Climb promised to revolutionize private aviation. JetBlue and Breeze founder David Neeleman is an advisor. It already suspended operations
David Neeleman is best known as the founder of JetBlue and now Breeze. He’s credited with starting five airlines and bringing multiple innovations. He and his family members have been advising Utah-based Climb Inc, which promises to disrupt private aviation. Months after its initial launch, Climb has already suspended operations, although it is promising to return.
The David Neeleman connection
In January, a membership guide for Climb was provided to Private Jet Card Comparisons by Founder Brandon Solomon. It showed David Neeleman and Stephen Neeleman as advisors.
Like the airline wizard, Solomon said Climb had a different take on private flying. Instead of competing for the Kardashians with large cabin Gulfstreams or democratizing the market with by-the-seat offers, he planned to focus on the core of private aviation: making whole aircraft charter flights under two hours affordable using a jet card membership model.
Solomon spoke about taking customers off the road, turning six-hour drives through the mountains into 60-minute hops. His chariot of choice was the Pilatus PC-12, a single-engine turboprop popularized by several fractional and jet card programs. It can seat up to eight, has a large cargo door, and can land on dirt and grass runways.
Climb would appeal to flyers traveling to airports where there was limited commercial airline service or none at all. It would be attractive to connect destinations that normally require a change of planes in a congested airline hub, much like Neeleman’s Breeze is doing.
Cheap private flights
Memberships ranged from $1,995 to $9,995 annually. Higher tier memberships promised guaranteed availability with 72 hours’ notice on 300 days. Best of all, capped hourly rates were as low as $3,995, plus Federal Excise Tax.
A comparison showed 25 hours of flights that would cost $132,375 with Wheels Up and $162,375 on a light jet card would cost just $99,875 on Climb.
In January, Solomon claimed he had already signed a number of members, mainly via his Neeleman connections. Solomon said he met the airline guru socially and then worked for him in the early stages of Breeze’s launch. His LinkedIn profile shows he was employed at Breeze from January 2020 through August of last year. He says, the idea of Climb came about after Neeleman’s brother was looking into buying an aircraft and wanted to figure out a way to make money with it. Solomon said his 2022 target for Climb was 500 members.
Securing Member Flights
In terms of finding flight capacity, Solomon said he was in the process of negotiating Guaranteed Revenue Programs with operators.
Popularized by Sentient and now Wheels Up, GRPs are used by membership programs to secure lift for customers. Instead of chartering aircraft flight-by-flight, they charter the airplanes from other operators for days, weeks, and even months at a time. By controlling the schedule, they can string together member flights.
While Climb’s initial primary service area for guaranteed availability was limited to western states, Solomon said he quickly planned to go national.
Several PC-12 operators who would have been potential providers of flights for Climb members said they were not familiar with Solomon or Climb.
The website went dark in early March. According to State of Utah records, Climb Inc remains an active company within its one-year term. It was registered on July 9, 2021, for $70. Solomon, whose address is listed in Taylor, Arizona (pictured below), is the only executive named in the document.
Solomon reached out to Private Jet Card Comparisons in early January, and an interview was conducted under embargo. The Climb founder said he would try to arrange a requested interview with David Neeleman.
After a couple of weeks, Solomon then said that there were upcoming changes to the program and company and the embargo was being delayed.
In February, he responded to our follow-up by writing, “We’re close to being able to comment on our product and leadership changes. Still in a bit of a transition phase. We’re also very excited about some upcoming technology we plan to release…I estimate about 2-3 weeks, and we’ll be ready to go.”
By the end of March, the FlyClimb website was offline (see above).
Climb’s Next Chapter
However, after a long silence and multiple requests, Solomon finally did respond to our questions today. He says he had been out of the office for personal reasons and Climb’s hiatus is temporary.
“At this time, we have paused operations and sales of new memberships. Members as of this pause were refunded their 2022 membership dues, only about 10 in total,” he wrote.
While the memberships were sold as being non-refundable, Solomon says refunds were prorated through March 4 when the company told customers it was pausing.
There is currently no litigation from members, according to the executive. He believes they were understanding of the company’s decision to halt flights. He says the decision to take the website offline without a message about what’s happening related to maintenance and that there were continuing requests to join.
Solomon told us, “Our plan from the beginning was to proceed with a membership model via aircraft revenue share agreements – something we accomplished prior to our official January 1, 2022, operational launch. Unfortunately, the operator with which we held multiple initial contracts was acquired without notice, leaving us without enough contract aircraft to grow beyond an initial set of members.”
He declined to disclose the operator.
The Climb Founder says with record demand and limited availability, “We made the decision to step back and evaluate our future movements.”
However, Climb is not dead, Solomon says. “Over the past three months, our team has discussed ways to move the company forward during this unique time in private aviation. We are currently spooling up another program focused on the PC-12.”
He declined to provide further details, although he expects to announce the relaunch by the end of the month. Within an hour of the interview today, a placeholder appeared on the FlyClimb.com website (below).
As to its business location, Solomon says despite Google’s view of his Arizona address, it is a residential property, and the company currently has leased office space in Salt Lake City.
Solomon says Neeleman remains an advisor, but not an investor.
A spokesperson for Neeleman confirms both he and his brother are indeed advisors to Climb.
A press release issued last August stated, “Climb Inc. is inspired by a strong team of strategic advisors who have deep industry experience. Additionally, Brandon Solomon, David Smith, and Christine Neeleman have been appointed to the Board of Directors.”
In the announcement, the company promised, “Climb is the solution the private aviation industry has been waiting for.”
As of now, the waiting continues.