How normal people can fly on a private jet

The Uber of private jets is bringing private aviation to the masses.

Peter Iantorno October 5, 2015

How many times have you found yourself in a massive queue at airport security, or in a scrum to retrieve your suitcase from baggage reclaim, and thought, “There must be an easier way than this.”

It’s a frustration we’ve all felt at one point or another, and while most of us dream of the supreme comfort and convenience of flying on a private jet, we assume that this privilege is reserved only for the rich and famous. But that is not necessarily the case, as it turns out that flying private may actually be within the reach of normal people, too.

One solution is the clever empty legs trick we told you about earlier this year, which involves scouring the internet for private jet flights that would otherwise be empty and taking advantage of massive discounts on those specific journeys. 

While this is a great little technique for making huge savings on private air travel, it still doesn’t quite deliver the full convenience of private aviation, as it relies on lots of potentially time-consuming online research.

However, there is another option, which might just bring that ultimate convenience to the normal passenger: private jet hire marketplace JetSmarter. “We believe the world deserves a convenient way to book a private jet,” says Faisal Al Omran, company shareholder, advisor and spokesperson for the MENA region, “and JetSmarter is a revolution in booking jets.”

The concept is simple: a smartphone app that allows users to book a private jet at the press of a button – the Uber of private jets, if you will. “JetSmarter offers instant pricing and availability for private jets across the globe, allowing users to book a flight themselves without the struggle and the hassle of dealing with a broker,” says Al Omran.

At the moment the company offers three services. This most convenient of these, JetCharter, allows users a completely custom experience where they can pick any destination, any aircraft and any time, and travel with as little as six hours’ notice.

Of course, for that kind of convenience you are bound to pay a premium, and when we crunched the numbers, we found it to be on the pricy side. For example, a heavy jet with a 10-passenger capacity travelling from Dubai to London Heathrow would cost an average of $69,900 for a JetSmarter member, so even if you managed to fill the jet, it would still be $6,990 per person. A one-way First Class ticket with Emirates on the same route would cost around $6,705.

However, while the JetCharter option is clearly aimed at those wealthy few in the upper echelons of society, the company does offer another way to fly private that is a bit more attainable for the average Joe.

For an annual fee of $9,000 ($750 per month), members are given unlimited access to 35,000 hours of private jet flights, which they can book at no extra cost. They can pick from JetDeal, which are last-minute one-way private flights, and JetShuttle, which offers single seats on scheduled private flights.

As well as unlimited private flights for the year, the membership fee also covers access to 24/7 customer support and a concierge service, which helps users arrange things like transportation at their destination, restaurant and club reservations and hotel check-ins.

Now, it might sound like the JetShuttle option is just like booking on any normal carrier, but Al Omran insists that the experience of sharing a private jet is far more beneficial than booking on to a public flight. “People love connecting on the way,” he says. “Great networking and the prospect of new friendships make for something of a 'country club in the sky’.”

The idea of a country club in the sky is certainly one that would appeal to the wealthy, and JetSmarter has already attracted some rather high-profile backers, ranging from Jay-Z, to Saudi Prince HRH Prince Abdullah bin Bandar bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, both of whom partook in the recent $20 million round of investment into the company.

But according to Al Omran, JetSmarter isn’t just for rap stars and royals. “Our aim is to make private aviation accessible to the masses, and not just a privileged 1 per cent,” he says. “JetSmarter has a unique business model that is unlike any other private jet venture, as our goal is to democratise the sky.

“Our main priority has been to make the private aviation industry more accessible to everyone. When it comes to flying commercial, travellers often find themselves waiting in the misery of long security lines, or having to deal with the hassle of baggage claim. When flying with us, the inconvenience is eliminated. We also make flying private more affordable and accessible to the masses.”

It’s a bold claim, bringing private aviation to the masses, and the company still has a long way to go to achieve it – not least because its most accessible service, JetShuttle, is only available in the US at the moment.

Yet, the recent round of investment will certainly help and, according to Al Omran, the company is expanding rapidly. “The company has seen significant growth since its launch in March 2013, growing 15 to 20 per cent each month,” he says. “To date the app has more than 300,000 downloads and we already have a market share of 85 to 90 per cent of the commercially registered private jets in the UAE.”

So, next time you’re stuck in a horrendous queue at the airport thinking “there must be an easier way”, take solace in the fact that very soon there might well be.