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7 "Uber"-Like Companies for the Jet Set

Thanks to technology, taxis and limousines no longer have a monopoly on on-demand automobile travel. Companies like Uber, Lyft and others have harnessed mobile app technology — and a ready workforce of freelance drivers — to change the way people get from Point A to Point B without even buying one car.

So it only makes sense that this concept is changing air travel for people who use private jets for business or pleasure. Here are seven of the most popular companies who are making private air travel more accessible and convenient for the jet-set:

Blade 

A crowd-sourced, short-distance air travel provider that focuses on flights between New York City, the Hamptons, Mohegan Sun Casino and major surrounding airports. Launched in 2014 by co-founders Rob Wiesenthal (a former music executive) and Steve Martocci (GroupMe co-founder), travelers use a mobile app to instantly book seats on helicopters and seaplanes.

Ticket prices range from $395 to $695, although for a higher price travelers can do a custom charter flight to a destination of their choice — or even fly on a faster aircraft.

Jet Smarter 

Founded in 2012, this company enables private jet charter around the world via a mobile marketplace. Travelers use the app to connect to chartered flights, including more than 3,000 aircraft of all makes and models.

To offer this convenience, JetSmarter takes advantage of the “empty legs” of the aviation industry — which means the vacant 1.5-million-plus hours of flight time spent en route to pick up other passengers. The company buys about 35,000 hours of reservations on those flights ahead of time, which are then available exclusively via the app.

Members pay a $3,000 initiation fee and $9,000 a year for unlimited access to private flights. On the flip side, carriers can use the app to manage their inventory in real-time to fill their flights instantly.

Magellan Jets 

One of the earliest of these innovators in the air travel space — becoming the first private jet company to have an app on iTunes, as well as the first to guarantee in-flight WiFi. The company was launched in 2008, and is renowned for its personalization options — even down to the snacks and magazines — providing customers with all the benefits of owning a plane without actually owning it.

Travelers can book flights based on origin, destination and type of aircraft they prefer, and it will arrive anywhere in the U.S. in eight hours. 

NetJets 

In 1986, the NetJets program was created as the first fractional aircraft ownership program. After enjoying the NetJets service for three years, Berkshire Hathaway Chairman & CEO Warren Buffett acquired NetJets Inc. for $725 million in 1998. While other companies allow users to buy seats on existing flight routes, NetJets actually has its own fleet of planes — selling fractional ownership to corporations or wealthy individuals in exchange for flying time on the largest private jet fleet in the world (more than 650 aircraft worldwide).

NetJets offers several different programs, but the basic offering is guaranteed access to an aircraft with as little as four hours notice. Users pay a monthly maintenance fee and an “occupied” hourly operating fee — which is only charged when an owner or guest is on board, not when the aircraft is going to pick up a passenger or flying to another destination after completing a flight.

SurfAir 

Created for business executives who needed to travel between Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, SurfAir offers “all-you-can-fly” unlimited flights for a fixed monthly fee of $1,950 a month (plus a $1,000 signup fee).

Since 2013, the airline has provided West Coast flights that now include Burbank, Carlsbad, Hawthorne, Monterey, Oakland, Napa, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, among others. Travelers can book a seat “on demand,” but need to choose from already-scheduled flights. They can make reservations up to a month in advance or as close as 15 minutes before a flight leaves, if seats are still available.

Wheels Up 

This company offers membership programs that greatly reduce the cost of flying privately, enabling travelers to use their app to book flights, arrange a ride-share, and even plan a luxury experience at their destination.

The company, founded in 2013, is unique in that joining the “club” requires no up-front financial or long-term commitment. Members pay an initiation fee and low annual dues to have access to flights at a reduced rate with guaranteed availability; pricing is set on a “pay-as-you-fly” basis, so travelers pay only for hours flown.

In addition, membership includes enrollment in the exclusive “Wheels Down” program, which is billed as “the ultimate lifestyle, events, concierge and partner benefits program.”

XOJET 

Established in 2006, the company provides fixed-price, one-way private charters between major U.S. cities. Customers can buy a set number of flight hours to use per year.

With 40+ super mid-size business jets, XOJET’s private jet charters and flight programs enable travelers to choose their arrival and departure locations, then book if the flight is available — or use a fixed-price charter on predetermined routes when available. Depending on their preferences, members can pay a deposit of $100,000 or $200,000 for the ability to charter a jet whenever they want. The company also offers specially designed VIP experiences, such as rainforest excursions to Costa Rica, wine-tasting vacations to Napa, and deluxe skiing trips to Whistler.

All in all, travelers who can afford the extra cost — and prefer flying without airport hassles and more-cramped-than-ever cabins inside commercial airplanes — have plenty of new options for private air travel. With the advent of innovative, easy-to-use technology, it’s more convenient and personalized than ever!

 

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