For most people, traveling in a private jet is not something we can realistically expect to enjoy in our lifetimes. Short of a lottery win or one of our children marrying a footballer, the vast majority of us will only ever get to gaze on at the private jet crowd and wonder what it must be like.
But one company is aiming to open up this means of travel to more people. In fact, its members are already enjoying private jet flights across the US from just $449.95 one way. It’s not the first company to offer private jet time to regular fliers, but it has a unique way of approaching it.
Set Jet is a membership-based private jet operator based in Scottsdale, Arizona. According to ch-aviation, it operates two Challenger 850s, one Challenger 800 and a pair of CRJ-200s. It seeks to bridge the gap between flying in a premium cabin domestically and having a truly luxurious experience on a private jet.
Flying private for under $500
Set Jet works on a membership basis. Passengers can sign up for a membership subscription of $99.95 per month, plus a one-off ‘security fee’ of the same, and then will have access to book flights on Set Jet’s private aircraft. The airline limits the number of memberships available in any area, to ensure passengers can get a seat when they want one.
The airline flies a fairly limited route network at present, connecting Las Vegas, Scottsdale, San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles and San Francisco. All in all, there are 11 routes to choose from, although not all routes are daily.
However, once a member initiates a flight by paying their $449.95 fare, the flight is guaranteed to operate. Even if no other Set Jet passengers sign up for the service, the airline will perform the route just for that one person. Flyers can book their spot on the private jet from as little as 30 minutes prior to departure.
The airline’s flagship aircraft is the Bombardier Challenger 850. Its specifically customized to an ultra-VIP layout, with capacity for up to 15 or 16 onboard, depending on the specific aircraft. The interiors, as you would expect, are luxuriously appointed, in line with private jets of the highest caliber.
But how does it make money?
You would think that flying even a full load of $450 paying passengers would only be profitable by the skin of its teeth, so how can Set Jet survive if it’s occasionally flying just one person? But Set Jet has made some smart decisions, and is essentially a low-cost airline flying in king’s robes.
Trey Smith, Set Jet’s chief operating officer, told Insider that the foundation of its profitable business model is about the choice of aircraft. The Challenger 850 is essentially the same as a CRJ200, and parts are interchangeable. As Smith told Insider,
“If you go to buy a set of brakes for a Challenger 604 and you tell them you’re buying them for a Challenger 604, it’s going to be a $55,000 set of brakes. You go to buy a set of brakes for a CRJ200 – same brakes, same part, different part number – it’s $5,000.”
Also essential to the model is the subscription-based membership plan. Set Jet has thousands of members paying the sub-$100 fee each month, offsetting the cost of the flights for others and keeping the pennies rolling in for the airline. Smith says that membership numbers have soared amid COVID, as passengers look for ways to get around that don’t involve mixing with hundreds of strangers.
It’s an interesting model, and so far is working out very well. Set Jet plans to expand into the transcontinental market next year, flying from New York to Los Angeles. This, it says, will require a higher tier of membership – around $1,000 per month – with a higher fare of some $3,500 per flight. For this route, it is acquiring an Embraer Lineage 1000, a private jet based on the E190.
Would you fly private if it was this affordable?