Up, Up & Away
Flying by private jet once pandered exclusively to the highly elite; requiring travelers to charter their own aircraft, invest in a fractional ownership plan or own their own jet. But private air travel is no longer limited.
A rising trend, private jet companies have been changing their structure and reevaluating inventory to make it more accessible. Now, interested travelers can book a single seat rather than an entire plane—and even do this at the touch of an app. While sustainable models have been introduced, such as tempting last-minute deals via JetSuite or flexible hourly rates through Wheels Up, several companies have taken private jet flying to new heights with all-you-can-fly membership clubs.
One of the original pioneers of the private airline membership club, Los Angeles-based Surf Air is perhaps the country’s most lauded and well known. Starting at $1,950 per month (in addition to a one-time $1,000 initiation fee), members fly as much as they like within the growing network that includes about 90 daily flights between California cities like Sacramento, Napa, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs, in addition to Las Vegas. The membership plan allows travelers to book two, four or six scheduled flights at a time and immediately book again.
While private jet travel is unparalleled when it comes to hassle-free convenience, myriad other perks are reason alone to book. For instance, Surf Air members can book within 30 seconds on their smartphone, arrive at the airport just 15 minutes before their flight and avoid security checks, lines and general airport snags.
“The convenience alone is luxury for people that travel every day. It’s also pretty nice to be able to hop over to Napa or Monterey on a whim.” —Joshua Katz
It’s also quite personal: A concierge greets travelers by name. Among the 2,500 Surf Air members (as of December 2015), Joshua Katz, creative director of Proper Hospitality, has been hooked since day one. “I live in San Francisco, but spend most of my week in Los Angeles and travel to Palm Springs regularly,” he says.
Over on the East Coast, the recently launched Beacon offers a similar type of model aimed at a specific set of travelers. Beacon’s pricing is tiered. Memberships start at $1,750 per month for unlimited flights and two reservations at a time, and cap at $3,000 per month for unlimited flights, four reservations at a time plus two guest passes a month.
Beacon offers flights between New York City and Boston, with new destinations like Nantucket and the Hamptons slated for the summer. Beacon has also begun cultivating a social community where travelers get to know other members, which is often the heart of a membership club. “Flying with us means joining a community,” CEO Wade Eyerly says.