Set Jet's private jet by-the-seat is more JetSmarter but competing with JSX

Set Jet is offering a by-the-seat model aboard true private jets like JetSmarter, but it’s competing against new models like JSX.

By Doug Gollan, March 22, 2021

Scottsdale-based SetJet wants to go where JetSmarter went, hopefully with lots of publicity but none of the lawsuits. In trying to attract customers from the first-class cabin of American Airlines, it is also competing against other by-the-seat semiprivate options like JSX and Surf Air.

Who’s behind Set Jet?

Tom Smith founded Set Jet. For 18 years, he was the chairman and co-founder of TASER International, where he built the business from a start-up to a publicly-traded company with revenues of $100 Million and a $2 billion market cap. He’s also a pilot with approximately 10,000 hours of flight time. Set Jet is privately held by individual investors.

What’s the experience like?

Set Jet uses large-cabin private jets configured as private jets and operates from FBOs and private terminals. Even though you are buying seats, you fly on a true private jet, no a reconfigured regional airliner.

Where do Set Jet’s private jets come from?

Smith tells Private Jet Card Comparisons, “Currently we use both our investor group owned aircraft that are operated exclusively by our charter operator, as well as aircraft that are owned by independent third parties that are affiliated with our operator. However, in both instances, we use Challenger 850s exclusively unless a maintenance issue requires that we use the supplemental lift, which is uncommon.”

How big is its fleet?

The combined fleet of investor-owned and third-party-owned aircraft which Set Jet currently uses, excluding supplemental lift aircraft, is five Challenger 850s. Three are investor-owned, and two are independently owned. Set Jet intends to add access to at least one more Challenger 850 in the next 90 days. It will also add two Lineage 1000s, plus, yes, you are reading it correctly, two Aerion AS2 supersonic private jets. Set Jet does not own or operate aircraft.

Set Jet prices

You pay a one-time security check fee of $99.95 and then a monthly membership fee of $99.95 that you can cancel at any time. West coast domestic flights are $444.95 to $489.95 per seat. Seasonal flights to Los Cabos and Aspen range from $999.95 to $1,699.95 each way.

Set Jet routes

Currently the route map includes Scottsdale, Las Vegas, San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

How do I book flight?

After you join – we were granted access – you choose if you want one-way or roundtrip options. You can book up to four months in advance.

Once you click on your preferred date, you are asked to when you want to fly. Choices are morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, and evening.

You then have to choose your departure airport. Options are Scottsdale, Los Angeles International Airport, Van Nuys, Burbank, Las Vegas, Orange County, San Diego, Hayward, and Los Cabos.

Where you can fly depends on where you are starting. From Scottsdale, you can go to all of the above. From Vegas, our options were Scottsdale and San Francisco.

We clicked on April 2nd and selected evening. A dialogue box popped and advised us to switch to late afternoon. After following the advice, another pop-up informed us, “That Works! Another Member has booked a flight departing at 3:45 pm.”

After choosing the number of seats we wanted to purchase at $449.40 each, we received a confirmation screen with one more click.

Set Jet price

How many flights does Set Jet operate?

According to its website, Set Jet will facilitate up to four flights daily, between 7:00 am, and 12:00 am, 7 days per week, 365 days per year, between each of its six West Coast destination cities and seasonal flights to Aspen and Cabo San Lucas.

Since December 2019, Smith says Set Jet has flown 1,100 flights over 14 months, equating to just under three flights per day. In other words, it’s not just a great idea that hasn’t really gotten off the ground.

If you don’t see a flight that fits your fancy, you can book a start a flight by booking a single seat so long as it is 24 hours in advance. You can even designate when you want to leave.

Smith says the flight will operate even if you are the only passenger, although they ask members to give two weeks’ notice when possible.

Can I book companions who aren’t members?

Yes. You can pay the security fee and $99.95 for a 30-day membership for your companion, plus the seat cost.

What about canceling?

All flight seat purchases are non-refundable. However, if you give at least 24 hours’ notice, you get a credit for a future seat on that route.

Will Set Jet succeed?

Smith says, “It’s going better than we expected. In the beginning we had people saying it’s too good to be true.”

Unlike others that committed jet time to operators and then had to sell the flights, Smith says, “If our members aren’t scheduling flights, we aren’t flying.”

Limiting cities limits exposure, although he sees this as a model that can be replicated regionally across the country. He mentions Texas, St. Louis, Chicago, and Northeastern U.S. Within a couple of years, he wants to offer flights between New York and Los Angeles.

Set Jet is currently averaging six to eight passengers per flight, and during a recent interview, he said his start-up is “within months of being profitable.”

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In each market it limits the number of memberships it sells, so while you can drop out at any point, Smith warns, “You might not be able to get back in.”

While he keeps an eye on JSX and Surf Air, he points to the difference between being in a Pilatus PC-12 with eight seats or a regional jet with 30. He sees the airlines as his main competition and source of passengers.

On the date we faux-booked our Set Jet flight from Scottsdale to Las Vegas, American Airlines had two nonstop flights. Its first-class seats were either $254 or $398, according to Google Flights.

According to our exclusive QUICK COMPARE FLIGHT PRICING calculator, booking a very light jet for up to three passengers via a jet card would cost $4,885, including tax.

Set Jet reviews

We talked to one Set Jet member. Her feedback was that the service was fabulous. Sometimes you have to change the time of day you want to fly if another member has already started a flight at a different time. Since she doesn’t fly every month, she felt Set Jet was too expensive for her budget. When told about JSX, she wasn’t thrilled about economy class-size seats, even if she could use private terminals. She did like the idea of book seats for under $200 without joining.

We remember when America West bought those Boeing 747-200s and started flying to Hawaii and Japan. We’d love to see Set Jet here in Miami. That said, hearing they are ordering supersonic private jets makes us worry a bit.

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