One was founded by a veteran of private jet charter sales. The other was launched by a longtime consumer of private aviation. They both want to change the way you buy private flights. Like others touting market-disrupting breakthroughs, each have big dreams, interesting twists, and good reasons to be skeptical. Either way, JetASAP and Airbook One are here, they have PR companies issuing press releases, so you are likely to be reading more about them.
JetASAP wants to bypass private jet charter brokers. It’s the vision of Lisa Sayer, who for more than two decades sold charter flights for operators. Brokers were her clients. After seeing how one broker sold a flight for $40,000 that cost $25,000 wholesale, she envisioned a way for consumers to receive quotes – and negotiate directly with operators.
JetASAP’s app allows you to receive direct quotes from operators to negotiate final price and other … [+]
At the top level, it’s something that makes a lot of sense. You download her app from the iStore – an Android version is in the works – and answer some qualifying questions. Since each request triggers a digital quote query to over 700 operators, Sayer says she only wants serious users.
You input your preferred airports, how many passengers, whether it’s a one-way, roundtrip or multi-leg itinerary, and if you want quotes using nearby airports. Since private jets access over 5,000 airports, if a suitable aircraft is based close by, you could save money if the operator doesn’t have to ferry it over to the airport you specified. In some cases, the airports are only a few miles apart.
You can also specify if you want aircraft that will fly nonstop, if WiFi is required, flexibility for travel dates, and whether or not you are bringing pets. Yes, pets are not universally allowed on charter aircraft. Many charter jets are managed for their owners by the operator, renting them when the principal isn’t using them. Some owners don’t want pets.
There’s also a space for notes, such as catering requests. Sayer says JetASAP will soon allow users to search by region instead of just a specific airport, for example, South Florida or New York Metro.
After you’ve entered your flight request, operators send back quotes. Some might respond right away, others in 24 hours, others not at all. So far, 62% of the operators enrolled submitted quotes.
You can chat with operators via online messaging, including negotiating on price, day of departure, airport, or anything you want. Once you’ve made your selection, you can sign the contract online. The operators have uploaded them in advance. If there are any aircraft-specific conditions, such as no pets, they are detailed by tail number, so you need to review terms specific to the aircraft you selected.
If, after seeing the contract, you decide you don’t want to sign, you cancel that request and request a new one from a different operator that quoted your trip.
Sayer says she doesn’t care if you go offline to complete the deal. Out of 200 sales since its launch last September and through April, half have been outside the app. In fact, she pitches operators that her service might lead to regular clients wanting to book directly in the future – bypassing JetASAP.
So how does JetASAP make money? Well, the answer is it doesn’t – at least for now. A video on its website promoting the free service claims “no fees, membership charges or commissions ever.” Do the operators pay? Sayer says the original idea was for a nominal charge, although that was dropped.
Are there any other shortcomings? Unlike most online private jet booking concepts I get pitched about, JetASAP actually does what it says and potentially adds value. Why the hedge?
Operators are inundated with quote requests, and since they can’t get to all of them, the ones they respond to first are their best customers, either a local client who books regularly and is probably calling on the phone or digitally, from yes, one of those brokers JetASAP is seeking to disintermediate. In terms of the pricing you get from the operator, it’s whatever the operator wants to charge – to a consumer.
JetASAP provides transparency that you get hard quotes – not estimates, you know the operator you are booking with, and you can, with a click, request a contract. Nothing prevents you from calling your regular broker to ask him or her about matching the price. It’s a triple-edged sword. If you find your broker is egregious in marking up flights, you might re-think that relationship. If the operator slashes prices, they may get a call from a very unhappy broker with dozens of other bookings that could be shifted to another operator. For the consumer, you are getting in touch with operators – the ones that want or have the time to respond to your request.
Sayer is upfront about where your request ranks in the food chain. She says in terms of scheduling, operators are thinking, next day, next two days, next week, this month. In other words, if you need to go on short notice, JetASAP might put you in the right place at the right time with an operator that has an aircraft sitting on the ground or that needs to move in the direction you’re going.
Sayer says her service isn’t for everyone – or every trip. About absence of revenues, she says there is a single investor and deep pockets. Currently, three customer service reps are available for online chat and to answer questions. The other point to remember is that JetASAP is a platform, not a broker. Your relationship is with the operator you contract with. If they screw up the catering, don’t complain to JetASAP. If there are any other problems, again, that’s between you and the operator.
For more than two decades, David Metrick was a consumer of private aviation, flying around the country, helping his C-suite clients find commercial real estate. Like many of you, he grouses about overpriced catering and ground transportation, and of course, the 20th century analog booking process for charter flights. Even if you have a good broker, there’s still the turnaround time from request to hard quote. And most people who use brokers, use a couple, just to compare what’s being offered.
Airbook One offers hard quotes with the ability to book instantly. Its the brainchild of private … [+]
Airbook One promises guaranteed charter pricing you can book in seconds. In other words, it’s not just a quoting interface designed to capture your contact information for future marketing. In fact, you can see pricing without sharing your personal information. That’s something we like. You can book via its app or from its website. We like that too.
That said, you don’t select a specific aircraft type, just a category, for example, light, midsize, super midsize aircraft. Metrick promises all operators are Wyvern Wingman, Argus Gold Plus rated or higher. The category approach works best when you know the aircraft in that category with the least range, seats and luggage space fits your needs before you click buy. In other words, if all midsize jets can make your proposed flight nonstop with the baggage space and passenger capacity you need, then it works. Otherwise, you’ve spent time booking something that when you find out what you bought, may not work.
Airbook doesn’t require you to buy blindly. You can make specific requests via online chat or phone, although that could mean a different price. So what’s the difference between just calling your broker and getting a quote for exactly what you wanted to begin with? While the site went live in late May, Metrick has been thinking about it for a dozen years and working towards the launch for the past two years.
The booking interface is easy to use. Once you enter your initial request, there is a nifty change airport feature that shows nearby alternatives, and then reprices the flight. The feed is from Avinode, a B2B directory used by many brokers. After you click to buy, Airbook is like any other broker. It has to secure an aircraft for your trip. There’s no pixie dust. Avinode is a starting point for brokers. The broker still has to verify the airplane listed is available and get a final price from the operator.
Metrick is confident he can buy the flights for less than he is selling them to you. He says if his pricing methodology is off, that’s his problem. Airbook will honor your price. When I first read the contract, I didn’t think that was clear, something he promised to review. Within a few hours, the language was updated to state, “Once you pay the full amount specified for your flight in accordance with these terms of sale and receive a confirmation email confirming receipt of your payment, the pricing for your flight is guaranteed and will not change unless you subsequently make or request changes to your itinerary.”
Within 24 to 48 hours, you are given the operator and tail number, if applicable. Floating fleet operators generally don’t provide tail numbers until 24 hours or so before your flight. Here’s a good-to-know tip. Department of Transportation rules covering brokers allows you to cancel with full refund when you are advised of the operator, if you weren’t when you booked, regardless of what’s in the contract.
The upside with Airbook is you may be able to find attractive rates. I did. There’s also a 1% credit for future flights and pricing includes carbon offsets. More perks are coming, Metrick says. A downside is the 100% cancelation penalty for one-way bookings. Another is its light jet category includes very light jets with limited range and sans toilet like the Eclipse 500.
Interesting twists are the ability to order catering via Door Dash, Uber Eats, or Go Puff and schedule ground transportation via Uber or Lyft. Airbook’s flight concierges help coordinate both, including delivery of your digital food order to the FBO. Whether that actually works remains to be seen. One FBO executive said it certainly isn’t typical.
You wanted to know about pricing. So did I. In looking at flights one week out from Miami-Opa Locka Executive Airport to Teterboro Airport, Airbook’s best price was $14,032 for a midsize jet. I checked four other online booking sites that offer hard quotes and instant booking. The Wheels Up lead price for non-members was $18,127 for a light jet. XO was $16,890, or another $750 if I wanted to guarantee departure time. Solairus Aviation had a light jet at $18,598. Simple Charters wanted $17,630 for a midsize jet.
Looking two days out, Airbook offered me the same $14,032 for a midsize jet. XO wanted $14,640 for a light jet as a non-member. Wheels Up was $20,725 for a midsize aircraft. Simple Charters wanted $16,858 for a midsize jet and Solairus was $19,085.
When I looked six weeks out, you guessed it, Airbook had a midsize jet priced at $14,032. XO was $13,390 on a light jet. Simple Charters was $18,952 for a light jet. Solairus was at $18,902, also for a light jet. Wheels Up wanted $19,546 for a light jet. Wheels Up says member pricing is up to 30% lower, although that goes to Airbook’s proposition. You don’t have to pay membership fees or deposit six figures to get its best rates. Still, with Airbook, you have to search specific dates and times. XO shows you best rates by day of the month and the Wheels Up app shows high-demand days.
I also looked at some flights between Teterboro and Van Nuys. A week out, Airbook was more expensive than XO, Wheels Up and Simple Charters by several thousand dollars though cheaper than Solairus.
In other words, if you are looking to book private jet flights online to save money, there isn’t a single place to go, you have to do multiple searches, and you are probably smart to have a broker or two give you quotes. If you fly privately to save time and make your life more efficient, you might ask, “Why am I doing this?”
Metrick says he has a dozen employees split between technology and customer service. He says operators hungry for business will give him preferred pricing. The operators I talk with are overwhelmed with quote requests. They tend to pay attention to brokers who deliver business. That’s not Airbook, at least for now, although he has the advantage of your payment in hand. In other words, he is ready to buy your flight. That should get an operator’s attention.
Everyone starts someplace. The Wright Brothers’ first flight traveled just 120 feet. Kenny Dichter started Wheels Up in 2013 with three King Air 350is and now has the second-largest for-hire operator behind NetJets.
Whether or not anything currently in the market truly delivers better than a good broker is up for debate. One reason to charter on a flight-by-flight basis is the ability to book specific aircraft types, ages and configurations, based on your needs for each trip. You want a Challenger 300 or 350 with a couch in the back instead of club seats. If you want a box of chocolates, a good jet card with fixed or capped rates, guaranteed availability and policies that match your flying patterns is probably a better way to go.
Can upstarts like JetASAP or Airbook beat big players that are investing tens of millions? Both offer something different than the numerous faux booking sites from brokers that are nothing more than online request forms.
Apple, HP and Microsoft started in a garage or basement. The winners, whoever they end up being, will be able to laugh at the naysayers. Whether or not you want to be a passenger on their journeys depends in large part on how much time you have to play travel agent and how badly you want a different way to book your charter flights.
I’m Editor-in-Chief of DG Amazing Experiences, a weekly e-newsletter for private jet owners and Private Jet Card Comparisons, a buyer’s guide comparing over 250 jet card programs from major players like Flexjet, Jet Linx, NetJets, Sentient Jet, Wheels Up, VistaJet, and XO to newcomers like FlyExclusive and boutique brokers. You’ll also find performance profiles of popular private jets, from turboprops King Air 350, Pilatus PC-12 and HondaJet to the Phenom 300, Challenger 300 and 350, Gulfstream G450, G550, G650, G700, Bombardier’s popular Global Express family, the iconic Learjet and S-76 helicopter used by both Queen Elizabeth and Donald Trump. There’s a free guide explaining various options and even a guide for first-timers and specifically what you need to know before chartering. And before you fly, find out what’s an FBO. You’ll also find a Deal Book, cataloging M&A activity and launches by key players. I’ve spent my working career in travel and luxury media, for 14 years at Travel Agent magazine, where I began as a reporter, then covered the airline industry as Aviation Editor and ended up rising to Group Publisher. In 2000 I started Elite Traveler, a consumer lifestyle magazine distributed globally aboard private jets, where I was President and Editor-in-Chief until 2014. In 2007, I co-authored of “The Sky’s the Limit: Marketing to the New Jet Set.” In 2014 I wrote “23 Ways to Create More Sales Opportunities 25 Minutes,” and in 2016 I co-authored “Secrets of Selling to the Super Rich.” Verb named me as one of the Top 25 Digital Luxury Experts to follow. For more private aviation and news on jet cards, private aviation memberships, and fractional ownership, visit Private Jet Card Comparisons’ news updates.