring customization, both in how you buy and what happens when you’re on the plane.”
Magellan Jets recently introduced a new Build-a-Card program, which allows people to buy memberships with the number of hours, perks, and aircraft that makes the most sense for their needs.
Whereas other private jet companies might allow users to purchase seats on pre-existing flight routes, NetJets operates its own fleet of planes, selling fractional ownership to corporations or wealthy individuals in exchange for flying time.
NetJets offers several different programs. With NetJets Share, you’ll be a partial owner of the aircraft and get access to more than 50 hours of flying time a year. With NetJets Lease, you’ll still get 50 hours but won’t have to pay fees associated with acquiring the jet as an asset. And with a Marquis Jet Card, you can get access to between 25 and 50 hours and have the benefit of paying as you go.
Warren Buffett is a longtime NetJets fan and shareholder. Berkshire Hathaway purchased NetJets for $725 million in 1998, and Buffett and his family have logged some 5,000 hours on the service.
NetJets has had its fair share of financial struggles over the past few years. It hired a new CEO, Adam Johnson, in April.
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