One company is bridging the price gap between flying first class and flying private and opening up the glitzy side of aviation to those that were traditionally priced out of it.
Set Jet is a membership-based private airline offering seats on a true private jet for as low as $449.95 one-way. Members pay a monthly fee of $99.95 and are given access to flights on 11 year-round routes throughout the American West.
The Scottsdale, Arizona-based company isn't the first to sell seats on shared private aircraft but its founders say they've found a way to make the business model sustainable, and open up private flying to a larger audience. Having the monthly fee also discourages those that truly aren't able to fly private from signing up, for which companies like JetSmarter were infamous.
How it works
Only Set Jet members can fly on Set Jet aircraft and a limited number of memberships are available in each market so flyers can get a seat when they want. Anyone can sign up for a membership and the only initiation fee is a one-time "security fee" of $99.95.
Members can then initiate or buy seats on flights throughout Set Jet's network, which covers four states and Mexico. Flyers can book a seat up to 30 minutes before a flight's scheduled departure time.
Not are routes are operated daily, though, and some as offered as little as twice-weekly. Once a flight is initiated, Set Jet will perform it even if there's just one person onboard paying that's paying $449.95.
Set Jet's flagship jet is the Bombardier Challenger 850 that rivals in size to wide-cabin Gulfstream or Dassault aircraft. The cabin is tall enough for most to stand up in and as many as 19 people can be seated comfortably.
It's open seating onboard the plane but there are no bad seats, as Insider found on a demonstration flight from Scottsdale to San Diego, California. A cabin attendant welcomes passengers onboard the aircraft and offers complimentary snacks and drinks, with in-flight WiFi also available.
Private terminals are used at all destinations to complete the private jet experience. Security checkpoints are non-existent and flyers can arrive just minutes before the flight's scheduled departure.
How Set Jet makes money
Set Jet has the heart of a low-cost airline that's offering an incredibly luxurious product, and its choice of aircraft is the perfect example. Buying parts for Challenger 850s is cheaper because of the aircraft's second life as an airliner known as the CRJ200.
"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," Trey Smith, Set Jet's chief operating officer, told Insider. "You go to buy a set of brakes for a CRJ200 — same brakes, same part, different part number — it's $5,000."
Thousands of memberships offset the cost per passenger and memberships have skyrocketed during the pandemic. "We did see a lot of new memberships that were from people who normally would never have flown with us but they were looking for alternatives to commercial travel because of COVID," Smith said.
Smith says that it's easy for wealthier clients to purchase one and forget about it, attributing to a low attrition rate during the pandemic.
Set Jet is eyeing new markets like the Texas triangle and the Northeast. One route launching in the next year will be between New York and Los Angeles.
A higher membership tier will be required, costing $1,000 per month, and the price of a one-way fare will be $3,500. The Embraer Lineage 1000, the private jet version of the Embraer E190, will fly that route.