He liked it so much he decided to copy it.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, hospitality executive Bernard Schwartz is hoping he can replicate the success of the West Coast to Hawaii membership clubs that offer individual seats on scheduled VIP Airliners.
The Kona Shuttle (from Oakland to KOA using Kaiser Aviation) and Kona Express (from Los Angeles to KOA using Sun Country) offer first-class seating. Flights operate between private jet terminals. Members avoid the pitfalls of long lines, crowded airports, and dirty airplanes.
The clubs attract UHNWs that own second homes on the Big Island.
Schwartz’s family is a member of one of the Hawaii shuttles. The Miami-based executive envisions similar services connecting South Florida to Vail’s Eagle County Airport and Long Island MacArthur Airport. The latter was chosen for its convenience to the Hamptons.
Enter The Fleet Clubs.
Michelle Sullivan, who runs both of the Hawaii shuttles, met Schwartz since his family is a member and became a co-founder of this new venture.
She says the Hawaii versions have run over 1,700 flights without a cancelation spanning 15 years.
The Long Island club is set to take flight in December, with Colorado projected to start in March. ISP will operate with a Boeing 737, while EGE will use a 757.
The configuration will be 2×2 and a minimum of 48 inches of pitch on both airplanes, they tell Private Jet Card Comparisons.
Flights will operate on a set schedule twice to three days per week. There will be more flights around holidays and special events like Art Basel, and the off-season will have fewer flights.
Schwartz says, “We will be announcing our chosen operator soon. We are working with their PR and will be doing a joint announcement for MIA-ISP and MIA-EGE.”
He adds that friends and family sales started in July, and the Founding Memberships (waiving the initiation fee) are two-thirds sold.
Each club will be capped at 200 members. However, Schwartz says he has financing, and there is no go-or-no-go number of members needed to launch.
“We have enough UHNW families behind us, who have joined, and want this work that we are well capitalized,” he says, adding, “That’s different than taking venture capital looking for the next round.”
Flight pricing to EGE starts at $2,100 each way, with ISP priced at $1,250 per leg.
Packages begin at $50,000 for the New York flights and $90,000 for Colorado.
While most members will book weeks in advance, if there are seats, it will be possible to book the same day. Reservations can be made via its website, app, phone, or text.
Pets are accepted on a limited basis.
There are different packages: Couples Unlimted, Single Unlimited, and Family Unlimited. However, Fleet Clubs is taking a bespoke approach, so what you buy can be customized.
Members get limited guest passes, and there are peak-and-non-peak flights.
Flights will be operated under a Part 121 exemption.
Funds, Schwartz says, are being put in an escrow account. “Should for any reason, act of God or otherwise, the service stop, the money will be returned,” he promises.
He adds, “I got a lot of people to go into JetSmarter…I did 62 flights in one year (paying $15,000). That model doesn’t make sense.”
For Fleet Clubs, he says, “From a business side, this is completely different from any type of model in the space. You’re prepaying your membership for the year. It’s a prepaid subscription, so the financial viability of the business is not that we have to sell seats throughout the year and hope that people are flying between these locations. We’ve already sold the seats before we start flying.”
After founding memberships are sold, initiation will be $250,000.
He estimates the cost to operate is about $25,000 per hour with seating for 60-to-70 passengers depending on aircraft type and configuration.
Eventually, Schwarts wants to buy airplanes and outfit them with custom interiors. He says design work has already begun. Right away, plans call for catering from Michelin chefs and concierge services.
The goal is also to have in-city activations and partnerships so members get more than just flights.
Looking forward, Schwartz says he sees an opportunity to add more routes. However, he declined to specify where and when.
His involvement with private clubs like Miami’s Bath Club gives him experience in this type of subscription service, he says.
Schwartz notes that 60% of members in the Hawaii shuttles have a fractional share or their own private jets. However, members don’t always want to use their jets when it’s just themselves
There are savings by jet-sharing. “If you are flying in your kids, do you want to spend a few thousand dollars or $100,000,” he asks.
According to a recent survey of 571 Private Jet Card Comparisons’ subscribers, 43% are interested in shared and by-the-seat private jet flights.
Asked about the challenges of start-ups in both private aviation and the airlines, Schwartz says, “We have a more sound, transparent model.”
Part of the pitch is carbon-free flying via offsets and also that jet-sharing is socially responsible.
Fleet Clubs is included in our By-the-Seat/Jet Sharing Guide for paid subscribers.