Opinion: JetSuite make private planes more practical

JetSuite: Once you fly private you’ll never go back

CEOs and really rich people tend to have their own private jets, a luxury denied to the rest of us because the damn things cost millions to buy and millions to maintain and fly. A new service called JetSuite (run by ex-JetBlue executive Alex Wilcox) is bringing the cost of using a private jet down to something closer to affordable.

I had a chance to interview Mr. Wilcox as we took a quick hop from San Jose to the coast earlier this week. I’m now tempted to use the service myself, but it occurred to me that if you wanted to really impress a date or spouse, this could be the ultimate limo ride.

No TSA, no problems

I grew up on airplanes. I started flying around 7 years old alone, and back then took a helicopter taxi service from near my home in Tustin, California to Los Angeles for flights to Northern California and Hawaii. This was pre-TSA, and they didn’t even check your carry-on luggage. You just walked up to the gate, present your ticket, and hop on the flight. You could carry anything — big or small bottles even your own wine. You could arrive right before the flight and just get on.

Private Jets are like this. You typically use a special terminal with a nice lounge, and people actually drive to the plane both for drop off and pickup (you do have to park your car, unless you have a limo or someone not traveling is driving). You get on the plane and just go. If you have a limo at the other end, the car can meet you at the plane and you are off, no baggage claim (you get your bags right as you get off).

Flying limo

Private jets typically are smaller than commercial jets, and the JetSuite jets are about the size of a small stretch limo inside. They don’t hold many people, so you have tons of room. Onboard, the seats are generally better than you’d have in a limo: lots of room, personal headsets, tables, and they serve drinks on board. While meals are limited (they have no galley or kitchen, really) you could bring your own picnic lunch.

JetSuite interior seats space

The jets also go where you want, and are able to land at regional airports much closer to where you may want to go. They have fighter-like configurations, which makes them very stable and very fast, so you tend to get to your destination far more quickly. If you want to walk up and talk to the pilots (there tend to be two on jets) you can. The JetSuite jets have screen-based avionics, which is kind of like looking at a three-screen gaming computer. They show planes in your areas, topology (a virtual image of the Earth’s surface around you) and I kept looking for the button that would fire the weapons. There wasn’t one. This is all stuff you just can’t do on a commercial jet. You can even have your pets (plural) with you in the cabin on the flight.

Cheaper but not cheap

Private jets typically cost in excess of $6,000 an hour to use, and most existing programs require fractional ownership as well. This means just for the privilege of flying them you have to buy an interest in one, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars initially and thousands a month. A friend of mine owns a dual-turboprop plane: The plane cost into seven figures, and keeping it up and flying it has a similar cost. Even more costly are the private jets.

Interestingly, these jets average about 700 miles a trip. The longer the trip, the less sense they make, because the TSA time becomes shrinking fraction of the time used. That’s why you often see celebrities who could fly private Jets on commercial flights for long-distance trips.

JetSuite is cheaper by comparison, but clearly not cheap. You don’t need to buy a fractional ownership, but you’re looking at $3,000 an hour for the entire plane. If you get two couples, that comes down to $750 a person. But they also often have to bring the plane back empty or partially empty, and those seats can cost as little as $450. The only issue is that you have to be ready to travel when they fly, and it is only one way.

The ultimate limo ride

Most of us wouldn’t do this regularly, but imagine that perfect date: A limo picks you and your date up, takes you to the plane, the plane whisks you to another city. There, you are met with another limo, and head out to dinner or a show. The return trip much the same way, and if you are traveling with another couple, you could likely do the whole thing for under $4,500. It would be the date of a lifetime. For that night you are living the life of a billionaire, and if you truly wanted to impress that special person, I can’t think of a more amazing night.

JetSuite parked airport

For those of us in business, JetSuite has more practical applications, too. For instance, a typical two-day trip with hotel rooms can be cut down to one day, based on time saved from bypassing TSA and in the air. Taken against hotel costs for three or four people coupled with commercial flight costs, the JetSuite approach is comparable, particularly when you take into account the time saved.

Wrapping up

The real downside to flying JetSuite is how much you’ll hate commercial flying afterward. My trip reminded me how much fun and how convenient it used to be to travel. You just have no sense for how bad things have become on commercial airlines until you take one of these trips. In the future, JetSuite will have more planes (it has around 15 flying now), more interesting destinations (like Belize), larger planes (seating for up to seven), and an app that will alert you to deals (like that $450 ticket). There is already a site where folks picking you up can see the exact location of the plane you are flying.

Right now, JetSuite is an adventure. My hope is that eventually it will become my primary mode of travel. Until then, if you want to impress that special person or just need to get someplace a few hundred miles away very quickly, it is an option you likely didn’t know you had.

Guest contributor Rob Enderle is the founder and principal analyst for the Enderle Group, and one of the most frequently quoted tech pundits in the world. Opinion pieces denote the opinions of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of Digital Trends.

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not reflect the beliefs of Digital Trends.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Photography

Get your Sagan on with 60 awe-inspiring photos of the final frontier

Few things instill a sense of wonder quite like the final frontier. The best space photos show off the beauty of Earth, our solar system, and the far corners of the universe. Here are our current favorites.
Business

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.
Cars

Ambitious but not rubbish: The best 'Top Gear' episodes

Since its relaunch in 2002, 'Top Gear' has become required viewing for any serious gearhead. The great moments from this show may seem too numerous to count, but we've managed to pick some of the highlights from the first 25 seasons.
Smart Home

Hosting Thanksgiving but not sure where to begin? Try a Thanksgiving meal kit

Need a Thanksgiving meal, but short on time or expertise? Here are the best Thanksgiving meal kits to help you out. They either give you all the ingredients and instructions, or provide a full Thanksgiving meal that you just have to heat.
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.
Smart Home

Picture this: The Aura packs thousands of photos in a single frame (for a price)

Are you one of those people who miss the good old days of flipping through photo albums to see each and every favorite photo? If so, you might love the Aura digital photo frame. We tested the device and came away impressed.
Product Review

Amazon's new Echo is smaller and cheaper; firmware upgrade improves sound

The all-new Echo is shorter, cuter, and comes with several different color and fabric choices. Our Amazon Echo review reveals that while the acoustics initially weren't great upon release, a firmware upgrade has improved the sound.
Deals

The best iRobot Roomba deals to make cleaning your home a breeze

Keep your home clean without lifting a finger using a robot vacuum cleaner. These nine iRobot Roomba deals not only help you keep your home tidy, but many also come with advanced features such as automatic scheduling and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Smart Home

The best washing machines make laundry day a little less of a chore

It takes a special kind of person to love doing laundry, but the right machine can help make this chore a little easier. Check out our picks for the best washing machines on the market right now.
Smart Home

This old-school bus is now a solar-powered home on wheels

Michael Fuehrer of Nowhere Navigation decided to gut an old yellow school bus and turned it into a tiny home on wheels, complete with a full kitchen and shower inside and a solar panel on top.
Smart Home

Cloud slime, butter slime, scented slime -- we have your next DIY project covered

We researched dozens of different ingredients and tried several slime recipes. While some recipes are generally pretty safe, others are questionable at best. Which recipes should you use, and which should you avoid?
Product Review

Tovala cooks delicious, idiotproof meals healthier than takeout. For a price

The Tovala Steam Oven is a countertop appliance that can serve up dinner in about 20 minutes with zero prep. The drawback is that the ready-to-heat meals, while tasty, are $12 each.
News

Drinkworks and Keurig have created a pod-based cocktail machine

HomeBar, a collaboration between Drinkworks and Keurig, creates cocktails the easy way. The machine creates mixed drinks of all kinds. All you have to do is insert in the pod for the drink you want.