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Even if you’re not a multimillionaire who has the funds to travel the world at the drop of a hat, it’s still possible to enjoy the high life when it comes to air travel. Over the last several years, the rise of private jet charters has become more mainstream, making private flying accessible to everyday people.
According to recent stats, the average growth of the charter flight industry was 3.8% from 2015-2020 and it’s expected to continue growing. One of the most popular companies that has been part of this $29 billion industry is JetSuite.
In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn all about this private aviation company, including how it works, what it costs, and the benefits of using this service. You’ll also discover several top alternatives to JetSuite. But first, let’s review what it means to fly private.
- What Does Flying Private Mean?
- What Is JetSuite?
- How It Works and What It Costs
- JetSuite Membership Benefits
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Flying Private Mean?
Flying private refers to any flight that’s not scheduled by a commercial airline. You can rent the entire plane, own a piece of it (much like a timeshare), or you can join a member-based program and book private flights on-demand.
While owning a private jet is still an extravagance of the ultra-rich, these days you really don’t need more than a couple of thousand dollars to book a private jet charter flight. (And in some cases, such as “empty leg” flights, you only need a few hundred bucks.) For more details, be sure to check out this guide on how to find cheap private flights.
What Is JetSuite?
JetSuite is a private jet charter company that offers chartered private jet flights for travelers. Founded in 2006 by CEO Alex Wilcox (who was also a founding executive of JetBlue Airways), JetSuite is headquartered in Dallas, Texas.
As the company restructured, expanded, and honed its focus on being a leader in the private jet industry, it raised funding and elevated its profile. In 2011, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh invested $7 million as a way to increase the number of flights between San Francisco and Las Vegas.
In 2016, the company launched JetSuiteX, eventually rebranding it to the simplified JSX. Unlike JetSuite’s approach, which caters to travelers who book the entire aircraft, JSX defined itself as a “hop-on jet service” for short flights between Arizona, California, Nevada, and Washington.
In 2018, JetSuite raised additional funding with investments by Qatar Airways and JetBlue. However, as of April 28, 2020, JetSuite announced that it had voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to Chief Restructuring Officer Ted Gavin, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic caused JetSuite’s revenues to “drop to near zero.” (See the full announcement on the company’s website, jetsuite.com.)
What Happens If JetSuite Goes Out of Business?
While JetSuite has sought bankruptcy protection and hopes to eventually resume operations, only time will tell if JetSuite will ever get its planes back up in the skies. In the meantime, here are four alternatives for you to consider.
- JSX: As of May 2020, JSX is still in operation. You can book a seat on flights that cover the Bay Area, Greater Los Angeles region, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.
- Wheels Up: Travelers can choose from three membership types on Wheels Up, which caters to occasional flyers, frequent flyers, and businesses. The company recently partnered with Delta Private Jets to expand service.
- XO: The XO platform allows on-demand flight booking for an entire private jet, a shared charter, or flights by the seat. You can opt for one of four memberships or pay as you go.
- Blade: Along with jet charters, Blade offers helicopter and seaplane flights for short-distance trips in popular destinations across the West Coast, New York, and the Hamptons.
How It Works and What It Costs
As a private aviation company, JetSuite offers charter flights on its fleet of light jets that includes Embraer Phenom 100s and Phenom 300s. There are no initiation or membership fees like other charter flight platforms such as Wheels Up.
While you don’t have to be a member to charter a JetSuite plane, the company does offer SuiteKey programs, which start at $100,000 and increase incrementally to $250,000 and $500,000. It’s hardly an affordable rate for the average Joe, but for the well-heeled or high-powered corporate traveler, the convenience and access is worth the investment. In regards to what owning a private jet actually costs, this is a good deal.
For these non-refundable deposits, jet cardholders are guaranteed availability for booking flights within a 24-month period. Once a trip is completed — typical prices range from $6,776 to $6,375 per hour, excluding a 7.5% airline ticket tax — the amount of the flight is debited from the member’s account.
JetSuite also offers occasional discounts. For members, it waives flight changing fees, offers an extended grace period, and grants a more flexible cancellation policy. In May 2019, JetSuite partnered with luxury travel agency Embark Beyond to expand its offerings for jet-setters. While it has since put this program on hiatus, the partnership was intended to provide concierge services and high-end experiences ranging from lavish hotel stays and itineraries to VIP access for special events.
JetSuite Membership Benefits
Like other private jet companies, JetSuite affords its customers a number of benefits. Here are some advantages of traveling with this charter flight service.
According to the JetSuite website, the airline has safely operated over 111,000 flights since 2009. It also received a platinum safety rating — the highest level possible — by ARGUS International, the audit organization for charter operators.
Arguably the most lauded part of JetSuite (or any private jet travel experience for that matter) is the hassle-free experience. There are no long check-in lines, no TSA screenings, no crowded terminals, no baggage check, and no need to show up at least an hour before your flight. In many cases, you can simply show up 15 minutes before takeoff. Depending on the airport, you may also enjoy the ease and luxury of private jet terminals.
Along with the conveniences before getting on board, JetSuite passengers enjoy in-cabin amenities including free Wi-Fi, drinks, and snacks. There’s also more legroom, no middle seats, and conveniently located power outlets. In 2019, the company had announced they were adding luxury upgrades such as blankets and designer amenity kits for both travelers and their pets.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you have a better grasp on the inner workings of JetSuite, you might still have a few lingering questions. Take a look at these answers to popular queries about the company.
1. Is JetSuite owned by JetBlue?
JetBlue doesn’t own JetSuite, but the commercial airline did invest in the private aviation company starting in 2016. Two years later, JetBlue planned to sell seats on short, semi-private flights on the West Coast. However, since JetSuite filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy those plans are currently on hold.
2. Can kids fly on JetSuite?
Yes, but only under specific conditions. Children must be at least 7 years old and accompanied by someone older than 17 years of age. There are other restrictions and requirements for unaccompanied minors who are traveling on JetSuite.
3. Does JetSuite allow you to take your pets on the plane?
Pets are allowed to fly in the main cabin with their owner. Just keep in mind they must be properly secured according to FAA regulations during taxi, takeoff, turbulence, and landing.
Up, Up, and Away
Owning a private plane remains a privilege of the rich and famous, but it no longer takes a ton of cash to fly in one. Thanks to companies like JetSuite paving the way for even more approachable options like JSX, the convenience of non-commercial air travel has truly taken flight. While the future of JetSuite’s operations is still up in the air, renting a private jet is a realistic option that’s more affordable than you might think.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.