JetsuiteX Wants to Take the "Bling" Out of Jet Travel
JetSuiteX started selling tickets for the first batch of regional flights from Santa Monica Airport to Las Vegas, San Jose and San Diego County even as the Westside airport remains mired in controversy.
The world of chartered private jets has long been the restricted domain of pop stars and plutocrats. But a new public jet-chartering service, with slightly less bling, launched this week at Santa Monica Airport, offering residents who are sick of slogging it out at LAX with an entirely new option. But with the future of the Santa Monica Airport in legal limbo, this new service will certainly get off the ground but its airtime might be somewhat limited.
Tickets for the first batch of seats on JetSuiteX flights, which will be servicing fliers in and out of Santa Monica Airport for short haul flights went on sale on this week, some for as low as $29. Initially, destinations from Santa Monica will be limited to include Las Vegas, San Jose and San Diego County (Carlsbad). But at a press conference Wednesday, JetSuiteX CEO Alex Wilcox said the list of destinations serviced out of Santa Monica would grow. The company is currently operating out of Burbank airport and flights out Santa Monica will start in February.
The business surrounding jet chartering is a challenging one and several companies have attempted to address the extremely prohibitive costs that come with it. Companies like Netjets and Sentient Jets have adopted the model where clients can take a fractional ownership or shares in private business jets. JetSuiteX has taken the democratization of jet travel a step further and has adopted a model that somewhat resembles Uber Pool, only for regional air travel.
A recent test flight that took press outlets on a 25-minute jaunt up to Ventura County and back on one of JetSuiteX’s Embraer135 aircrafts went off without a hitch. The plane was clean, spacious and offered ample leg room with power outlets at each seat and when fully operational will offer free WiFi. Beverages, including alcoholic ones, will be offered as well, which will be welcome news to anyone heading to Vegas for a weekend trip (at least on the way there). One-way flights to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport from Santa Monica will start at $99.
What might make JetSuiteX most compelling to frequent regional travelers will be the ability to further avoid LAX, which has come under fire for a litany of complaints including a lack of terminal seating, poor food choices, cleanliness, staff friendliness and immigration lines. In its annual study of North American airport satisfaction that included the 31 largest U.S. airports J.D. Power ranked LAX 29th. Wilcox said fliers on JetSuiteX will be subject to standard pre-flight background checks and will be required to show up 15 minutes before takeoff time.
There is one hitch, though. By partnering up with Atlantic Aviation, which is one of Santa Monica’s fixed base operators — known as FBOs, which provide aircraft services, fuel, flight instruction, hangars and other amenities— JetSuiteX is inserting itself into an extremely fraught legal situation that centers on the future of the Santa Monica Airport itself. On Tuesday the Federal Aviation Administration ordered the city of Santa Monica to halt its planned evictions of two aviation companies including Atlantic Aviation.
Santa Monica City Council voted to shut down two private FBOs operating at the airport and in September sent eviction notices to Atlantic Aviation and American Flyer and filed lawsuits against both tenants to regain possession of the property. Both FBOs have reportedly since filed countersuits against the city and the FAA has since entered the fracas.
Airport proponents say the city, in an effort to ultimately shut down the airport, is trying to starve the airport of all of the services necessary to operate robust flight operations. Opponents of the airport have long lamented the airport’s noise pollution, and what they claim are harmful emissions from aircraft engines.