An industry veteran believes the human touch in crowdsourcing private jet flights will attract more first-timers in a COVID-19 world
Private jet travel has bounced back faster than any other travel segment during the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by new-to-market flyers seeking to reduce exposure to the virus. A typical private jet flight has less than 20 points of contact versus over 700 when you fly with the airlines.
However, an industry veteran believes it’s the human touch that will help boost jet sharing. His goal is to attract the next tier of consumers who see chartering the entire private jet as too expensive.
While most press releases about private jet websites and apps that cross our desk brag about technology, interfaces, and algorithms designed to cut the mass of phone calls and emails typical of on-demand charter bookings, Sharedcharter.com is offering a personalized approach.
Co-founder of Avweb
Former Avweb co-founder and owner Carl Marbach has launched the website as a searchable bulletin board for members to post and review possible shared flights. Membership is free but is necessary to comply with FAA regulations that govern aggregating Part 135 flights.
Once you join, you can enter the from and to part of your request, plus an acceptable date range, which can be as specific as a morning or afternoon or range for months.
You can also review postings made by other members. The website protects the anonymity of both posters and respondents.
When there is a match, SharedCharter arranges a conference call between the interested parties.
Different from XO, Wheels Up, Jet Linx
It’s a different approach to XO, Wheels Up, and Jet Linx, the major players with jet sharing options that are either limited to paid members or entirely automated. It’s also different than the scheduled semi-private flights using private jet terminals offered by JSX, XO, and Blade, which are similar to buying a seat on an airline.
Marbach, who registered the URL in 2016, says the opportunity to expand the private flyers’ market revolves to a large degree around consumers who have minimal experience chartering private jets.
Most of these potential new customers don’t understand the difference between cabin categories, configurations, baggage limitations, or other private aviation ins and outs.
McKinsey estimates there are 100,000 regular private aviation users in the U.S. with a market potential of over one million households and businesses that can afford full charters and jet cards. Wheels Up has previously said the addressable market for shared flights is more than 10 million.
Marbach, a commercial pilot who has owned seven aircraft, including one he built from a kit, says by arranging a call between interested parties, SharedCharter can answer questions, and then facilitate the booking, acting as a broker.
SharedCharter will also work with brokers who are looking to aggregate a customer. And SharedCharter will also allow a broker who has a client to handle the transaction. In either case, the business model is to take a percentage from the final transaction price.
Cheaper private flights
As Marbach sees it, the average traveling party is three to four passengers, generally half the light, midsize, and super-midsize jets’ capacity.
If the trip would have cost $18,000, and for each customer, it costs $10,000 by sharing, he believes that reduction will make it more attractive compared to the airlines.
As an example, for a $20,000 booking through SharedCharter on an eight-seat private jet, the effective price is $2,500 per seat.
While Marbach isn’t pitching private jets seats as being the same cost as first-class, he believes the aggregation model gets it “a heck of a lot closer.”
Since the website launched about a week ago, there have been seven postings and one match consummated.
Empty legs, which are labeled as such, are interspersed with the jet sharing offers.
A proposed shared flight from Vail Eagle to Boca Raton offers two seats at $3,500 each to takeoff mornings between Oct. 29 to 31.
For those of you who have jet cards but would like to offset costs by selling unused seats, at this point, that’s not an option. Some jet card providers prohibit charging to bring passengers. It’s also unclear if it would comply with Part 135 regulations.
That said, Marbach expects jet card users to use his website to source potential shared flights, using their cards when they can’t find a match.