Friday, May 20, 2011

Spotlight Review on JetSuite

Of all the new players in the constant-changing world of air charter, an operator by the name of JetSuite seems to have put together a product offering that is truly innovative and ground-breaking. Sure, other companies have made claims about making air charter more affordable, but at $999 one way on some flights for the entire airplane, JetSuite definitely appears to be "walking the walk". If that weren't enough, one can also take advantage of last minute empty leg flights offered by the company for as low as $499. This is all happening in the context of an economy that continues to struggle. One has to wonder if this type of business model will be sustainable. (That's another way of saying, better get while the getting is good!)

Surprisingly, the keys to JetSuite's apparent success seem very straightforward - use of a modern fleet (Embraer's Phenom 100), a limited service area (US West Coast) and smart marketing and promotion. Still, espousing a strategy and successfully executing it are two different things. This company is definitely worth a closer look.

One of JetSuite's Phenom 100s - gotta like that red stripe!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Virgin Galactic et al Continue To Make Progress on Space Tourism Goal

While still a couple of years from commercial launch, Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic space flight company continue to make steady progress towards their goal of taking tourists into space. Just recently, a BBC journalist was given an exclusive first look inside the spacecraft.

Despite the cramped space, Virgin claims to have deposits from 400 customers who are willing to shell-out $200K each for the two hour flight that will include at least five minutes of weightlessness. And, the view from what is essentially the Kármán Line and 62 miles above terra firma? It promises to be spectacular for those willing to make such a large gamble, both in terms of cost and the inherent risk associated with space flight.

Of course Virgin is not the only company looking to exploit the final frontier. Their space initiative seems to be just the tip of the proverbial iceberg...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Per-Seat, On-Demand (PSOD) Air Charter is Here to Stay

Per-seat, on-demand (PSOD) - an air charter acronym and new business model coined by the now-defunct DayJet air taxi company - has certainly taken its share of lumps but the concept is seemingly here to stay. The premise is a simple one. On any given private jet flight, an air charter operator sells a single seat on a as opposed to the entire airplane. The operator derives more business while the (presumably new) customer gets a seat on a private jet for a price similar to that of a full-fare airline coach ticket. So far, the PSOD concept and business model has proven to be as elusive as the quest for the Holy Grail. Besides DayJet, the aviation graveyard is littered with the remains of numerous other companies such as POGO, SATSair, FlyMiwok, etc. who tried but ultimately failed in refining the PSOD idea.
(For the right price, who wouldn't want this Gulfstream seat?)
So why did DayJet & Co. fail at selling charter seats? And, probably more importantly, why are others companies still trying to get blood from the same turnip? Upon closer inspection, DayJet used the Internet to allow customers to propose when/where wanted to go; and, with the help of proprietary scheduling software (now part of DayJet Technologies), this data was aggregated - the end result being an air taxi flight with multiple disparate passengers. The Department of Transportation (DOT) has used the term "opaque aggregation" as another way of describing the PSOD concept. Single travelers propose their travel preferences but they can not see the preferences of other travelers. If they did, that might be interpreted as a scheduled flight - a huge no-no in the regulated world of air charter. DayJet's ultimate downfall may have been the result of the mystery surrounding the new booking process. Also, in the context of a deteriorating economy, DayJet was targeting an entirely new market segment - one that puts a premium on customer education.