Home Business How to book a private flight? Mobile apps do the job

How to book a private flight? Mobile apps do the job

Gone are the days when booking a private jet required a long conversation on the phone. Now, mobile apps let flyers book charter flights in a matter of minutes.

Major players in private aviation, as well as emerging competitors, now have apps. Many follow a similar process: Customers choose where they’re coming from and their destination, select dates and their preferred plane size.

Private aviation company Sentient Jet, which is mainly focused on trips in the U.S., saw $50 million in bookings through its app in 2020 alone, with more than $125 million in mobile bookings since the app launched in late 2017, CEO Andrew Collins told CNBC on a video call. He said he expects up to half of Sentient Jet’s bookings to come via its app in the next three to four years.

Collins said the coronavirus pandemic had “unlocked a larger addressable market,” as more people looked to avoid crowded flights or travel to areas where commercial operators wouldn’t typically fly.

He said that private aviation had “felt a little less like premium service and more like a utility for a lot of people” over the past year, and suggested that apps would become essential to the industry in the future, instead of simply a “nice-to-have” feature.

Booking through the Sentient Jet app takes two to three minutes, according to Collins.

The app is lowering the average age of Sentient Jet customers too, from those in their mid-60s, to a “much wider band” which is “getting younger,” he said.

‘Natural extension’

‘Uberization’ of private jets

Private aviation firm Wheels Up has a similar feature that lets customers use a “shared flights board” feature on its app to view flights on offer for sharing with other users.

Kenny Dichter, CEO of Wheels Up, said that the advent of apps represents the “Uberization” of jet booking.

The Wheels Up app is free for both members and non-members. However, pricing and availability are different for members, who have access to their own benefits portal via the app.

JetASAP is perhaps most different from these more established names, as it claims to be the first free jet charter marketplace. CEO Lisa Kiefer Sayer, who founded the business in 2018, explained that the app shows bookings available with different charter operators.

She said that the coronavirus pandemic has had a “huge impact” in terms of the demographics of its users.

Typically, people chartering private jets had a net worth of $10-$20 million, but she said the pandemic had opened up the market to people with a net worth of $2-$3 million.

Sayer said that half of the users on the JetASAP app are seasoned private fliers, while the other half are new to private aviation.  

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