BlackJet Launches Private Jet Sharing Service for Business Class Prices
In the early days of commercial aviation, flying was considered the lap of luxury. Today, with the endless stream of security checks, passenger rules and heavy waits, it’s a downright hassle. Those who can afford a private jet can still taste the exclusive skies of yesteryear, however. They can pull their cars right up to the plane minutes before takeoff, keep their shoes, avoid pat-downs and even bring their own bottle of wine onboard without causing pandemonium. But not even the so-called 1 percent can afford a private plane, right?
The folks who brought private car service to the masses with Uber have launched—with many well-known investors—a private jet-sharing service called BlackJet. The web-based service is designed to connect passengers with empty seats on private jets.
“BlackJet is fairly friction-free,” founder Garrett Camp told Venture Beat. “You pull up to the airplane with your car and take off three minutes later. It takes a lot of stress out of travel.”
BlackJet doesn’t own any of the jets it books. It works with a variety of charter jet services and helps travelers fill seats on flights between particular cities. Passengers are asked to provide BlackJet at least two days’ notice of when they wish to fly, and the company charters a plane for groups of passengers interested in the same trip.
The charter flights will still be rather exclusive. A flight from Los Angeles to New York will set a passenger back about $3,500—on top of the annual fee of about $2,500 that must be paid to belong to BlackJet. And not just anyone can join—a personalized invitation code is required to access the company’s online services.
Camp told TechCrunch he believes the service will revolutionize charter air travel by making it more efficient. According to Camp, most of the 4,000 or so private and charter jets in the country spend most of their time either unused or partially filled. About a third of private jets end up flying empty return legs after taking a trip to one destination. Plus, private jets are only in the sky about an hour a day, compared to about 11 flight hours a day for commercial airlcraft. BlackJet will partner with charter jet services to help them fill empty seats and create demand for more flights. In doing so, BlackJet will receive a commission.
The flights may seem uber-expensive, but are actually fairly comparable to first-class commercial tickets. A BlackJet-booked cross-country flight for $3,500 compares to a first-class ticket from LAX to JFK for about $3,600. By comparison, booking an entire charter flight would set a customer back about $25,000 for the same trip. A shorter flight with BlackJet—Las Vegas to Los Angeles, for example—will cost $950.
Ken Starnes of PrivateJet.com told Wired that BlackJet’s biggest obstacle will be convincing those wealthy enough to afford the service to actually use it. “So many people who have tried to create models to share seats have failed because it’s very hard to get people wealthy enough to hire a private jet to share a flight,” he said. “Their egos are as big as office buildings.”
By the list of BlackJet’s backers, Starnes may be mistaken. Actors Will Smith and Ashton Kutcher, author Tim Ferris and rapper Jay-Z have all financially supported the startup. Some of the other all-star investors include Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Guy Oseary, Michael Birch, Naval Ravikant, Rick Marini, Noah Goodhart, Thomas Ryan, Josh Spear, Jay Levy, Dan Rosenweig, Stephen Russell, Matt Mullenweg, Ryan Sarver, Steve Jang, Shakil Khan and David Ulevitch. Corporate investors include Overbook Entertainment, Roc Nation, First Round Capital, SV Angel and Science Inc.’s Peter Pham and Mike Jones.
BlackJet sold more than 3,000 seats on 800 flights during its pre-launch, and plans to fully launch Nov. 15, allowing travelers to book seats online and through a smartphone app. It will start with two primary routes: New York to Los Angeles and New York to south Florida. It soon plans to add San Francisco to Los Angeles, New York and Las Vegas, however, and additional routes based on user demand.