Two U.S.-based companies have launched online networks that allow customers to book flights with other private jet users and share the cost of their flights. The
jet-share model differs from empty-leg arrangements, an important distinction in light of the regulatory issues surrounding per-seat models.
“The flight is not actually booked before the customers log on,” explained CogoJets.com founder Jamie Walker, who also serves as CEO of ARG/US Platinum-rated Jet Linx Aviation. “This is a Web site to create shared flights. The members book flights together.”
Likewise, JetCharterPool.com founder Sam Chanana, who previously worked for TAG Aviation, said the flights are never pre-scheduled. “I’m not creating a trip or marketing a pre-scheduled flight; that’s when the regulatory issues come into play,” he said. “We’re not selling seats. We’re a networking community.”
Both Web sites allow members to propose a flight to other members and arrange the flight details amongst themselves before they submit the flight request through the Web site, which acts as an agent (broker) on their behalf. “When customers book the flight through the Web site, we charge them at the moment the flight is created,” Walker said. “If a flight costs $10,000 and there are four people sharing
the flight, each individual member would be charged $2,500. It’s all done through the Web site, booking and payment.”
JetCharterPool.com members can initiate a flight request and send the request to other members, who then register as an “interested party” or confirm the flight details. Once the details are confirmed among all interested parties, the members then submit the request through the Web site. “It’s a fairly new idea, and I think it’s going to attract a lot of executives, especially with the way things are going with commercial aviation,” Chanana said.
Because the model is so new, there are some questions as to how popular the Web sites are going to be. A similar Web site, JoinTheJetSetters.com, launched and went under within a month or so this past summer.
Other similar jet share models “weren’t quite meeting the DOT and FAA expectations,” Walker said, adding that he is confident about the legitimacy of his business model. “I’ve worked with both departments over the past few years to make sure that what I was doing met their expectations. I did a lot of homework, so this isn’t going to be gone in a month. It’s a survivable model.” A DOT spokesman told AIN that he could not confirm any meetings between Walker and the agency, but he explained that many private meetings do take place that are not publicized and not part of the public docket.
Chanana said, “I’ve done my research. As long as I work with certified Part 135 operators, I think I’m OK until someone tells me otherwise.”