If you have ever tried to charter a private plane, you know that it is almost as tedious as taking a commercial flight. With a commercial flight, you can book your commercial trip online, but then you have to go to the airport and wait. Private aviation can be the same on the front end. You make a phone call, fill out a form, fax it, mail it, and wait. It’s very expensive but worth it to get on a private plane to go somewhere — if you’ve got that kind of money, of course.
Sergey Petrossov is the founder and CEO of JetSmarter. His first experience with a private charter jet was an eye-opener. In 2009, he was invited to fly with someone and discovered an outdated, inefficient process for getting a very expensive private flight. He was surprised that a person had to make a phone call and that these companies still used fax machines to conduct business. He couldn’t believe that there was not an app or even a website to help people book their flights. So Petrossov set out to change it. Technology is his primary hobby, and he knew that he could use that hobby to find a solution that hadn’t been considered.
Private aviation is a $25 billion market that is terribly underutilized. There are only about 200,000 customers, and the industry operates at about 10 percent efficiency. In other words, most of the airplanes sit around more than they fly. They fly for only about 300 hours a year when they could be flying as much as 2,000. Many of these private flights have only one or two people aboard, and 35 percent of their flight time consists of return flights with no passengers on board.
So, why aren’t these planes flying more often? The process to book them is archaic, and the lack of flight hours keeps the cost of operating a plane high. If the planes were operated more and flew more passengers, fixed costs would be offset by the sheer number of passengers. Flying more frequently could make the private aviation business more profitable, efficient, and available to the market.
If you can book a commercial flight online or from an app on your phone, why can’t you do it for private charter flights? Petrossov created the JetSmarter app in 2012 so that people could book private flights to wherever they needed to go. The app’s distributed aviation feature, which is socially powered by its community of flyers, means that you can either create the flight you need or join one that someone else has started. With more than 5,000 available airports around the United States, these private flights are more readily available than commercial airlines.
The company’s goal is to make on-demand private aviation available to anyone who wants it. Using the sharing model, passengers can fly easier and less expensively and have a better experience with a personal touch. JetSmarter is changing the way people fly and disrupting the aviation marketplace.
Petrossov and his team believe that, over time, they will be able to decrease the cost of private flights until it is comparable to, or perhaps even less than, the cost of commercial flights. Scale will then dominate the market. With private flights, there is no TSA line, and you can get to the airport shortly before you leave, rather than two or three hours early.
A better, de-commoditized experience will soon be within reach of everyone who flies, and it will come at a much better price. When travel becomes enjoyable, you will want to travel more. JetSmarter’s options for creating and taking flights will make air travel easier and more enjoyable than it has ever been.