Last updated: 11:00 AM ET, Wed April 06 2016

A New Airline Brings Private Air Travel to the Public

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | April 06, 2016

A New Airline Brings Private Air Travel to the Public

A new airline could help to bridge the gap between commercial carriers and private jets. JetSuiteX is an airline created by the on-demand charter and private jet company JetSuite. In late April, JetSuiteX will begin offering scheduled flights.

The airline will officially be a public charter service, but it will operate much like a regular commercial carrier with scheduled service.

Initial service will be quite limited. The airline will start by offering one to two flights per day between Los Angeles and the Bay Area. JetSuiteX planes will take off from Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and land at Buchanan Field, which is in the northeastern part of the Bay Area, about 30 miles from the heart of San Francisco.

JetSuite has purchased its first 10 aircraft from American Eagle. The 10 Embraer ERJ 135s can hold 30 passengers each. These planes are primarily used by regional airlines, and they have a range of about 2,000 miles.

The aircraft are currently in the process of being renovated. They will have a private jet-style interior and no overhead baggage compartments, which will give the cabin a more-spacious feel. The planes will also have extra soundproofing.

The first JetSuiteX flight hasn’t taken off yet, but the company already thinks it is one of the first in what could be a very profitable niche. The next step in its plan is to fly from both Bob Hope and Buchanan to Phoenix, Las Vegas and San Diego.

It will keep costs down by flying into secondary airports whenever possible. For example, it will use the runway at Phoenix-Mesa Airport instead of flying into the much larger Phoenix Sky Harbor.

READ MORE: Could Private Jet Vacations Be The Future of Luxury Travel?

What about competition?

Los Angeles-San Francisco is one of the country’s busiest routes. That will actually work in JetSuiteX’s favor. Its planes only have 30 seats, and last year LA-Bay Area routes had 3.6 million fliers. Even if it only gets a tiny fraction of those passengers, the new airline will be able to fill its planes every day.

Other airlines are trying to offer a cheaper private jet experience. However, most of them operate on a membership business model, where fliers pay a set fee every month and then get to take as many flights as they want. JetSuiteX will be a bit more accessible to regular fliers because of its commercial-airline-like fares.

There could be some pitfalls for fliers. First of all, with only one or two flights per day, passengers may end up stuck if a flight is canceled due to poor weather. Because of the out-of-the-way airports, there may not even be an option to book passengers on the canceled flight on another airline. This will be less of an issue if there is enough demand for four or five flights per day. This would provide a bit more leeway as far as rebooking passengers.

On the other hand, since JetSuiteX will operate much like a private jet service, passengers will be able to bypass the commercial terminal at the airports. In the age of understaffed TSA checkpoints and frequent gate changes, that might be the biggest selling point for JetSuiteX. The airline will provide its own security, and passengers will be screened and have to show a valid ID before boarding.

How much will this cost? Introductory fares will start at $109 one way, and JetSuiteX CEO Alex Wilcox suggests that the “sweet spot” for LA-Bay Area flights is about $250. That’s well below the cost of a private jet and not much more than the same flight on a commercial carrier. 


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