In Pretty Woman (1990), Richard Gere and Julia Roberts book one for a date. Tony Stark owns an entire fleet. Leonardo Di Caprio as Jordan Belfort in Wolf of Wall Street hosts his bachelor’s party on it. Private jets have long been the ultimate symbols of wealth in popular culture.
Now, you too can book a private jet like a millionaire. Without spending the millions.
App-based services such as JetSteals and BookMyCharters let you book a chartered flight within 60 seconds. “It’s like booking a cab. You can put in your preferred departure and arrival locations, time, the number of co-travellers, and book an aircraft. We arrange the rest,” says Kanika Tekriwal, co-founder and CEO, JetSetGo, the online charted flight portal that launched JetSteals last month.
The traditional offline method of booking a chartered plane involved no direct contact between the consumers and aircraft companies. You’d get a broker to negotiate prices with a limited number of airline companies. “That process is like buying a house. Only you don’t get to see the house until after you’ve paid up. There is no financial accountability, or even a guarantee of a secure aircraft,” claims Tekriwal.
In contrast, these new-age online portals attempt to bridge that gap. “The offline model takes up to 48 hours to generate a quote. Online platforms are reducing the process of searching, quoting and booking an aircraft to less than a minute,” says Rajeev Wadhwa, chairman and CEO, Baron Aviation, which launched BookMyCharters in December, 2015. BookMyCharters, for instance, currently displays options across 40 aircraft companies and connectivity to 129 airports across India.
Apparently, the demand for these online portals emerged two years ago, with a steady growth in clientele. “Initially, private jets were used only by high net worth client: industrialists, high profile lawyers and doctors would book them for business meetings. Today, though the financial background of customers remains high income, their purpose is transitioning to luxury travel. We have a lot of bookings for short distance exotic locations in south east Asia. We recently had a client who took a private jet to the Maldives to host his bachelor party in the air,” says Tekriwal.
As flying private becomes more of an experiential travel choice, portals are rising up to the occasion by playing travel organisers. So you get choice of food, drinks and toiletries on board the jet, and private pick-ups and drops to hotels.
But what does it cost? “The rates range from `60,000 to `5 lakh per flying hour, with additional travel planning expenses,” says Tekriwal. Companies draw up a written contract with their customers that officiate personalised arrangement, and amenities provided. They also run a security check on their consumers beforehand.
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