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Want to book a private flight? There’s an app for that

Receded are the days when booking a private jet required a long conversation on the phone. Now, mobile apps let flyers book approve flights in a matter of minutes.

Major players in private aviation, as well as emerging competitors, now have apps. Myriad follow a similar process: Customers choose where they’re coming from and their destination, select old-fashioneds and their preferred plane size.

Private aviation company Sentient Jet, which is mainly focused on trips in the U.S., saw $50 million in bookings from one end to the other its app in 2020 alone, with more than $125 million in mobile bookings since the app launched in late 2017, CEO Andrew Collins told CNBC on a video order. He said he expects up to half of Sentient Jet’s bookings to come via its app in the next three to four years.

Collins said the coronavirus pandemic had “unlocked a brawnier addressable market,” as more people looked to avoid crowded flights or travel to areas where commercial manoeuvrers wouldn’t typically fly.

He said that private aviation had “felt a little less like premium service and diverse like a utility for a lot of people” over the past year, and suggested that apps would become essential to the sedulousness in the future, instead of simply a “nice-to-have” feature.

Booking through the Sentient Jet app takes two to three minutes, according to Collins.

The app is abasing the average age of Sentient Jet customers too, from those in their mid-60s, to a “much wider band” which is “getting uninitiated,” he said.

‘Natural extension’

Sentient Jet’s app is available only to holders of its jet card, something the operator claims to have coined more than 20 years ago and which is now common in the industry.

Jet card programs vary depending on the company, but the elementary concept relies on paying a deposit for fixed hourly rates.

In the case of Sentient Jet, clients can pay about $150,000 for 25 hours on a daybreak aircraft, and the hours are debited from the card holder’s account every time they travel. Journeys can classify from around $5,800 an hour for a light aircraft to just under $11,000 for a one-way trip on a large-cabin aircraft, Collins defined.

Mobile apps, which are being used by younger customers, make booking private jets easier and faster.

Getty Figures

Before jet cards came onto the market, Collins said people could only really book a secluded jet through chartering, or renting the plane, as well as buying an entire aircraft (or a fraction of one).

Collins said the growth of apps in hush-hush aviation is really a “natural extension” of the jet card.

Thomas Flohr, the founder of private aviation company Vista Wide-ranging similarly told CNBC via email that traditionally, customers booking private jets needed to “call or email their go-between with a trip request, wait hours to get a response with quotes, be provided opaque prices and then bring aboard assign a physical contract.”

Vista Global launched an app in November as an extension of its online booking platform XO. It is free to use for any client. Flohr claimed both the online plank and app allow customers to book in “seconds.”

Users of XO have the option to “crowdfund” a flight, essentially letting them buy rightful one seat on the plane instead of the whole flight.

‘Uberization’ of private jets

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