I recently had the opportunity to take a couple flights with Jetsuite Private Jets. As some of you may know, JetSuite offers private jet travel with their core target audience being business travelers. They operate out of many airports that have the proper capabilities and bill themselves on their ease of use, service and being able to depart whenever you want to wherever you want.
What Does it Cost?
Normally, JetSuite sells memberships that start out around $50,000. That buys you a pre-blocked amount of flying hours depending on which plane you choose. At the moment, the cheapest rates are on their Phenom 100 aircraft and go for around $4,000/hour plus airport fees. Similar to many other private jet companies like NetJets and Magellan, JetSuite is somewhat seen as the cheaper of the bunch.
One interesting option that JetSuite offers to everyone regardless of membership is called Suitedeals. These deals pop up extremely last minute and offer people a chance to book a private jet from one set destination to another for as little as $536. When booking these deals, you are renting out the whole plane and not just a seat. This enables you to bring along 3-5 other people for a total cost of $536. They are able to offer this because someone with a regular membership has already booked that flight and the plane needs to fly to that certain airport to pick them up. You are essentially buying a one-way ticket in which you have to arrange the way back.
Often times, these flights can be very short. At the minimum, I’ve seen flights be blocked for 7 minutes of flying time and at the longest, I’ve seen flights blocked for 3 hours. JetSuite has two different types of aircraft that they fly on all of these routes and they are the 4 seater Phenom 100 and 6 Seater CJ3. Usually, the Phenom 100 is always $536 whereas the CJ3 is double that price.
On the night of July 13th around 11:55PM, I was drawing a blank as to what to do for my friend’s 21st birthday. I’m not the best gift giver and I’m pretty certain I bought her a phone charger for her last birthday. Make no mistake, it wasn’t because I was cheap but because I seriously didn’t know what to get her. Either way, I remembered a friend that mentioned JetSuite’s Suitedeals and how easy they were to book. I hopped onto my computer and headed to their deals page, which was pretty easy to find. From there, they listed all of their flights that were flying out the next day and I managed to find one that worked perfectly for us.
Booking a Private Jet
When booking flights on JetSuite, you’ll need to sign up for an account. This is completely different from their membership and can be found on the actual Suitedeals website. Once your account is made, you can then login faster and book these deals. In addition, you can set up email alerts for whenever a new deal is loaded onto their site from the airport you want to leave from! I applaud JetSuite for being probably the only site that makes it this easy to book empty-leg flights.
Once you start looking, chances are that you’ll see a ton of different flights. Their highest concentration of flights tend to be from John Wayne Airport or (VNY) Van Nuys Airport (VNY) on the west coast and Chicago Wheeler (MKC) in the midwest. There are a bunch of flights from random airports as well so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see your airport listed.
One important thing to remember when booking these flights is whether or not commercial service is offered or whether you have arranged alternate transportation to get back. This is really important as some of these airports only offer municipal service and can be hundreds of miles from a commercial airport. JetSuite DOES fly into major airports but most of their travel is focused on smaller private airports. For both of my flights, I made sure ahead of time to book alternate transportation.
The booking process is fairly easy once you make an account and all they usually need is just a credit card and the names/date of birth for the passengers traveling. Once booked, you’ll receive a confirmation email of the booking and a couple hours after that, you’ll get a final email stating where to go for the flight. It’s important to note that private jet companies use fixed based operators (FBO) to manage their bookings and flights. This is just another term for smaller terminals that will handle all aspects of your flight. The FBO’s change every time you book a new flight so if you are booking multiple, make sure to check where the flight is leaving and landing from. Once you book, you’ll want to call JetSuite as they’re open 24/7 and ask about the details of your flight by providing your name and destination. The phone number is 1-(866)-779-7770.
Disclaimer: Although I heard of this, it hasn’t happened to me yet. Sometimes, the Suitedeal you book may be canceled due to the member not needing the flight anymore. In this instance, you will be notified immediately and all of your money will be refunded. JetSuite makes this very clear on their site:
CHANGE OF ROUTE BY JETSUITE: SuiteDeals may experience a last minute change or cancellation, due to operational demand or a Client request. Should a SuiteDeal be changed post-purchase, the Customer will have the option to either fly the new route if operationally possible or shall receive 100% of the paid fare amount in a form of a credit to the credit card account which was used to purchase the seat(s).
The Flight Experience
On the day of the flight, we left my house at the ungodly time of 5 am to catch the flight that was slated for 6:30-7AM. My friend was unaware of what was going on until we actually got to the terminal and when she found out, she was ecstatic! Our flight was quite short and had us going from Santa Monica Airport in Los Angeles to San Diego International. The flight itself was scheduled for about 15 minutes. Once we arrived at the FBO, an attendant showed us where to park and led us to the entrance of the terminal. After checking in with the front desk, we were immediately escorted outside to the plane. It was a great feeling not to have to wait in line or go through security at all. We were met by the two pilots outside of the plane and they helped us take some photos before ushering us onboard.
When we finally made it onboard, the pilots went over some safety instructions and also directed us to where the drinks and snacks were incase we were hungry. They also made us aware of a delay due to departing air traffic from LAX. Santa Monica airport is very close to LAX and they share the same airspace all the time. Often times, planes at Santa Monica airport can be held up to 30 minutes due to incoming and departing flights from LAX. Today, we were only held back about 20 minutes but we didn’t mind it at all!
When it comes to the plane, it is a four seater jet plane in which all seats face each other. There is no flight attendant and the snacks are neatly packed under each seat. Complimentary drinks including alcohol are stocked in a small compartment by the front of the plane. There is no door between the cabin and the cockpit and we were able to see ahead of us the whole time! There is a restroom in the back of the plane and is only separated by a curtain. Bose noise canceling headphones are provided for all seats and there are power ports at 2 of the 4 seats. Free Wi-Fi is equipped on all of their jets and powered by Gogo!
The seats themselves recline but not that much. They are all leather seats and have pretty decent legroom since they face the other seats. I could see the plane getting cramped if 4 big people get onboard, which it did the second time I booked a flight. It’s never uncomfortable but you do have to play a little bit of Tetris to get everyone seated properly.
After the flight got off the ground, it was generally smooth and took around 30 minutes for us to get to San Diego over the scheduled 15. I don’t necessarily know why but we were too busy enjoying the sights of the coastline to care.
Upon landing, a small cart was waiting to take us from the plane to the front of the private terminal where our rental car was waiting. I pre-booked the rental car from a company called Go-Rentals, which seems to offer car rentals to private jet terminals. They gave me a brand new Escalade ESV for a daily rate of $179 and included a one way drop off back to Santa Monica the next day. The rental itself was a bit pricey but all other agencies were sold out that day due to San Diego transitioning from Comic-Con to Pride Week. I have to say that the agents at both FBO’s were very courteous. It was almost scary to hear how they spoke to me and I couldn’t help but smile every time! Within a matter of minutes, I was out of the terminal and headed to San Diego for lunch. The day was a success and my friend was thrilled!
On our second flight from Van Nuys, California to Oakland Airport, we rented a car from National and I finally got use a little known feature in which Executive Elite members can have their car delivered to an FBO for free. This was very helpful as we didn’t have a way to get from the FBO in Oakland to the National Car Rental lot. It was even more amazing to land in Oakland see the rental car waiting right outside the plane! Before we knew it, our bags were already in the back of the trunk and the keys were in the ignition ready for us to go.
Overall, this is at the minimum, private jet service. You don’t get an attendant or anything like that but it is beyond what you’d expect from regular commercial airlines. It’ll be interesting to see how Delta’s announcement of private jet service will compare with JetSuite.
After flying with JetSuite twice, I looked into more options for some sort of membership to gain access to these empty legs on a regular basis. For me, it’s easy to head to San Francisco for lunch then use Avios or another empty leg to head home. One option that I’ve been considering is an app called Jetsmarter. Membership costs $9,000 a year and lets you fly unlimited empty legs and regular unlimited scheduled service on private jets between:
- Los Angeles – Las Vegas
- New York – Fort Lauderdale
- Los Angeles – San Francisco
- Helicopter Service: New York/Hamptons
As an aspirational booking, JetSuite can be a really fun deal to buy. If you’re someone who travels frequently between two major points that JetSuite services, it might be worth it to keep your eye on the Suitedeals page. I only say this because often times, last minute travel up and down the coast of California can be cheaper with JetSuite rather than buying a commercial ticket. At $536, that’s only $134 per seat. When booking last minute, the legacy airlines can charge in upwards of $300 for the same route! Purchasing one of these deals means that you must be very flexible with timing and also must have a plan to get back. I would say that is the biggest downfall with booking empty-legs. If you’re able to get past that, booking a private jet will be one of the most memorable experiences you’ll ever have!
Have you ever booked a private jet? What was your experience?