One company is bridging the price gap between flying first class and flying private, opening up the glitzy side of aviation to those who have been traditionally priced out.
Set Jet is a membership-based private airline offering seats on a private jet for as low as $500 one way. Members pay a monthly fee of $100 and are given access to flights on 11 year-round routes throughout the American West.
The Scottsdale, Arizona, company isn't the first to sell seats on shared private aircraft, but its founders say they've found a way to make the business model sustainable and open up private flying to a larger audience. Having the monthly fee also discourages potentially disruptive passengers from signing up, causing incidents for which companies like JetSmarter became infamous.
How it works
Only Set Jet members can fly on the airline's aircraft, and a limited number of memberships are available in each market, so flyers can get a seat when they want. Anyone can sign up for a membership, and the only initiation fee is a one-time security fee of $99.95.
Members can then initiate or buy seats on flights throughout Set Jet's network, which covers four states and Mexico. Flyers can book a seat up to 30 minutes before a flight's scheduled departure time.
Not all routes are operated daily, though, and some are offered as little as twice weekly. Once a flight is initiated, Set Jet will perform it even if there's just one person on board who's paying $449.95.
Set Jet's flagship jet is the Bombardier Challenger 850, which rivals the wide-cabin Gulfstream or Dassault aircraft in size. The cabin is tall enough for most to stand up in, and as many as 19 people can be seated comfortably.
It's open seating aboard the plane, but there are no bad seats, as Insider found on a demonstration flight from Scottsdale to San Diego. A cabin attendant welcomes passengers onboard the aircraft and offers complimentary snacks and drinks, with in-flight Wi-Fi also available.
Private terminals are used at all destinations to complete the private-jet experience. Security checkpoints are nonexistent, and flyers can arrive just minutes before the flight's scheduled departure.
How Set Jet makes money
Set Jet has the heart of a low-cost airline that's offering a luxurious product, as illustrated by its choice of aircraft. Buying parts for Challenger 850s is cheaper because of the aircraft's alter ego, an airliner known as the CRJ200.
"If you go to buy a set of brakes for a Challenger 604 and you tell them you're buying them for a Challenger 604, it's going to be a $55,000 set of brakes," Trey Smith, Set Jet's chief operating officer, told Insider. "You go to buy a set of brakes for a CRJ200 — same brakes, same part, different part number — it's $5,000."
Thousands of memberships offset the cost per passenger, and memberships have skyrocketed during the pandemic. "We did see a lot of new memberships that were from people who normally would never have flown with us but they were looking for alternatives to commercial travel because of COVID," Smith said.
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