Sharing economy private jet by the seat provider JetSmarter has been hit with its sixth lawsuit since in August
The Fort Lauderdale-based company, which sells private jet flights on a by-the-seat basis, was hit yesterday with another lawsuit, this time by a member who was sold a $97,500 upgrade to a Sophisticated Membership just days before the company announced it was opening flights to non-members.
According to the lawsuit, filed November 6, 2018, in the United States District Court Southern District of New York, on June 1, 2018, the defendant Leonardo Galvez purchased his three-year top-level membership. Eleven days later – on June 12th – JetSmarter announced one no longer needed to be a member to book flights, and that for all new members and non-members, they would be able to purchase seats at fares in line with full coach and first-class fares. For Galvez, like others, after the changes, existing members who were still entitled to free flights using a token system said those flights became harder if not impossible to find. The latest action means JetSmarter is now being sued by members and former members in California, Florida, New Jersey, Wisconsin, and now New York.
Galvez had been a member since April 2015, initially paying $8,499. He claims he was promised free flights within 3.5 hours arranged through the usage of two replenishing tokens; free helicopter and other transportation airport shuttle service, and a guaranteed rate lock for renewal at the joined rate. During the first couple years, like others, Galvez apparently was happy with the service and the company even added additional free shuttle flights to Los Angeles, helicopter travel to the Hamptons, and other increases in its scheduled private flights, the lawsuit states.
Beginning in February 2017, his JetSmarter sales rep began pitching him on upgrading to a Sophisticated membership which carried an annual price of $50,000. He was told that his invitation was only being extended to the company’s “most elite members” but later learned it was open to anyone willing to pay. A year later, in March 2018, his rep again starting pushing the Sophisticated membership, offering it on a three-year basis for $97,500 and adding in a one-year Jetpass companion pass. On June 1, Galvez upgraded to the Sophisticated level and “within just three weeks of the payment of his funds to Defendants, Plaintiff noticed a substantial reduction in the services provided to him.”
After getting a runaround, Galvez alleges he realized “that despite just having purchased a program, which was premised upon ‘free-flying’ Defendants now required that he pay for 75% of the price of the flights.”
According to its website, “popular routes” from New York (above) where the defendant is based range from $1,595 to South Florida to $3,305 per seat to Los Angeles, $3,995 to Las Vegas and $4,095 per seat to San Francisco. When Galvez paid $97,500 in early June he expected to fly free.
A review of current flights listed on JetSmarter’s website by Private Jet Card Comparisons found from New York to Los Angeles (below) there are currently only two flights scheduled with single seats to buy – on November 25th and 29th. A couple other dates offered the potential of crowdfunded flights that would require multiple other seats to be sold for as much as $4,495 per seat to confirm the flight. From New York to Las Vegas for the rest of the month, the only options were to create a shared flight which would take as many as 10 seats being purchased for $3,995 each. It was a similar case from New York to San Francisco.
On its bread and butter route from New York to South Florida we were able to find over 20 confirmed flights through the end of November, including four on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, with seats starting at $1,695 each. Nonstop flights on commercial airlines in first class start at $435 on the same day to South Florida. From New York to Los Angeles, throughout the month, American Airlines is selling flatbed seats with expedited priority security channel for $2,234 per seat meaning JetSmarter is not only battling current customers who are unhappy but needing to find folks willing to pay prices double and triple what the airlines are charging for first class flights.
The lawsuit by Galvez goes on to state he attempted to obtain a refund but JetSmarter declined and became unresponsive. The filing notes, based on his own assessment of the cost which would be incurred to retain duplicate services, he would be required to pay approximately $95,633.05 per month, meaning that over the three years of the membership he purchased he would be out $3,442,789.80, part of the damages he is seeking.