It’s no secret that the commercial air travel experience over the past decade has become a growing headache. Hectic airports, long and often degrading security lines, coupled with more frequent carrier delays have all contributed to a less than satisfactory flying occasion.
Domestic airlines do not offer the luxurious and exclusivity elite air travel deserves. As with most things in life, what was once a luxury usually becomes a necessity. The same can be said for private air charter. Bottom-line, the reason to charter an aircraft is that you have the option of flying at your own leisure. Quite often the physical stress of travel affects the quality of your overall travel experience more than anything else.
Moshe Malamud, Founder of M2Jets explained that when you think about flying commercially, you think of having to show up to the airport two hours before your flight to check in, and have the time to rush through security. After all, the plane isn’t going to wait for you. Once on board, passengers are left praying that there are no operational delays, mechanical issues, or long taxi lines as airliners fight for their place in line to depart. How often have you heard of the pilot announcing, “We’re number 39 for takeoff” or “We’ve arrived early…” and after taxing for 25 minutes, “We are still waiting for a gate to become available!?” Malamud, who operates a fleet of private business jets in the United States and Europe says “Flying privately allows the traveler the ability to arrive at the airport 15 minutes before departure, and expedite the security process in arrivals and departure from a private hanger, which means that you don’t waste time fighting crowds or long security lines.”
Has the business model changed in the private charter industry over the last decade?
In recent years, a variety of startups have explored offering private-jet charter by the seat to defray the high cost of private charter. The concept at first glance seems to be appealing. Why endure the cost of an entire jet when all you need is a single seat? Crowdfunding has worked across many industries and why shouldn’t it work in the private jet market.
The reality however is, that most of these jet-by-the-seat startups have failed. They have failed for multiple reasons. Firstly, the by-the-seat offer almost eliminates the exclusivity of flying privately.
Flying with strangers is clearly NOT Private! At best it’s semi-private. You’re flying with people who you don’t know and while you have the convenience of flying from a private terminal, most private aircrafts are not as spacious as large cabin commercial airliners. This means that you’re stuck kissing knees with complete strangers and are often left with less legroom than your standard economy class seating. Furthermore, there’s a single enclosed lavatory and no attendant to offer snack services. Single-seat purchasing is creating a new vertical within the charter market, mostly reserved for those who can’t afford the private lifestyle and the modern Instagram show off!
For those who can afford it, what’s the primary reason to fly privately?
You get what you pay for: when flying privately, you’re paying for convenience, safety, security and luxury. There is clearly no indulgence in flying in a very tight space with other strangers. And make no mistake, these flights are anything but cheap. Flying privately comes at a significant cost. And while you may be able to divide this cost amongst multiple flyers, it is far from economical when comparing it to commercial air travel. And as recently featured by multiple news outlets, safety and security is seriously discounted on these shared trips.
Do you feel the private charter industry is structured to allow Uber type ride sharing platforms to flourish?
The crowd funding jet setting models has thus far clearly failed. According to Hunter Gaylor, senior executive at AVJets “by purchasing a single seat, you sacrifice the elite and exclusive appeal of flying privately. Single-seat purchasing it’s not something any of our clients will ever subscribe to. We don’t believe the luxury, security and glamour of buying a seat is carried through by simply not passing airport security and taking an Instagram picture on a $50 million aircraft because ‘you got a deal.’ According to Malamud, “our client’s primary objective is convenience, privacy, safety and security. There is no way our VIPs are going to board a plane with people they don’t know.”
Malamud added, “the majority of our clients don’t necessarily fly privately for the elegance and luxury but rather for the privacy, convenience and ease of mind of avoid the nightmarish experience of flying commercial.”
It seems as if more people are flying private daily. Will the cost to charter an aircraft ever become more affordable for the average working class?
More people rely on air travel to conduct business in this ever fast-paced world and airlines continue to eye cruel ways of making passengers miserable. The convenience of flying privately it’s becoming more of a necessity than a luxury. Flying privately however will always come at a significant cost. Despite back end efficiencies and economies of scale, the fixed price associated with flying privately are tied to the cost of expensive equipment, crew and fuel. These economies are not likely to change much.
What opportunities if any do you see in the private aviation industry?
There is a need to offer a more opulent luxury service by upgrading the seating experience in larger more spacious aircraft for longer haul flights. Additionally, chartering isn’t always easy sailing. Occasionally clients are left stranded on the tarmac with no aircraft due to a mechanical issue. When paying $100,000 for an aircraft, you expect to receive service equivalent to the cost you are paying. The real opportunities are in the areas of enhancing the customer experience.
How does your company differentiate from other private charter companies?
The level of detail and service we provide truly offers our clients reason to keep coming back. I always say, “when clients are comfortable with you addressing them on a first name basis, it completely changes the dynamic of the relationship.” Our clients aren’t just customers but are family. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and even weddings with them and always find a way to make their memories a bit more memorable. We enjoy the process of learning every detail we can about our clients and their families which ultimately allows us to enhance their travel experience.
How many hours would you say your average client charters per year?
There’s really no average. Some clients rely on regular private travel to conduct business and fly weekly. Artist and entertainers are constantly on the go and the flexibility of flying privately allows them to travel to multiple cities in short span and avoid the hassle of inconvenient scheduled airline travel and. Others only fly occasionally when commercial air travel isn’t an option.
The process of purchasing an aircraft can be very difficult. What is your advice on where to start when looking to acquire an aircraft?
There are many factors to consider when purchasing an aircraft. It starts with finding a suitable aircraft to fit an owner’s specific requirements. Larger and often more expensive aircraft will seat more passengers and fly longer distances, sometimes up to 15 hours, while smaller business jets can only accommodate 4 to 8 passengers with a shorter flying range. Fundamental to maintaining a healthy and reliable aircraft is to ensure that you have the right management team, experienced pilots and top-tier maintenance oversight.
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