Making the best use of ‘Summer Fridays’ at work, I made the decision to take last Friday off and hop on a flight using a service that many have never heard of: JetSmarter.
Background on JetSmarter
JetSmarter is a subscription-based private jet club. They have several charter shuttle operations across the United States, Europe, and Middle East along with “JetDeals,” which allow members to acquire last minute seats on private jets flying empty legs.
Recently, the airline ran a promotion in which anyone who has top tier elite status or over one million miles/points with an airline or bank rewards program would receive a 3 month free trial of their Simple membership. This tier of membership gives the member one flight token, which can be used to reserve one seat for free on any of the Shuttles under three hours assuming inventory is available, with the only exception being New York to South Florida routes.
The Booking Process
I took advantage of this promotion to fly on a Shuttle flight from Teterboro, N.J. to Washington Dulles International Airport. This flight departed at noon on a Learjet 45 and required one shuttle token. The actual booking process was extremely easy. I simply had to find the flight I wanted and make the reservation with a single tap of a button in the app.
I was immediately sent an itinerary that gave me specifics on which general aviation terminals to go to and some basic rules to follow. The tail number of the aircraft I would be flying on did not appear in the itinerary until a few hours before the actual flight.
The flight itself on the Learjet was pleasant. The plane itself is extremely cramped, but the seats are very comfortable. Though one would have more room in a commercial, domestic first class seat, the Learjet seat was far more comfortable.
The best part of the flight experience for me was being able to go up to the cockpit and chat with the pilots in-flight. The two pilots were very enthusiastic about letting me take pictures of the cockpit and out of the cockpit windows. The views from the lateral side of a plane are always great, but nothing beats that forward-facing view.
Issues in DC
Since I only flew to get a feel of the service, I hadn’t made plans to stay in Washington for the rest of the day, and instead planned to take the shuttle flight right back home at 1:45 p.m.
Upon landing at Dulles, I went to book the return flight but noticed it had disappeared from the app. Upon speaking to a JetSmarter representative onsite, I was informed that their reservations close three hours before departure for all flights. Being a new member this was news to me.
The next hour or so was spent speaking to various member relations agents over the phone to see if I could get on the flight last minute. The answer was a firm ‘no’ for several reasons, most of which were out of JetSmarter hands.
JetSmarter doesn’t own any aircraft, and therefore needs to follow the rules of the actual aircraft operator. Private aircraft operations differ significantly from commercial operations. On a commercial flight, a passenger can be added on last minute without any issue.
Private aircraft operations, however, have slightly different operational processes to go through, with Fuel load calculations and flight paths being the biggest concern. In order to have ample time to prepare for the logistics of the flight, the operator closes reservations 3 hours prior to departure and will not allow any additions to the passenger manifest.
Unfortunately, this was not communicated to me when I began my membership due to the backlog JetSmarter is facing with over 3,000 new trial memberships being activated since the promotion began. This lapse in communication left me stranded in Washington, but the JetSmarter team is working on making sure all new members are aware of this policy.
I was now stuck at Dulles Airport, and needed a way to get home by Friday night due to some prior engagements. Thankfully, American Airlines had some saver level award availability on an early evening flight to New York’s LaGuardia. A quick 7.5K miles and $5.60 I was ticketed on the 6:00 p.m. departure from Reagan National Airport. If I didn’t have miles it would have cost me $350 to book the same flight.
The booking process, airport experience, and the flight itself were otherwise excellent. However, the rules were not stated clearly before booking my one-way trip, resulting in having to book a last minute flight on a separate carrier. With JetSmarter now publicly stating its policy, I feel more confident in saying that the operator is a safe choice to make for those looking for an alternative to the major commercial airlines.