Private Jet Booking Apps – SHARING IS PAIRING
PRIVATE AVIATION GOES PUBLIC WITH APPS AND DEALS
by Jim Simon
ENTREPRENEURIAL START-UPS OFFER SOLUTIONS TO PRIVATE AVIATION’S LARGEST EFFICIENCY ISSUES LIKE UNDERUTILISED AIRCRAFT AND EMPTY LEGS
THE SHARING ECONOMY, TYPIFIED BY THE LIKES OF UBER AND AIRBNB, CONTINUES TO UPEND ENTRENCHED INDUSTRIES. Connecting surplus resources with people seeking them is clear-cutting entire swaths of established commission agents and vested interests. And the private jet industry is not being spared, undergoing transformations just as radical as other transportation and hospitality sectors. Entrepreneurial start-ups are offering solutions to private aviation’s largest efficiency issues — underutilised aircraft and empty legs. New booking and search apps for private jet travel are addressing these inefficiencies, and this is great news for both jet owners, and travellers with a bit of scheduling flexibility.
Brokers, acting on behalf of travellers, helped to alleviate these challenges, but their fees and limited client data access made it a hit or miss game. Those days are over. By perfecting a system of aggregating flights, and matching a large pool of demand with the largest possible supply, both cost and prices are being forced to come down — ideally close to the cost of commercial first class travel.
The minor downside is that in order to take full advantage of potential savings, travellers will have to agree to fly as and when corresponding aircraft are available. The good news is that as more of these apps come online, the more people will start using them, and in turn more flight assets would become available.
This would be internet efficiency at its best, in other words. Here are some examples.
VolJet’s target customer is the affluent traveller who typically flies commercial first class, but can afford to fly via private jet if a similar route were available at a substantial discount. Its simple smartphone app allows a customer to indicate his desired travel details. VolJet then taps into their data of private jet operators and commercial airlines, and presents offers from both. To further reduce costs, VolJet customers are offered seats from other customers who have formed “groups”, which are comprised of those who have similar travel needs. This hybrid approach may be good for time-pressed business executives and travel coordinators who require assistance with last-minute business travel at commercial first class pricing.
Like other providers, on offer is an app to book charter flights from a wide range of private jet operators. What makes JetSmarter unique is their promise of “free” flights for members who pay a USD$8,995 annual membership fee — which comes with a 24k gold-plated membership card for extra kicks. The free flights are branded as “JetDeals”, and are flights with one or more empty seats available last minute. JetSmarter members whose origin or destination is Manhattan are also eligible for complimentary helicopter rides to a nearby airport to meet up with their jet.
THE MORE APPS COME ONLINE, THE MORE PEOPLE WILL START USING THEM, AND IN TURN MORE FLIGHT ASSETS BECOME AVAILABLE
This most closely resembles the car booking app Uber, and stands out from other “book with a click” providers in that they offer six different categories of aircraft. They range from a 4-seater piston prop like the Cirrus SR20 (branded ubairTaxi), all the way up to an intercontinental Gulfstream (branded ubairHeavy). The website simplifies jet charter by classifying each of the six categories into representative aircraft, base hourly rate, daily minimum, and capacity
The approach here is to make competition between 7,000- plus aircraft as the path to optimal customer pricing. When a prospective traveller enters information into the PrivateFly app, it transmits this information to all of the operators they have a relationship with. As operators reply with their offers, the prospective traveller can choose the best one. PrivateFly believes that this simple approach is the easiest for prospective travellers because it is the same philosophy that commercial travel websites use.
This UK company believes that jet operators aren’t as transparent about costs as customers deserve. In response, Victor promotes transparency as a key selling point which has made the four-year old start-up recently ranked number 15 of the 100 fastest growing private tech companies by The Sunday Times. Classifying Victor as a tech company — instead of an aviation app — underscores the importance of being able to master the large data game, rather than being an aviation wizard.
In business since 1997, this self-proclaimed pioneer of online flight booking has evolved to offer charter bookings via app. The company was recently named a Mobile Excellence Awards finalist in the Best eCommerce for Mobile category, partly due to Skyjet’s integration of ApplePay. More than 6,000 people have downloaded Skyjet’s app and more than 1,000 itineraries are processed weekly through it.
Headquartered in Southern California, the company targets customers seeking short flights with a guarantee of instant online quotes. Instead of acting as a reseller of other owners’ aircraft, JetSuite maintains its own fleet of Cessna CJ3 and Embraer Phenom 100 aircraft which are all equipped with Wi-Fi. Membership is not required, but members do receive extra benefits such as discounts, a time allowance for running late, and more. Their additional SuiteDeals program alerts to last-minute notifications of empty legs.
SURFAIR AND BEACON
These companies offer unlimited flights between certain city pairs against a monthly fee. In the case of Surfair, the monthly fee is USD$1,950, plus a USD$1,000 initiation fee. Service is provided between 12 destinations with 90 daily flights, all concentrated on the US west coast. Similarly, Beacon offers service to several airports on the US east coast, such as Boston and New York, against a monthly fee ranging from USD$1,750 to $3,000. The higher monthly fees offer the ability to hold multiple advance reservations, thereby minimising chances of a flight being sold out, and guest passes.
Thanks to the emergence of these tech companies, booking private jet travel is becoming ever more efficient and cost-effective. Only time will tell which system will survive, but the effect on the private jet industry is unquestionably positive.
Jetgala will keep our eyes on the screens and report periodically.