What comes to mind when pondering private jet travel? Images of celebrities boarding their personal aircraft, reclining on luxurious seats while sipping champagne, or concerns about the environmental repercussions may swim to the surface.
There is some unavoidable truth in these stereotypes. After all, this mode of transport is widely expensive, exclusive and a non-sustainable way of travel. However, the landscape of this industry is undergoing positive transformations.
The private aviation sector is not only adapting to become more environmentally sustainable but there is also a growing movement towards making it more accessible to a broader audience. This shift is notably championed by various startups within the sector.
Can You Hire A Private Jet?
First and foremost, let’s debunk the notion that private jets exclusively cater to billionaires and celebrities. Private jet travel is accessible to anyone with the means to hire or charter one.
As of late 2023, the United Kingdom boasts one of the largest private jet markets in Europe, second only to France. The leading hubs globally include Australia, Canada, and the United States, the latter taking the top spot according to Simply Flying.
Notably, the US saw over 3.3 million private jet flights in 2022 as part of a 23% increase in business jet travel since the start of the pandemic.
These statistics underscore not only the most active private aviation markets worldwide but also demonstrate that the trend of chartering private jets is becoming increasingly common on a global scale.
Already, this suggests a shift toward greater accessibility in the industry, portraying private jets as a progressively common and normalised mode of transport.
Of course, this must be taken with a pinch of salt. It wouldn’t be accurate to say private jets have become the ‘norm’ of air travel by any means. After all, chartering a private jet can cost between £6,000 to £60,000 on average depending on the type of jet and the duration of your charter, according to Air Charter.
Moreover, acquiring a private jet entails significantly pricer costs. Air Charter proceeds to state an average valuation ranging from £1 million to £60 million.
Given these consistently high prices, the question arises: How, then, are private jets becoming a more attainable and accessible mode of travel?
Startups and the Democratisation of Private Aviation
The allure of private jets is undeniable. Not only do they present a luxurious way of travel, but they offer a lot of practical benefits.
Foremost among these advantages is that flyers can bypass the commercial airport chaos. Simply arrive shortly before your flight and go straight through the private terminal – ideal for anyone with a busy schedule.
Moreover, a private jet provides a personalised and convenient flying experience. Staff are there to cater to your specific needs, you can easily fly together if travelling in a large group or get some peace and quiet if you need to work on the plane.
Flexibility is another key perk, allowing you to book a ticket mere hours in advance and access smaller airports beyond the reach of commercial flights.
Considering these practical benefits, the question arises: shouldn’t everyone be able to enjoy them? Numerous private aviation startups certainly think so, actively working to enhance accessibility to their jets.
“As an industry, we are experiencing the democratization of private aviation,” says Stephanie Chung, president of private jet company JetSuite.
“The private jet experience has become more practical by allowing people to pay for just the flight hours they need,” she continued.
A Closer Look At Private Aviation Startups
Not limited to just jets, Blade, established in 2014, provides a platform for booking transport via helicopters or seaplanes. Offering a cost-effective alternative to the average $22,000 private jet trip from New York to Miami, a Blade Bounce helicopter flight is approximately $700 and can be conveniently booked through the Blade app, as reported by AFAR.
Another player in the field is Mirai Flights, dedicated to making private jet travel more accessible. They offer domestic and international flight options through a user-friendly online booking system. The organisation’s ‘Empty Legs’ subscription service notifies users of discounted flight options, with potential savings of up to 70%.
JetSmarter, requiring a $2,500 membership fee, allows users to share rides on existing chartered flights within its network. The process is streamlined through an easy-to-use app, enabling users to request specific flights and dates.
Verijet positions itself as the “Uber of private point-to-point air travel,” promising a seamless flying experience from local airports, while another company also vying to be the “Uber” of the sky, the appropriately named Uberjets, is an app to help users find and book charter aircraft between multiple destinations.
JSX offers a hybrid experience between commercial and private jet travel with regular flights within California costing $300 for a round-trip – a comparative fraction of the typical jet flight price.
Finally, Set Jet distinguishes itself through comparative affordability and a subscription-based service. With rates starting at $99.95 per month, customers can subscribe to the Jet Set service, accessing chartered flights starting from $750 one-way. This offers an affordable option with bookings available from four months in advance to as late as an hour before takeoff.
In a race to become the “Uber” of private aviation, these startups are reshaping the landscape of air travel.
Are Private Jets Worth It?
So, we can see the private jet industry is finding ways to embrace a broader audience But does that mean you should hop on one the next time you travel?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there are some factors to consider before chartering or purchasing a private jet.
To begin with, the cost. Is it worth it?
While these startups demonstrate that the price of these jets can be more financially accessible, crucial considerations persist: Is the upfront cost comfortably within your means? Will the frequency and distance of travel be enough to justify the investment? Is flying commercial not a possibility for your planned journeys?
Secondly, the environmental impact.
According to Simply Flying, private jets release a minimum of 10 times more pollutants per passenger than commercial planes. Despite increased awareness and sustainable efforts by private aviation companies, particularly startups, private aviation options still aren’t exactly environmentally economical.
But if you don’t plan to excessively utilise private jet travel and have a real need for the practical benefits, especially for work-related purposes, exploring the services of the aforementioned startups could, indeed, be worth it.