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Why not Uber for private jets?

September 18, 2017



Being called the ‘iTunes of private jets‘ or the ‘Uber for private jets‘ is a huge compliment.

I really welcome that. Booking a private jet can be a confusing process to many people, so a shortcut way of describing how we do things here at PrivateFly is a quick and helpful way to communicate understanding.


But one thing that our rapid growth has proved is that, while technology is important, it’s also vital that it’s backed up with a fantastic team, exceptional customer service, deep market insight, and the industry experience to really make thing happen.


These are all the ingredients to a great customer experience. And we think we have a great recipe here – having seen our business grow rapidly, worldwide, in the last few years.


So one thing I like to emphasise when these comparisons are made is this:


While technology is absolutely central to what we offer, it’s really about what it enables us to do – and that’s to provide an enhanced service to the private jet customer.


As technology continues to advance, a variety of new private jet booking models have emerged – from app-only brokers to seat sharing services. For new users it can be confusing to differentiate the options when booking a private jet.


So here’s a rundown of the pros and cons of some of the new emerging business models we’re seeing in the private jet industry, and what you should know about them.




How it works: Customers pay a monthly fee, allowing them to fly without paying for each flight individually. The volume and type of flights available vary by company, with some allowing unlimited flights on specific routes and others a limited number of flights each month.


Pros: The freedom of hopping on a flight without having the hassle of making a payment each time. This type of model is targeted at business travellers who tend to fly frequently on the same route and can save money annually.


Cons: Terms and conditions limit the amount of choices you have for your trips, or the level of privacy you have on each flight. And if you don’t fly frequently enough, you could end up spending more than by choosing a dedicated charter flight each time. You’re also restricted to the routes that are available or specific departure times.


How it works: Customers book a single seat on a private jet, rather than book an entire aircraft.


Pros: This service is similar to booking on a commercial airline, with some of the perks of private jet travel, such as a faster route through the airport, and fewer people onboard. Since you’re only paying for a seat and not for an entire aircraft, this option can be cheaper than chartering an entire aircraft by yourself (if you find enough people who want to share on the same route and itinerary).


Cons: This type of service loses many of the true benefits of private jet travel, which is all about privacy and flexibility. Not only are you sharing a jet with strangers, but you can’t specify your itinerary and must wait until all the passengers have arrived and boarded before taking off – making the trip much less flexible.

It’s also a challenging business model for the company, since it takes high volumes to make it work (and every private jet client wants VIP service and bespoke attention, even when they’re just buying a seat). So there can be a very narrow gap between this and commercial airlines when it comes to customer experience.



How it works: After Uber shook up the taxi market, many are attempting to the do the same to the private aviation industry through apps. Essentially, this type of model is the “Uber of the private jet industry”, allowing you to book a private jet straight from your phone, in a relatively short time.


Pros: Convenience is a major benefit of this type of service, especially compared to the way private jet charter used to work. You can ‘self service’, and depending on the app, you also can get some other benefits, such as aircraft comparison and flight management, while others limit the amount of choices you have when using the app.


Cons: The benefit of a private jet app depends on the company. Some apps don’t allow you to book fully through the app and others limit the amount of choices you have for app services and booking. Additionally, with an app-only service, you can lose the VIP customer service and expertise that is still expected when booking a private jet.


Today’s private jet customer wants BOTH technology and TLC (with a VIP team behind it). With an app-only service, the risk is that you won’t have a personal contact at the company who knows your needs and has a deep understanding of the private jet industry, ensuring that your flight is bespoke and everything goes without a hitch.



How it works: Some private jet companies specialise only in empty legs. These are repositioning one-way flights, often sold at less than half of the cost of a typical private jet flight.


Pros: The cost is the main draw to booking a private jet through empty leg only services. Flights can be up to 75% cheaper with empty leg options, and, in some cases, make private jet travel almost the same price as flying commercially.


Cons: But simply put – empty legs are tricky. The price opportunity is fantastic, but flight options are limited, and they can be unreliable – so you need to stay very flexible in order to reap the benefit. You also need to be prepared to book at short notice and usually find another way of getting home, as most are one-way.


Most full-service private jet companies offer empty legs anyways (see our available empty legshere), so there’s no need to only book through an empty leg only service, where you might not have the wider expertise and industry knowledge to help make your flight happen.

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