As new programs in the private jet sector proliferate and a new breed of technology entrepreneurs enter the market with innovative business models, more corporate executives are able to take advantage of this valuable resource. These programs and new business models are also making private jet travel a more affordable option when hosting and entertaining clients and prospects. The benefits that make private jets a smart business choice also make hosting valuable clients and potential clients on board a private jet a smart business choice. Putting someone on a private jet is the best way to convey the message that you not only value their time, but you value their business.
The benefits of private jet travel are saving time and increasing productivity, comfort and convenience. All things that will not go unnoticed while hosting clients and building relationships. ROI can be easily measured if the deal closes directly as a result of this impressive perk. The scope of the changes and innovations in the Industry and how they affect corporate entertainment and hospitality is a broad subject, but in this article we will be exploring the emerging players in the industry and the race to be the “Uber” of the Jet Transportation Industry.
Before we move to the leaders in the field, we need to talk about the failures. Several startups have tried and failed to disrupt the industry. One of the most notable, Blackjet, ceased operations in 2016 and many who invested in the hope of flying cheap lost their money. Blackjet was founded in 2012. They tried to apply the Uber model to jet travel and were backed by Garrett Camp, a co-founder of Uber. It shifted to a membership model before going under.
Blue Star Jets, while never really aspiring to the Uber label, nonetheless was once considered the darling of the Jet Charter business, and it also folded in 2016. Flytenow used an Uber-like app for booking air travel by connecting pilots with passengers, but was not really a player in the executive jet field so much as a consumer aviation start-up, dealing in smaller prop driven planes and private pilots. The Boston area based start-up was effectively shut down by the FAA for infractions of the strict rules and regulations imposed on the airline industry.
That leaves us with the current crop of start-ups vying for the elusive title of “Uber of the Skies.” Based on valuation, number of users, number of routes and overall buzz, the leader in the field seems to be Jetsmarter. With a valuation of approximately 1.5 Billion and backing from Jay Z., the Saudi royal family and others, Jetsmarter appears to be well funded. An important consideration when considering the high overhead and operational costs.
JetSmarter operates as a private jet charter company. They are headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida but operate globally. The company uses a smart phone application to connect passengers and air carriers to chartered flights. Jetsmarter is membership based business model with an initiation fee of $3,000 to start, and then $9,000 each year. Latest reports peg its membership at 6,700 and growing.
According to a February article in Corporate Jet Investor, Wheels Up is the “undisputed Leader” when it comes to brand awareness in business aviation. My own research would argue otherwise but this private aviation company founded in 2013 by Kenny Dichter is definitely on the radar for “Uber-like” status!
It currently boasts over 2100 members who pay an annual fee of $8500 after an initial first year fee of $17, 500. Of course, all these figures are subject to rapid change as the forces of market competition come into play. Wheels Up has the prerequisite mobile app but also boasts a fleet of 40 King Air turboprops and 15 Citation Excels/XLS business jets. Jetsmarter, on the other hand, does not own a fleet of jets but partners with other air carriers such as XO Jet.
Next on the list of Uber Jet wannabes is Surf Air, a California based aviation service that has recently announced its expansion into Europe. An initiation fee of $1000 and a monthly fee of $1950 per month will get you access to its fleet of single-engine turboprop Pilatus PC-12 aircraft that operate on limited regional routes, most within California. Also founded in 2013, the company has a reported membership of approximately 3000.
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