AirChicago is offering a Jet Card that provides single and guest seats on private jets with plans to fly to 30 cities using Bombardier CRJ200 regional jets with 14 executive seats instead of the typical 50 seats.
Move over United Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Here comes AirChicago, and it’s targeting those business travelers they and the TSA have helped alienate with tighter seats, rude service, nickel and dime fees and of course the hassles of transiting the commercial terminals of O’Hare and Midway. The new service, which is slated for a launch at the end of May or beginning of June, will enable travelers to buy four different levels of membership ranging from $1,750 to $14,000 per year. You then will pay per flight with pricing designed to fit between discounted and full fare first class rates, around $500 per hour, so under $2,000 for a roundtrip between Chicago and New York.
AirChicago wants to grow its network to 30 of the most traveled routes from Chicago and then replicate the model in other cities. “It’s scalable. I can see an Air New York or Air Miami,” says Stephen G. Wasko, the president and COO. The enterprise is the vision of its chairman, Captain David Koch, a former United pilot and aerospace journalist. By the fall Wasko expects flights to be operated by its own fleet of Bombardier CRJ200s, which regional airlines cram with 50 seats. AirChicago’s version will feature an executive configuration with 14 seats, two pilots, two flight attendants, WiFi and full meal and drink service. An app, in development, will enable members to order airport transfers, book flights with AirChicago and book commercial flights as well. Initially, flights will use private jets sourced on the Part 135 charter market.
A prime appeal of AirChicago will be using FBOs and alternative airports, including its base at Chicago Executive Airport, located about 12 miles north of O’Hare and convenient to a number of affluent suburbs. There are more than 30 companies Fortune 500 with headquarters in the Windy City as well as hundreds of midsize entities, and AirChicago will also arrange dedicated corporate shuttles, shared charters and full aircraft on-demand charter.
So far about 100 founding members have signed up, and Wasko wants approximately 80 members dedicated to a specific route so there is sufficient demand to start the flights. The company has raised enough money to fund its marketing effort, is still raising money, he says, and membership deposits are being held in escrow until the membership is activated.
The by the seat scheduled private flight concept has had both hits and misses with JetSuiteX, Surf Air in Europe, Blade, JetClass and Jet Smarter all actively expanding. At the same time, Beacon, Jumpjet, Blackjet, BlissJet and Pogo all failed, with the latter two never getting off the ground. Another by the seat model, ClipperJet, is still plotting its takeoff three years after announcing its service.