Several incidents in 2017 have reduced consumer confidence in the North American legacy carriers. United Airlines forcibly removed an innocent passenger from a commercial flight to make room for company employees. Not to be outdone, an American Airlines steward struck a female passenger in the face with her stroller. Most recently, British Airways suffered a global computer glitch that left thousands of passengers stranded. Furthermore, a 2017 ACSI report revealed that nearly a third of business travelers say they have filed a complaint with a major airline. Despite these incidences, many business travelers and travel managers will likely continue to depend on the major carriers, unaware that private jet services offer viable alternatives.
Just as Uber disrupted the taxi industry, are private jet subscription startups poised to disrupt the commercial airline industry?
Business travelers and travel managers should take a serious look at the range of private jet subscription services on the market today because they offer a higher quality at a competitive price compared to booking per-use flights with major carriers.
Last year JetSuiteX launched a fleet of 30-seat planes to make private jet travel inclusive to business travelers rather than an exclusive perk for the elite. JetSuite is not a subscription service. Passengers can fly in the private jet for the same price as a commercial flight with a major carrier. According to a 2017 ACSI report, passengers complain that seat comfort is the worst aspect of air travel. However, JetSuiteX’s growing fleet of Embraer 135 jets allow for more passengers to enjoy the comfort and luxury of the private jet experience while paying the same price as commercial fares.
JetSuiteX guarantees that passengers will always travel between private terminals. Compare that to the commercial travel experience, which entails unavoidable crowds, long queues, crying babies and multiple security checkpoints. Imagine the moment when the flight attendants announce boarding, and everyone clamors together like they are being crammed into a cattle car. JetSuiteX’s private service eliminates that hassle and commotion. Instead of scrambling to arrive at the airport 2 hours before take off to wait in lines and pass through security, passengers are encouraged to arrive only 30 minutes before departure time. JetSuiteX also arranges car rentals on site upon landing.
The JeSuiteX in-flight experience includes:
- Flight attendendant service
- Comfortable leather seats
- 36-inch business class legroom
- No overhead storage bins for a more spacious cabin
- Free WiFi
- Free inflight entertainment
- Power outlets at every seat
- Complimentary gourmet snacks, beverages, wine and spirits
JetSuiteX’s fleet of 10 planes currently services Los Angeles (Burbank), SF East Bay (Concord), Las Vegas, San Jose, San Diego (Carlsbad) and Bozeman, Montana. You can book a flight on the JetSuiteX app from Burbank to Las Vegas for about $99. The biggest drawback to JetSuiteX is obviously its limited markets. The most popular business trip destinations within the US—Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Philadelphia—are all presently neglected. However, JetsuiteX plans to expand to additional markets over the next 5 years.
Flying private saves the most important resource for a company: time. According to a 30SecondsToFly interview with Jamie Walker, President & CEO of Jet Linx, a pioneer in private aviation with resourceful knowledge about how private jet services and private jet memberships solve many issues that revolve around the logistics of travel for business travelers:
“Most importantly, private aviation allows business travelers to save time getting to their destination by being able to avoid airport chaos. For example, a commercial real estate developer in Atlanta with projects throughout the southeast can visit multiple locations in one day with point-to-point travel through private aviation services. No wasted time with connecting flights and long security lines.”
According to Walker, “major airlines cannot offer a guaranteed and simple solution to travel.” However, Jet Linx offers its members guaranteed availability on jets that range from light to heavy in size at set hourly rates. While many private aviation companies actually resemble the unreliable customer service offered by major airlines, Jet Linx is among the few companies that prioritizes customer service to ensure that members receive the highest degree of luxury, quality and service each time they fly, or even interact with their local base teams.
Jet Linx reaches out to small business owners with its Executive Club Jet Card. It’s not just Fortune 500 companies that are flying with Jet Linx, but more often, it’s local businesses that travel regionally, especially routes where commercial service has removed direct flight options. In business, especially for small businesses, it’s important to be able to be present. With a Jet Linx Executive Club Jet Card, members can authorize up to seven names on one Jet Card to coordinate travel arrangements as a team.
JetLinx services Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Nashville, Omaha, San Antonio, Scottsdale, St. Louis, Tulsa and Washington D.C.
Although flying private does significantly streamline the check-in process and generally saves time, it could be less convenient under certain circumstances. If, for example, a mechanical issue delays take-off on your private jet, it may take longer to rework a solution or book an alternate flight compared to a major airline.
Travel managers for small businesses might be surprised to learn that in some cases, flying private can save your company money. Rob Huxley, a subscriber to JetSmarter, says, “I have to say that joining JetSmarter is easily the best investment I have made from a small business perspective.” Private jet services have finally reached the tipping point of cost effectiveness on par with commercial airliners. Huxley notes:
“I travel a lot between Chicago and New York, and aside from the time savings which are obvious, the costs are actually on par with commercial travel, especially when you consider that JetSmarter has a shuttle service where I can literally fly for free every day of the year if there are seats available.”
JetSmarter is a private jet membership service that allows business travelers to book private charters and shared charters with other members. Additionally, members can hop on shuttle charters on established routes like New York to Chicago. For this flexibility in private jet travel options, members must shell out an annual fee of $11,500 in addition to a $3,500 initiation fee. Imagine hopping into an Uber while it’s on its way to pick a new passenger up. In this way, JetSmarter allows its members to take advantage of “empty leg” routes that would not otherwise contain passengers. Also, instead of committing to buy a fractional share in a private jet, you have the option to allow other members to purchase seats on your flight while the savings get returned to you.
While companies like JetSmarter, in particular, can save your company money, some potential drawbacks of the companies that allow sharing include privacy concerns. By allowing other travelers to share your flight, you sacrifice privacy to handle business matters.
In an interview, James Gwinnett told the 30SecondsToFly team that “more and more business travelers are taking advantage of private jet travel for the first time.” Beside cost, one of the main barriers to private jet travel was the old-fashioned nature of booking a jet. Naturally the benefits to the business community are significant. Gwinnett is a satisfied subscriber to Stratajet, an app and web service launched this October that gives fliers direct access to the private jet marketplace.
Stratajet guarantees the best price of all private jet flights across the industry by allowing customers to search for and book from a huge fleet of aircraft without having to go through a broker. Stratajet’s advanced automatic technology is capable of filtering through 2.5 million calculations in seconds to deliver accurate costs of flights, which can be booked instantly. Hence, coordinating with a booking agent, once an obstacle for travel managers, is no longer a hindrance to flying private.
Pay As You Go
According to Daria Borisova, who represents JetClass, the JetClass private jet service “will reinvent business class travel” by offering seats on private jets at the cost of a business class ticket. With this pay-as-you-go offering, there are no membership fees. Starting in June 2017, JetClass will serve international travelers on fixed routes connecting London, Zurich, Brussels and Nice.
The seats will be available through popular flight booking aggregators. The service is operated by Artificial Intelligence that analyses all the travel trends and manages the dynamic flight schedule. That is why JetClass can keep the prices at business class level and guarantee all the seats. Even if there is only one seat booked, the flight will still take off.
For small businesses, a pay-as-you-go service will likely sound much more appealing than a membership service that requires a hefty up-front fee.
Major Airlines Subscription Services
For travel managers who remain loyal to the major carriers, a subscription service is now an option. OneGo offers an all-you-can-fly subscription for a flat fee. Similar to the private jet services, the OneGo app benefits business travelers by reducing time and energy for booking flights. Staring at $1500 per month, depending on region, the service averages to about $100 per day.
OneGo sources flights from Alaska Airlines, American, Delta, JetBlue, United and Virgin America, so the sheer scale of choices is a huge selling point. But before you sign up for OneGo, make sure the membership restrictions work for your company. For example, you earn miles and upgrades; however, you cannot select the airline. You must book 7 days in advance. Also, you can only book four one-way reservations at a time. And the biggest drawback in terms of business traveler experience is that there is currently no premium cabin booking option.
A superior choice for East coast travel managers might be subscribing to the JetBlue Go Pack. With a Go Pack, you choose from six or 10 one-way trips between Boston, New York or Long Beach and other select destinations. If your business meetings predominantly focus in these hubs, the Jet Blue Go Pack might be the perfect fit for your business. Also, you don’t have to commit on a yearly basis, so you can experiment at a low risk of loss.
A Value Proposition
Travel managers should take note that because of advancing technology and an increasing demand, private flying now saves small businesses time and money. It’s also a huge upgrade for the business traveler experience by eliminating issues with long lines, delays and cancellations, lost bags and wasted time. In addition to value, efficiency, comfort and convenience, flying private also provides the added benefit of productivity. Flying commercial guarantees cramped space, noise distractions and no privacy, which can bar business travelers from handling sensitive matters.
Ultimately, private jet services allow businesspeople to be more efficient and effective with their time at work, enabling them to get back the wasted travel time of commercial flying and spend it at home with their families and friends.
Despite low oil costs and improved booking technology, the private jet disruption of the airline industry for the masses faces major challenges including lack of regular demand and competition from high quality premium class commercial services on major airlines. Time will tell if private jet subscriptions successfully disrupt the airline market.
David is a digital media attorney and the Editor in Chief at 30SecondsToFly. As an American expat living in Luxembourg, David feels closest to his higher self whilst traveling and expressing his gratitude for new eye-opening experiences through storytelling and filmmaking on his blog www.FarOutExpat.com