Any doubt that private air travel has hit the mainstream vanished in May 2015, when a flock of Cessnas and Gulfstreams choked the Las Vegas skies (and made headlines) ahead of the Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao fight. With an ever-growing stream of concerts, festivals and awards shows filling the Sin City calendar, music industry heavyweights increasingly are forsaking commercial travel to make the trek.
“The airlines almost have forced people to fly private,” says Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS News, who points to more options, cheaper alternatives and industry competition as reasons for the shift. “Today, if you can put together five or six people who want to go to a concert — as opposed to flying through two different hubs with delays, high airfares and terrible service — it becomes more economically viable to charter.”
For those looking to reap the benefits of private travel — comfort, privacy, convenience — without shelling out $65 million for a G650, a slew of new services allows travelers to fly like the elite. “With private, you can show up to any one of [a number of] regional airports five minutes before your scheduled departure,” says David Young, an executive at Victor, an online marketplace for charter flights. Instead of paying $1,000 for a first class round-trip airline ticket from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, one can team up with five friends for a charter with Victor that costs $4,750, or less than $750 per person.
?JetSmarter, the Jay Z-approved app that launched in 2012, bills itself as Uber for private jets and offers members (who pay a $3,500 initiation fee plus $9,675 annually) the ability to land a seat on a planned flight or, for an additional fee, charter their own plane on short notice. “Traditionally, private aviation was accessible to the point one percent — not even the one percent,” says JetSmarter CEO Sergey Petrossov. With free-flowing champagne and the chance to mingle with fellow members like Jamie Foxx and Emily Ratajkowski, the appeal is clear. “There’s a social fabric that’s built into what we do. Every time that you share a flight you end up meeting other like-minded people. It’s almost like a country club in the sky.”
This article was originally featured in the May 28 issue of Billboard.