Like their big brothers in the big airline industry, the private jet side of the aviation business is filled with entrepreneurs and big dreams. Of course, for every success, there are dozens of carcasses. On two sides of the country, a pair of successful business creators are attempting to skirt the landmines of starting an airline, each with a different business model, both of which have failed in the past.
Of course, timing and tweaks are everything. In the case of VeriJet and Set Jet, their founders believe they can skirt the ghosts of Day Jet, ImagineAir, JetSmarter, BlackJet, Zetta Jet, Avantair, JetSuite and others to find that elusive level of success few achieve, mainly staying in business. If successful, they will change the way we fly.
For Boca Raton, Florida-based VeriJet, its proposition is making flying a better option than either driving or connecting through a hub between two cities that don’t have nonstop service. Launched last November, it already has six second-generation Cirrus Vision Jets in the fleet with grand plans for over 130 in the next several years.
Boca Raton-based VeriJet aims to have 130 Cirrus SF50 Vision Jets flying in the U.S. and Europe … [+]
Its current service area is a 600 nautical radius from Orlando, which goes as far north as West Virginia and west to the East Texas border with Louisiana. Its play for the time-being is whole aircraft charters. Its vehicle is the second-generation Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet. It’s the most delivered private jet in the world over the past three years. At a price tag of just under $3 million, it’s also the least expensive. Twenty-five Vision Jets will get you one Bombardier Global 7500.
The SF50 can fly with one pilot. VeriJet allows customers to add a second pilot for $875 per flight. You can fly up to four adults and two children weighing up to 90 pounds for $3,000 per hour, plus 7.5% Federal Excise Tax. Its short runway capability means you can land at airports most private jets can’t, saving even more time by bringing you closer to where you are going. If you have a single pilot who becomes disabled, the SF50’s Safe Return feature allows passengers to land the plane with a button touch. You’ll have to do without a toilet. That probably says something about the aircraft’s ideal missions.
Cabin interior of a VeriJet SF50 Vision Jet. The Florida-based start-up has six with plans for 16 by … [+]
Founder and CEO Richard Kane is not new to the world of private aviation. Coastal Technologies, a company he started in 1996, provides AI software for two of the largest U.S. charter operators. It’s the same fleet optimization technology he believes will give VeriJet success where others failed.
By the end of this year, he expects to have 16 SF50s and a California base at Santa Monica Airport, where the runway is too short for most jets. After that are plans for Western Canada, the U.S. Northeast and Europe.
The pandemic scuttled an attempt to raise money from airlines that would use VeriJet as a minor league for pilots. There is, of course, no longer a pilot shortage, and the airlines are losing billions of dollars. At the same time, more UHNWs are looking to fly privately. As any good entrepreneur does, Kane quickly pivoted. He raised money from family offices and wealthy individuals who buy aircraft for him, lease them to VeriJet and get preferred rates on the fleet. This COVID-induced change of plans is speeding expansion as his well-heeled backers want him to set up shop where they live. The goal is to have over 130 fighter-gray VeriJet Vision Jets hopping around within a couple of years.
Out west in Scottsdale, Set Jet founder and CEO Tom Smith is competing directly for folks who would typically fly first class on American Airlines from its Phoenix hub. While Kane is selling the entire airplane, Smith is selling seats. After founding Taser, taking it public, and building it to a $2 billion market cap, a pilot like Kane, Smith has dreams of running a private airline. Those dreams are not small. This month Aerion announced the investor group that owns Set Jet ordered two AS2 supersonic private jets.
Set Jet is selling seats on private jet flights in a half dozen Western U.S. cities. Its ownership … [+]
Since its November 2019 launch, Set Jet has run over 1,100 flights, so it’s more than a dream with a slick presentation. The way it works is you pay a monthly membership fee of $99. You get a real Kardashian-style experience, from private terminals to flying aboard large-cabin private jets suitable for a billionaire. Seats on most routes cost around $450. Los Cabos and Aspen are more expensive. The current network includes Set Jet’s home base, plus Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles International, Van Nuys, Burbank, and Hayward.
Set Jet provides a true private jet experience by the seat using large-cabin Bombardier Challenger … [+]
While routes are limited, if you can’t find a flight on the day you want, you can start one with as little as 24 hours’ notice. If you are the only passenger, so be it. The flight goes, says Smith. If there is already a flight on that day, you need to adapt your schedule to that departure. Set Jet is averaging six to eight passengers on the 16-seat Bombardier Challenger 850s it uses. Smith says profitability is months away, as are plans to add Embraer Legacy 1000 VIP airliner-sized private jets.
For consumers, there are few risks with these start-ups. You don’t have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars in advance. Set Jet limits the memberships it sells in a market, so there are enough seats, Smith says. If you drop out, you might not get back in. He hopes that is an incentive for infrequent fliers to keep paying their $99 even in months they aren’t flying.
Only time will tell if Kane and Smith will see their names mentioned alongside David Neeleman, who started the success known as JetBlue, or Donald Burr, founder of much loved, but short-lived People Express.
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.