To fly private is to be an elite within an elite. Far from the madding crowd, the delays, the screaming babies, the stale food and the plastic bathrooms, PJs, as they are affectionately known, are the ultimate in luxury travel.
An accessory for real estate moguls and dot com billionaires, rich kids and celebs, they afford the traveller a private, sophisticated and uncomplicated journey, accompanied by few of the stresses that come with commercial flying, especially after 9/11. Cruising through the air in a Bombadier Global Express or a Cessna Citation, those wealthy enough to indulge are now part of a market that is expected to be worth over $33 billion by 2020.
However mobile technology is disrupting the market, and a glut of applications have come on the scene trying to make good use, and a pretty penny, out of the seats that remain empty on under-utilised jets and one-way trips, which some say make up a sizeable amount of all flights.
In this rarified world, where you can book a jet as easily as an Uber, I wanted to speak with those that had used these sorts of services. I first learnt about FlyVictor, the biggest player in this new market, when speaking with Nissim, a flamboyant Persian property maven on our way to a wedding in Florence. With the British Airways flight two hours delayed, he scrolled furiously on his iPhone, searching for the next available flight with free seats, and managed to find 5 available jets within a short distance of City Airport. Whilst it was hardly the bargain of the century, there is no membership fee, and when split between the maximum number of available seats, it wasn’t significantly more expensive than a business class ticket on commercial, a key factor in the threat that now faces the likes of NetJet and traditional fractional ownership.
Later that weekend, I asked Nissim about the service, and, dressed in a not-too-subtle purple tuxedo, he explained how simple the process was, and how easily he had managed to get an affordable last minute flight to Nice in July. “Buddy, I flew with my cousin Shahram, lots of my friends have now used FlyVictor. Definitely a game changer.” And for the next generation of super-wealthy, it clearly is becoming just that.
PrivateFly offers a similar service, with over 7000 accredited aircraft worldwide and a 24/7 concierge, they even offer a ‘JetMeHome’ button, finding you the nearest, quickest and cheapest way home.
Jet Smarter’s tag line is ‘One-way Private Jet flights at economy pricing’, where massive discounts can be had on empty last minute seats. With hundreds of scheduled flights and the ability to create your own itinerary, they claim to offer up to 70% off traditional private air fair costs.
Finally, there is also an upside for Private Jet owners, who can now list their jets when used or unused with the service, giving them a return on a significant outlay and helping with the upkeep of their asset.
With the likes of FlyVictor breaking the mould, Private Jet travel is becoming more accessible, more affordable, and together, these apps are hoping to reinvent the way the wealthy travel.