(Updated Sept. 8 at 5:30pm) – A series of disturbing tweets from the alleged suspect are published in full at the end of this article.
According to JetSmarter’s website, the promise is “Network with like-minded individuals, dine on catering and sip champagne while you sit back (all the way back) and enjoy the flight.” That’s not how it went last Wednesday on a flight from Las Vegas to New York aboard a 12-seat private jet operating as a shared charter flight for JetSmarter. According to the Lincoln Journal Star 23-year-old DJ Maurice Paola “began arguing with the flight attendant, threatened to decapitate the other passengers and directly threatened a family with two children, ages 4 and 6, sitting in the back of the plane.”
The AP reported Paola who was jailed faces one count of interfering with flight crew members and attendants. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison. A court appearance is set for Monday, Sept. 10.
The Journal Star said Paola “started throwing items at passengers, walking back and forth, pounding on windows, banging his head on walls and insisting that the plane land immediately.” The flight attendant used an oxygen bottle to defend herself and the pilots were able to secure the cockpit before the emergency landing. His next court appearance has been set for Sept. 10.
Based on JetSmarter’s schedule and published pricing (above), the flight appears to have been a shared flight created by one of its customers. JetSmarter also operates some flights on which it underwrites the cost of the entire aircraft selling seats to both members and non-members. In the case of the former, a customer can create their own shared shuttle, starting the flight by purchasing a designated number of seats. JetSmarter will then sell the seats to other passengers. The flights in the image above priced at $6,315 is the cost to start a shared flight on a per seat basis. Checking various dates you would have to buy between four and six seats, so somewhere between $25,000 and $38,000 to start a shared flight. If somebody started a flight, JetSmarter would then start selling the remaining flights. By looking at the above schedule, it looks like JetSmarter only has one flight currently scheduled between Las Vegas and New York for the rest of the month.
Until July, starting and buying seats was limited to members, but since then non-members and members can both start and buy seats on flights with non-members paying a higher price. The initial reports did not refer to any weapons or objects that Paola brought on the airplane or provide any information about JetSmarter’s screening procedures at departure.
JetSmarter’s website tells potential customers, “Fly right past airport security. All passengers on shared flights are required to pass a digital background check, and our expert security team conducts a non-intrusive inspection of all bags so that you can board with peace of mind. If you purchase a private charter, skip this step entirely.”
It has been a difficult several months again for the Ft. Lauderdale based semiprivate airline following two lawsuits by disgruntled members and an about-face on its membership model, moving from a Netflix style all you can fly for a fixed price offering to where now new members have to pay for every flight in addition to a membership fee. Members who bought in under the former scheme are accusing the company of limiting the number of seats they make available to members. A lawsuit in California alleges JetSmarter was using misleading advertising by engaging influencers such as Kim Kardashian and Petra Nemcova to promote the airline via social media without disclosing their material relationships to the company, and says the company was doing the same. A New Jersey lawsuit was settled after a filing appeared to show text messages promising free flights that the plaintiffs said were not available after they signed up.
JetSmarter officials did not respond to a request for comment from Private Jet Card Comparisons.
A poster from the website Flyertalk revealed a series of disturbing tweets apparently from the Twitter account of Paola in the days leading up to the incident aboard the New York-bound JetSmarter flight (below).
In the tweets, from an account named Paola Music and @iampaolamusic, a Sept. 2 post read, “The next person that steps near my crib will have their head taken off their shoulders….fair warning.” A day earlier, another tweet from the account read, “Call the cops I dare ya they’ll get taken out on top of whoever else decides to tag along,” and perhaps most chilling, on Aug. 31, “From a jail cell to the private jet lmao they can’t stop @ me.”