The Hottest Thing In Sharing: Private Jets
From vacation homes to cars, the sharing economy is all the rage. Now that trend includes the ultimate symbol of success: a private jet.
Wait, doesn’t sharing a jet defeat the very purpose of attaining that level of status? Even the rich, it turns out, like a bargain, and a new business called Jump Seat is capitalizing on that to fill empty seats on private planes.
Jump Seat, which launched quietly a few weeks ago, is the brain child of Justin Sullivan, who has been in the private jet charter business for years. He already had a stable of blue-chip clients, who called him to arrange transportation from homes in New York to vacation places in Aspen, or for rides from Naples to Washington.
Jump Seat matches up empty seats on various aircraft with people who are looking to book those routes. Sometimes, just a handful of open spots are available. But other times, the client can book an entire empty plane, if it’s being ferried back from its destination.
Under each listing on the Jump Seat site, the company lists the city pairs available, the number of seats available, the type of aircraft, and the price, which is listed per seat or planeload. The concept is something like Airbnb, which offers private accommodations in 192 countries, with a focus on the air instead of the ground.
Sullivan is offering significant discounts, averaging 40 percent, from what his clients would pay to book a jet. For instance, he says, a couple normally might pay $20,000, or $10,000 apiece to fly from New York to West Palm Beach. But if he can place two more people on the jet, the price drops to $5,000 per person. And it continues to drop as more people take the flight.
“They’re still flying private, they’re still flying the kind of equipment they want, they’re still flying from the airport they want, and they’re flying when they want to,” Sullivan said.
Unlike many jet-sharing programs, Jump Seat does not charge a membership fee. However, participants must register, go through a background and credit check. Their names also are compared with the TSA’s no-fly list. As Sullivan does with his regular clients, the company also has a conversation with the applicant, and then asks for a credit card.
Sullivan said the sharing economy, what some call “collaborative consumerism,” will fundamentally change the way private jets are booked. “Five years from now, people will look back and they won’t believe what they once paid for a private jet,” he said. “I can’t think of a more natural fit than sharing seats on jets.”
But, isn’t one of the main attractions of a private jet the privacy factor? Sullivan contends that his clients, who include bankers, lawyers, corporate executives, professional athletes and celebrities, are actually interested in meeting people in other fields. He thinks jet sharing could lead to friendships or potentially business deals once the customers are on the ground.
Andrew Czekaj, who heads Cambridge Holdings Group LLC, a commercial real estate firm, said he was happy to share his commutes to cities such as Chicago. Czekaj, a long-time customer of Sullivan’s charter company, said he trusted the Jump Seat clientele. “I’m in Justin’s program, they’re in Justin’s program,” he said. “If I have the time and the flexibility, I’m happy to have the savings.”
Czekaj, who has belonged to private jet sharing programs, said he found little difference between Jump Seat and his previous memberships. “The only difference is that I don’t have the little plastic card.”