Private jet operator JetSuite has launched JetSuiteX, a new public charter air carrier offering new service options for travelers living in the Bay Area and greater Los Angeles. The carrier will start weekday flights between the Bay Area’s Buchanan Field in Concord, California, Bob Hope Airport in Burbank, California, starting April 19, and to Las Vegas on April 22.
The Concord-Burbank service will start with three round-trip flights daily on a 30-seat Embraer 135 regional jet, with introductory fares starting from just $109 each way. The carrier will fly also fly to Las Vegas on Friday nights, returning to Concord on Sunday afternoons. On June 30, JetSuiteX will add up to four round trips per week between San Jose Mineta International Airport and Bozeman, Montana.
The management team behind JetSuiteX includes principles that launched JetBlue, including CEO Alex Wilcox, who was one of JetBlue’s founding management and the airline’s third employee.
“When you look at traffic numbers between major western market city pairs, comparing 2000 to 2013 (the last year we have full Department of Transportation numbers), you see that the Los Angeles-San Francisco route has lost three million passengers per year. And LA-Las Vegas has lost a million air travelers on the route in the same period,” said Wilcox.
But looking at road traffic, cars driving between the two cities are up, accounting for the million missing and maybe more, said Wilcox. “Ultimately, with longer security lines and fuller flights, travel time when flying has increased and it's having a negative impact on traveler numbers,” he noted.
LA-San Francisco is a huge route, and JetSuiteX can bring a different option to travelers at a competitive price, said Wilcox. “We chose Concord because it’s a great airport in a community where a lot of business travelers live, near Walnut Creek,” he said. “Why get up at 4 a.m. to commute via BART or drive to one of the other Bay Area airports when there’s a great option to LA just minutes down the street?”
The old Pacific Southwest Airlines (PSA) used to serve Concord to LA five times a day, said Wilcox. “It’s a proven market that has been abandoned because it doesn’t meet the requirements of major carriers, and the market is too small and the runway too short for the new ultra-low-cost carriers,” he said. “Plus the weather and flying environment can’t be beat. Southwest waited 30 years before heading east.”
There are two main options to flying within California, said Wilcox. “Hiring a private jet at one end, or flying Southwest (usually) on the other,” he said. Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Virgin America also do some intra-California flying.
“JetSuiteX is adding a third option – public charter -- a private jet style experience that’s priced around that of a commercial seat,” said Wilcox. “With JetSuiteX, you fly from private jet facilities with no lines or waits so your trip time is much, much faster.”
Wilcox, also the CEO of private jet operator JetSuite, said that company is still doing great. “In fact, we just had one of our best quarters ever. JetSuiteX is a sister brand, offering a different but complementary product,” he said. “We’ve heard from our clients for years that they wanted larger planes to charter, so this aircraft foots the bill on many fronts. We expect our JetSuite clients will fly both brands, but there will many more people we can reach with JetSuiteX.
“We have a lot of opportunity in the west to get to first,” said Wilcox. “But we could add equivalent routes in the east within 18 months or so.”
What Makes JetSuiteX So Special
JetSuiteX will provide many of the comforts usually associated with private jet travel but for the price of a traditional airline seat, including:
- 30 luxurious seats per aircraft, each with at least 36-inch seat pitch, comparable to domestic airlines’ business class service;
- Three seats per row—a single and a double—offering additional space with a side table that may be used for work or play;
- Free WiFi and inflight entertainment onboard streamed to passengers’ personal devices; and
- Service only out of private jet terminals so the experience will be faster and more comfortable, with no major airport delays, security lines, or long walks through giant terminals.
JetSuite X had a unique opportunity to purchase a fleet of 10 Embraer ERJ-135s and make them unlike anything else on the market,” said Wilcox. “We’ve put $1 million worth of upgrades into each aircraft to make them more like a bigger version of our smaller private jets.”
Unlike other alternative carriers, JetSuiteX clients don’t need to sign up and pay for a monthly subscription or travel in small propeller airplanes. And in a partnership with JetBlue, JetSuiteX customers can earn TrueBlue points good for free award travel on the New York-based carrier.
With the acquisition of 10 Embraer E135 jets, the operator is branching out into public charter service, where a private jet experience may actually be purchased by a single seat. JetSuite will also use the new aircraft for private charter, where the whole jet may be chartered for around $8,000 per hour (or just $300 per person per hour for a group of 30).
The advertising campaign, “Private for the Public,” reflects a private jet experience that is now affordable and accessible to a broad audience, said Wilcox. “It covers advertising print, digital and outdoors opportunities, heavy PR and media, as well as major brand partnerships rolling out including JetBlue, our TrueBlue loyalty partner, community outreach and business development,” he said.
Additional routes to be announced soon to major western markets, including San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. “We’re looking at airports in major markets in the west for now. Anywhere we can give travelers a better travel option,” said Wilcox
“We feel that once people try JetSuiteX, word of mouth is going to be massive but we first we have to let people know about us and give them a reason to make that first flight booking,” said Wilcox. A great product -- 36 inches of legroom, free Gogo Wi-Fi and entertainment, even free adult beverages – and a time saver -- airports that are less congested, with no lines, where you can get to the airport just before your flight – for a great price, starting at $109 each way between LA and SF East Bay.
It’s tough combination to beat.”