Last year there were over 40,000 empty seats on flights operated by Jet Linx for the owners of the private jets it manages and the members of its jet card program. Now the fast-growing Omaha-based private aviation provider is enabling both aircraft owners and card customers the ability to sell seats within its customer network.
OpenSeat Exchange is available on its updated mobile app being launched today.
“We are thrilled to provide our 2,000 jet card members and 115 aircraft owners with an innovative new app feature designed to further improve, enrich and elevate the Jet Linx private jet travel experience,” said Jamie Walker, president & CEO of Jet Linx. “OpenSeat Exchange is a solution that gives our clients the ability to buy and sell these empty seats on a per-flight, per-seat basis. It’s a secure, trusted, peer-to-peer exchange of open seats within the Jet Linx community.”
While JetSmarter before being purchased by Vista Global and then merged with XOJET seemingly struggled to build critical mass with sharing beyond the New York to South Florida market, Walker says Jet Linx is in a different situation.
One challenge that has held back growth in the seat-sharing market is finding enough fliers who want to travel between the same places at the same time.
“For competitors, they may have 5,000 members or whatever they have, but they are spread out across the country, where for Jet Linx, our members are concentrated around the cities and airports we have bases.
As an example, he notes its Omaha based its customers frequently fly to Scottsdale, Chicago, and Aspen whereas from St. Louis there is a high frequency of flights to and from New York, Naples, Florida, and Washington D.C.
From its Houston Hobby location, the top destinations for its community there are San Antonio, Dallas, and New Orleans. At the same time, its Atlanta members are often flying from its PDK base to Brunswick, Panama City, Florida, Knoxville, Washington D.C. and New Orleans.
Walker also says there is no risk, as a member can start a flight, offer seats to share, and there is no penalty to cancel if they do not sell seats so long as they cancel outside their contracted window.
While Wheels Up earlier this year expanded its play for the seat sharing market by launching a new membership tier priced at under $3,000, Walker says Jet Linx is maintaining its current rate structure, and to participate members and owners will pay an additional $5,000.
In terms of how it works, both aircraft owners and jet card members can post a flight they want to share. Until other members buy seats, normal cancelation terms apply. Once seats are sold, the flight starter can’t cancel or change.
Cost to buy seats is based on Jet Linx fixed one-way and roundtrip rated which are calculated on estimated instead of actual flight time. That means even if the flight takes a longer routing due to weather or air traffic control, the price doesn’t change.
The flight starter can designate how many seats they want to sell, so even if they only need two of eight seats, they may only want to sell two seats instead of traveling on a full aircraft.
Buyers can view posted shared flights but can’t see which member posted the flight to protect privacy. At the same time, the starters can see the names of members who are requesting to buy seats, and can accept or reject the request, so you don’t have to worry about all of a sudden finding your competitor just bought seats on your flight.
Both owners who fly under Part 91 and jet card members who fly under Part 135 can start shared flights. For owners, it means operating their flight under Part 135 and in both cases, Jet Linx electronically files for a Part 380 exemption.
Whether or not it’s an owner or jet card member starting or buying seats doesn’t impact normal flight pricing. Jet Linx guarantees availability at fixed pricing 48 hours before departure on non-peak days but guarantees availability at dynamic pricing up to four hours before departure, and you can share seats in either case.
Jet Linx also serves as a clearinghouse, debiting the account of the buyer and crediting the account of the seller, so buyers and sellers merely handled everything seamlessly through its app.
Walker says the timing isn’t a response to JetSmarter or Wheels Up, but is related to technology advances from the launch of its new app, although he says the company has been looking at possibilities to offer seat sharing as far back as 2006.
OpenSeat Exchange is just the latest feature added to the Jet Linx Mobile App, which already features the ability to book private jets in real-time at guaranteed hourly rates, quote future trips, arrange catering and ground transportation, make flight manifest changes, view and book empty one-way flights at below market pricing, and receive Jet Linx news and updates.
The company recently opened bases in New York, Boston and Chicago with plans to open Austin before the end of the year. Jet Linx is a pay-as-you-go jet card program with two levels priced at $12,500 or $17,500 in the first year and then $3,500 annually thereafter.
It is also top rated in safety, ranking Stage 3 from IS-BAO, Argus Platinum and Wyvern Wingman. Its local market strategy offers a private terminal exclusively for owners and jet card fliers, including complimentary beverages and snacks, plus valet parking.
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