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Innovative Companies Offer a New Way to Travel

New companies, innovative concepts and different aircraft are changing the face of charter, jet cards and fractional ownership.

While time rather than the cost of an airline ticket remains the dominant factor in calculating value, hybrid models are actually bringing the cost of private travel benefits down to the level of commercial airfares. The organizations profiled below boast top industry safety ratings and offer a range of small-cabin aircraft perfect for short to medium-range trips.

EXECUTIVE AIRSHARE
plane-exec-airshareExecutive AirShare, with its unique day-based—rather than hour-based—fractional program, carved a niche throughout Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas and the Great Lakes region. While the company’s fleet of twin-turboprop King Air 350s and four-passenger Embraer Phenom 100 jets offers economy and agility serving these regional markets, Executive AirShare’s fleet of six-passenger PHENOM 300s, seven-passenger Cessna CJ2s and nine-passenger Learjet 45XRs can reach anywhere across the nation, the Caribbean, Mexico and Canada.

Although Executive AirShare fractional owners are limited to a specific number of flying days annually, they can fly as many hours and to as many locations as they like in a day just by paying the fixed hourly rate. The smallest fraction available is a one-sixteenth share, giving owners their choice of 20 flying days per year over the five-year contract period. A one-eighth share equates to 40 annual days. Conventional fractional programs offer 50 and 100 hours, respectively, for similar share sizes.

If you flew more than one hour—15-minute, out-and-back trips on average for each of 20 travel days—for example, you would easily exceed a conventional program’s 50-hour allocation. So, the day-based idea offers exceptional value by allowing owners to visit more places in a day without concern for an arbitrary hour-allocation. Most Executive AirShare owners use that opportunity to great advantage.

PLANESENSE
plane-planesenseBased in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, PlaneSense is a regional-based, fractional ownership program that offers some of the lowest aircraft acquisition costs in the nation. The company, which operates one of the world’s largest fleets of PILATUS PC-12 single-engine turboprops throughout the Northeast and as far south as Florida, chose this unique aircraft because of its low operating cost, superior reliability, exceptional short field performance and comfortable seating for nine passengers.

The PC-12 can land on some of the shortest runways and unprepared landing strips inaccessible to even the smallest jets. Owners in the Northeast fly regularly into the 2,300-foot runway on Fishers Island, off the Connecticut coast, and the 2,500-foot runway at Block Island. While the PC-12 cruises about 125 mph slower than many small jets, most flights around the Northeast are less than 500 miles so, compared to faster jets, trip times differ by mere minutes.

To serve owners needing longer trip capability, PlaneSense placed orders for Pilatus’s recently developed, small-cabin, seven-passenger PC-24 twinjet, which will debut in 2017. This new jet is the ideal complement to the PC-12 turboprop fleet. With remarkable versatility and short-field performance combined with non-stop range two-thirds of the way across the nation, the PC-24 will rival anything in its class.

WHEELS UP
plane-wheelsupBased in the Northeast, Wheels Up is a unique membership program that offers flexible options and guaranteed availability on its fleet of KING AIR 350i TWIN TURBOPROPS, which are ideal for regional flights, and Citation Excel/XLS jets offering near coast-to-coast range.

Wheels Up members pay an initiation fee followed by an annual renewal plus a fixed pay-as-you-fly rate for occupied hours flown. Members can book flights using the Wheels Up mobile phone app, manage their accounts or select value-priced, short-notice “hotflights,” which are otherwise-empty repositioning flights that are advertised online. In addition, Wheels Up offers a card program with attractive hourly rates lower than rates on the regular membership plan, but it does require a deposit on future travel.

NICHOLAS AIR
plane-nicholasairNicholas Air, which specializes in jet cards, jet leasing and jet shares, offers an enhanced level of consistency, service and safety by using its exclusively owned and operated fleet of single-engine Pilatus PC-12 turboprops, Embraer Phenom 100 and Phenom 300 jets, plus the new CESSNA CITATION LATITUDE.

The company offers two jet card varieties, each with all-inclusive pricing, no repositioning fees and guaranteed availability. Uniquely, both card programs require a minimum of only one-hour usage per day, not per flight.

The Blue Jet Card, available in 15-, 30- or 60-hour increments, is designed for members who utilize the same aircraft type for most of their travel, but occasionally need to exchange hours for a larger or smaller aircraft.

The Rise Card is designed for those whose needs vary from trip to trip. Rise members can select any aircraft type in the fleet for any trip; however, they pay a slight premium to gain that flexibility. The Rise Card is deposit-, not hour-based, the cash balance is reduced as you fly, and larger deposits accrue a lower per-hour cost.

ASSOCIATED AIRCRAFT GROUP
plane-associatedAssociated Aircraft Group (AAG), owned by helicopter manufacturer Sikorsky Aircraft, operates, manages and maintains the largest fleet of SIKORSKY S-76 helicopters in the Northeast. In addition to on-demand charter, AAG is an exclusive provider of fractional shares in the S-76.

This quiet, spacious twin-jet helicopter offers seating for six to seven passengers in an interior resembling a corporate jet. All AAG helicopters, which are always flown by two pilots, feature latest-generation avionics that enhance safety in virtually any weather conditions.

AAG’s unique fractional ownership program, called Sikorsky Shares, makes helicopter flying practical and affordable. For the cost of a share, your helicopter is guaranteed when and where you need it, anywhere between Boston and Washington, DC.

The AAG Excalibur Card eliminates the need for a capital investment and long-term commitment, but it does require a prepayment for desired flight time. Availability is guaranteed and fixed, one-way, per-hour rates apply.

JETSUITE
Created by JetBlue co-founder Alex Wilcox, JetSuite debuted six years ago with an innovative charter service that brings a new level of accessibility and affordability to the skies. Like an airborne Yellow Cab, JetSuite democratized private air travel. Now, the company is taking off with a new service that allows booking a seat instead of an airplane.

JetSuite operates an all-WiFi-equipped fleet of 10 identical four-passenger Embraer Phenom 100 jets, which are available for charter between any locations across the West, Southwest and Texas. A WiFi-equipped fleet of eight longer-range, six-passenger CESSNA CJ3 jets provides service east of the Mississippi. The aircraft types were chosen for speed, reliability and economy, which are essential elements in JetSuite’s economical charter rates.

Exact one-way pricing between nearly 2,000 airports across the U.S. is available instantly through JetSuite’s website. Click on your desired itinerary and departure time and your trip is confirmed and guaranteed at the price shown. In addition, since you are paying for the plane, not the seat, four (or six) can fly for the same cost.

Although any city pairs are available, if you fly between hundreds of favored JetSuite airports, your cost will be lower. Flying roundtrip gets you a larger discount; and, if you become a SuiteKey Member, the deals get even better. With SuiteKey, there are no membership fees or annual charges. Simply deposit funds in advance for future travel. The larger the deposit the greater the discount, and members also receive a range of additional benefits.

For truly rock-bottom pricing, try SuiteDeals—something that JetSuite pioneered. Ultra-low-cost, short-notice, one-way trips are announced in real-time via social media for repositioning flights that would normally be empty. If the flight fits your schedule, you won’t find a lower cost to fly anywhere.

JetSuite’s latest innovation is JetSuiteX, which offers scheduled by-the-seat charter aboard Embraer ERJ 135 airliners reconfigured with an executive jet interior and seating for 30 passengers. The new service offers private flying amenities with airline seat pricing.

While you can book a seat at JetSuiteX.com just like an airline flight, the commercial travel similarity ends there. JetSuiteX passengers depart from a private terminal, and they need to arrive only 15 minutes before the flight.

By year-end, five E135s will be operating three times per day  between Burbank, California, and Las Vegas as well as Concord, in the East Bay and San Jose, California, with fares ranging from $129 to $290 each way. Additional flights are planned between San Jose and Bozeman, Montana, and Wilcox expects similar service in the Northeast within a year.

Even Trae Chancellor, co-founder of ExpertCity, the company responsible for GoToMeeting (virtual meeting software designed around the idea that maybe you really don’t need to travel), is a big believer in JetSuite. “We have gotten so involved in technology [that] what we’ve forgotten is the most important thing: the human element,” he says. “We need to interact, but commercial travel makes that so difficult.”

JetSuite helped Chancellor see the light. The simplicity of the model offered what he needed: affordability and efficiency, plus fast, comfortable, nonstop flights. “The personal service and attention to detail is enormous,” he explains. “This gave me time back. It is invaluable. I can take my team with me, prep for a meeting and, with WiFi on board, I have easy access to wherever I need to go. The added efficiency and the opportunity pay for the flight many times over.”

About Mark Patiky

Mark Patiky
Mark Patiky’s aviation background spans four decades including writing and editing for more than a dozen international and U.S. aviation publications as well as Fortune, Forbes, ForbesBusinessAviation.com and Business Aviation Voice on Forbes.com. He has written a book on investing in Star Wars technology and currently owns and flies his own airplane, which he uses extensively for business.