We’re all familiar with the inconveniences of commercial aviation: security lines, the interminable boarding process, cramped seating, and often-dicey Wi-Fi service, among others. Private flight can address these issues, but at a steep price. To bridge the divide between the two options, the charter operator JetSuite has launched its own hybrid shuttle service, JetSuiteX (x.jetsuite.com). It provides regularly scheduled flights aboard a 30-seat Embraer ERJ 135 between Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Jose, and Bozeman, Mt.
You pay no membership fees or fees for checked bags, and you can book a seat—online or with the company’s app—as late as 15 minutes before departure. The most inexpensive flight leg is $129; many cost around $200. The flights take off from the airports’ general-aviation terminals, so passengers avoid long security delays. “We’re trying to bring speed back to aviation,” says Alex Wilcox, the CEO of JetSuite.
The interior of a JetSuiteX Embraer ERJ 135 feels more like an airliner’s business-class section than a private jet, but it offers much of what frequent fliers want, including Wi-Fi and beverage-and-snack service.
JetBlue recently made a minority equity investment in JetSuiteX. What does this mean for the company?
This is a game changer for us. JetBlue can really help us in terms of getting our product to grow. We created JetSuiteX because we wanted a product that we [JetSuite’s management team] could afford and that our friends could afford. Private jets are great and fun, but they’re not affordable for mere mortals.
Why would someone who is used to flying on a private jet use JetSuiteX? Or for that matter, why would someone who routinely charters one of JetSuite’s Phenom 300s want to use this service and fly with 29 strangers?
Some of our biggest advocates are JetSuite customers. They fly on commercial airlines routinely. Lots of millionaires and billionaires fly commercially because they’re looking for value. These are basically commercial-airline fares that we charge. Our customers love us especially for short flights. If you are going to Tokyo, who cares about spending an extra hour in the terminal. But if you are going to San Jose, an extra hour doubles your travel time.
You note that customers have the option of booking the entire 30-seat flight. Why would someone do that?
We let you charter a 30-passenger jet for seven grand an hour. You can charter the plane and fly from Los Angeles to Tucson to watch a game, and if you fill the plane, it’s about $250 per person there and back. We’re getting a massive amount of interest for event flights, corporate flights, even destination weddings and bachelor parties.