Booming business makes bad timing for new private jet booking platforms

You would think that with private jet travel reaching record levels – and relentlessly in sight, there would be strong tailwinds for new private jet booking platforms. Flaws aside, the fact that there is squeeze on available charter jets makes it more difficult to try new suppliers with little to no market influence.

That said, Air Racer Pro and InstaJet debuted last month with the typical promise of revolutionizing the booking of private flights. While each has impressive features, in the end, neither really solves the problems those of you who book private jet charters currently have to endure.

Airacer Pro

If you’ve seen the television commercial for Kayak where an entrepreneur presents what he calls “the best idea you’ve ever heard,” you already know everything you need to know about Airacer Pro, at least as far as I know.

Like Kayak Canoe’s imaginary competitor, Airacer is surprisingly similar to FlyEasy, an industry platform that brokers use to source jets for their clients. Data is what you would find on Avinode, another B2B platform. Both offer consumer interfaces that allow a broker, platform, or whatever name a business wants to be called, an opportunity to tell stories about how they’re changing the way you’ll book private flights. .

To that end, Airacer is a graphically pleasing adaptation of what appears to be primarily a flow of one or both. After a difficult discussion with the founders, their PR representative emailed me to admit what was obvious. “To answer your question, they aggregate their data from sources like FlyEasy and Avinode, and then they verify that information with the help of a dedicated team that reviews and confirms that information.”

Since I have found quite a bit of inaccurate information – for example, the list of floating fleet planes at bases – and operators that no longer exist – for example, Delta Private Jets – I can’t say big – thing about the degree of verification of the information. The beauty of floating fleets, by the way, is that they don’t have bases. Trips are priced point-to-point as they float and do not have to return to a home airport after dropping you off.

The initial pitch promised, “What’s unique about this software platform is its reliance on real-time data.” This is not the case, at least as far as I can tell.

When it comes to how it works, you can basically search for operators based on the start and end of your trip. You then request firm quotes for your trip from the operators you select. The initial price is the same as what traders offer and which brokers use as a starting point to determine which traders best suit your needs.

What you see on Airacer Pro does not mean that the jets listed are available. Closing the gap between live inventory and pricing, combined with crews who can make these flights days or even weeks in advance, is something major players like Wheels Up and Vista Global have invested dozens of. of millions of dollars to accomplish.

With Airacer Pro, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily attract companies with helicopters or single-engine propeller planes when looking to fly, say, from Los Angeles to Hawaii. It’s because there are operators in Los Angeles who have these planes.

Before the pandemic, Airacer sold tourist flights. It’s hard to say how successful it has been, but he’s trying to pivot.

While the cards look good, the operators you ask for prices are already getting hundreds of requests per day. When demand is high, operators focus on their main customers, some are direct, but in many cases these are large brokers and other operators who book millions of dollars in charters each year.

As an example, a private flyer that uses the FlyEasy interface – consumers can create their own free accounts, recently emailed me: “I made an offer on FlyEasy last Friday for this Wednesday of Dallas to (the) Detroit Michigan area and I got two quotes: one on a King Air 350 (turboprop) and the other on a (Quote) M2 (very light jet). I used to get 20-30.

Airacer executives say they are deploying integration with operators that will provide real-time pricing. However, after more than a month of waiting, they never provided me with any operators I could speak with, and several operators I spoke to were unfamiliar with this equipment.

Airacer can do a better job of controlling the flows they use in the future. The data seems a bit more focused when I looked at it earlier today, so maybe it’s a work in progress. That said, most consumers would be better off working with a reputable broker who has relationships with the operators and knows which ones have the types of aircraft best suited to the task at hand.

Good brokers also know which traders are reliable – versus which are likely to cancel – and established players also have the influence of their favorite traders to get things back on track if something goes wrong, which does happen. more and more nowadays.

InstaJet

Another concept that is not new – but not widespread – is the idea of ​​a broker or platform going to traders with a client’s payment on hand instead of asking for a quote based on the hope that a reservation will materialize later. Big players like Vista Global’s XO and Wheels Up offer confirmed quotes that you can book online and that they have to fill out either on their fleets or through partners.

Operators can only convert one or two percent of the quote requests they receive, many of them from tire launchers from B2B2C integrations used by Airacer.

In the case of InstaJet, which is a platform, it gives you a firm quote – a firm price. Once you accept it and they take payment, they then buy your trip from the operators. Since you’ve already paid, the idea is that operators will prioritize their request – the phrase old bird in hand.

Started by Nick Davis, who previously helped yacht company Sunseeker create private aviation partnerships for its UHNW customers, InstaJet wants to deliver what he calls “NetJets quality without the commitment of NetJets.”

In other words, InstaJet isn’t trying to be a price leader, and you don’t have to commit to 25 hours on a jet card or five years on fractional action. He says the goal is to offer consumers a price that will allow InstaJet to obtain high-quality aircraft from high-end operators.

Davis has a good idea of ​​the market and InstaJet ticks some of the boxes that are usually the downsides of booking charter flights one by one. The firm price means you don’t waste time haggling. Defrost is included in the quotes. He says InstaJet also guarantees the recovery plane at no additional cost if the operator cancels, although his terms do not confirm this.

Davis says the guarantee is tied to the fact that when they buy your trip, they have offers from other operators that weren’t originally selected. So, it is not known what would happen if, days or weeks later, these operators no longer had a plane available at the price indicated previously. It doesn’t seem that InstaJet is legally obliged to eat the difference.

InstaJet makes a fixed amount of $ 1,400 per booking and provides travel assistance. So despite being an app, Davis emphasizes that her outfit is all about customer service. Still, the contract you sign is with the operator, which relieves InstaJet of any guilt and normally wouldn’t be a problem.

However, when private flights hit record highs in the United States, smaller brokers report growing frustrations as operators favor larger customers. This means that when a plane assigned to a large client has a mechanic, the client of a small broker is likely to have their plane taken away and assigned to said large client.

This would include NetJets, Flexjet and Sentient Jet from Directional Aviation, Wheels Up and others who need capacity well beyond their own fleets and regular allocations. It also includes services to established mega-brokers like Vista Global’s Apollo Jets, which sells about $ 250 million in flights per year.

With InstaJet, you pay a fee of $ 99, and for that you get three quotes. It is applied to your first reservation. If you haven’t purchased before the third time, InstaJet is happy to see you go elsewhere. It is not looking for price buyers.

Likewise, you only get one category, light jets, mid-size jets, etc., so if you’re paying a premium, or even if you’re not, one of the reasons for why people book an on-demand charter is that they have specific requirements that category jet cards do not meet.

They want a super-midsize jet with a standing cabin. They only want jets that are less than five years old. They want a Challenger 300 or 350 that has a sofa in the back instead of a second set of club chairs because they like to take a nap. InstaJet’s app is easy to use, but at this point you can’t even request a quote with guaranteed Wi-Fi.

Davis says that by not focusing on the lowest price, InstaJet will be offering customers aircraft upgrades and other perks. Sounds good, but in an era when brokers and clients are reporting difficulties getting the type of aircraft they initially wanted and sometimes have to settle for something less, getting more than what you paid might not be. not be in the cards.

Final thoughts

Airacer Pro and InstaJet are not unique in that there is a wave of platforms and brokers looking to take advantage of the growing popularity of private flights by claiming to offer a better way to fly privately. Indeed, it’s hard to cut through the clutter – and the claims.

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