Charter operator JetSuite is expanding its fleet with the addition of ten Embraer EMB-135s and launching a new public charter service with regular scheduled flights in EMB-135s between Concord and Burbank, Calif., and Las Vegas and Concord. The new Embraers are the largest in the JetSuite fleet, which currently includes Phenom 100s and Cessna Citation CJ3s.
The inaugural JetSuiteX flight from Burbank to Concord is scheduled for April 19, followed by thrice-a-day weekday service between the city pair. Concord to Las Vegas service starts with two flights on Friday evenings, with two Las Vegas to Concord returns on Sunday afternoons. Burbank operations will take place at the Atlantic Aviation FBO, with valet parking for passengers. At Concord, passengers have access to free parking at the former Pacific Southwest Airlines airline terminal, which JetSuite has leased. “Concord hasn’t had service in 24 years,” said JetSuite CEO Alex Wilcox.
Advanced prices for the Burbank-Concord one-way start at $109. The EMB-135s have been refurbished by New United Goderich in Huron Park, Ontario (Canada). Passenger cabins are equipped with 30 seats with at least 36-inch seat pitch with three seats per row (one single and a double). To keep the seat number at 30 for Part 135 requirements, two rows of seats were removed, plus all overhead bins were removed and interior plastic replaced with leather. Three-quarter-inch Nomex was added to improve soundproofing, and all seats have power ports. Gogo airborne Internet connectivity is free for passengers, as are in-flight entertainment products provided by Adonis, over a dedicated IFE Wi-Fi network available for passengers’ mobile devices.
“For travelers on the busy SF-LA corridor,” Wilcox said, “JetSuiteX now offers a real choice–a private jet-style experience for the price of an airline seat. Many of our private jet customers have been asking us to provide the JetSuite experience in an aircraft with more seats and longer range, and we've listened.”
The EMB-135s will be available for regular whole-airplane charter at $8,000 per hour (plus federal excise tax) when not flying for JetSuiteX. The tenth airplane is scheduled for delivery by mid-2017.
JetSuite has been working on this plan for about two years, and it stemmed from a close look at changes in airline traffic, according to Wilcox. Comparing 2013 to 2000, overall airline boardings climbed 16 percent, but short-haul traffic (flights below 500 miles) dropped 12 percent. Factors that contributed to this phenomenon include the inconvenience of going through heightened security when flying a short trip and the loss of capacity due to airline consolidations. “Carriers that used to be short-haul champions disappeared,” Wilcox said. “Regionals are just hub-feeders flying capacity for the majors. If you don’t fit the Boeing 737 hub-and-spoke or super-regional like Southwest Airlines, you lose service.”
The EMB-135 reconfigured (and STC’d) to 30 seats perfectly fits JetSuiteX’s business model: airports with 5,000-foot runways too small for a 737 but that used to have good airline service. “There are a lot of [cities] that can be resuscitated,” he said. And the faster EMB-135s offer competition to other public carrier’s such as Surf Air, which moves passengers around California in single-engine Pilatus PC-12s in an all-you-can-fly monthly fee business model. Wilcox figures that customers might find it more comfortable to fly in an EMB-135 from, say, Carlsbad near San Diego to San Jose, Calif., in an hour versus spending two hours in a PC-12.
As to the move to bring the less popular–in airline terms–EMB-135 back into active duty, he explained, “Somebody had to. They’re just sitting in the desert, they’ve not even used a third of their life. These are beautiful airplanes, well engineered and super reliable. We just have to find the right market for them.”