Is it that flying commercial airlines is an increasingly irritating (and expensive) experience, or the rise of the share economy? Either way, travelling via private jets is no longer reserved for the gods of the world — with a few tips and knowledge of the travel industry, private jet flight can be yours for a (somewhat reasonable) price. Here, a beginner’s guide to private travel. (Let us know if you have a seat to spare!)
Surf’s up The California-based Surf Air was founded two years ago with a business plan so simple it’s a wonder it didn’t exist for decades: Sign up for a US$1,000 membership, pay a monthly fee of US$1,750, and you’ll be able to book as many flights as you want in a single-engine turboprop Pilatus PC-12 aircraft (eight seats only, so practically private!). Destinations include Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Los Angeles, San Francisco…yes, you guessed it, this is primarily a Silicon Valley-geared service, but even if you’re not a tech titan, it can be more than worth it. And services are only increasing: “We foresee ourselves [operating flights] on an hourly basis in a couple years,” CEO Jeff Potter told the Los Angeles Times recently. The all-you-can-fly buffet model is also taking off in Texas, where Rise offers flights hopscotching between Austin, Dallas and Houston during the week, and more far-flung destinations during the weekends.
Jet Suite’s ‘mission revolves around making private air travel accessible to more people than ever before’
Suite deal America’s fastest-growing private jet charter company is JetSuite, which aside from being the first private aviation company ever to guarantee an online quota, offers almost dirt-cheap rates for private jet rentals. The idea works as such: The company’s website posts daily “SuiteDeals” online, in which it sells seats on otherwise empty private planes that are headed toward charter bookings across the country. It requires a bit of planning and a sense of adventure on the traveller’s part, but it’s hard to argue with a fee of, say, US$530 for a flight on a private jet from Tallahassee, Fla., to Charleston, S.C. The six-passenger aircraft in JetSuite’s fleet offer free wifi and can typically make journeys of about 2,000 miles at 480 mph. “Our mission revolves around making private air travel accessible to more people than ever before, and offering an unprecedented level of transparency,” CEO Alex Wilcox said in a statement.
Upside to the downside The slowdown in the Alberta oil patch hasn’t been great news for a lot of people, but for those looking for a cheap flight, well, at least the sluggish economy is providing some relief. Jump On Flyaways, a Calgary-based company, is currently offering huge savings on flights thanks to its fleet of otherwise idle charter planes. Prices are about half the cost of rival companies’ weekend getaway jaunts to places such as Vancouver. “Our flights go if we sell enough seats. We only go if we hit the jumping point, which is basically break-even or better,” CEO Roger Jewett said in an interview with The Globe and Mail this past spring.
Splurge For those who want to explore the world of unlimited private jet flight and are flush with cash, there’s also ClipperJet, which charges US$9,700 a month for cross-country flights on a tres-chic Gulfstream IV jet. There’s even talk of expanding to London and Tokyo. See you in the air.