BY MARK KEAST

In this month’s issue of Vanity Fair magazine, author William D. Cohan writes about how private jets have become the modern status symbol of the super rich, a coveted currency that goes far beyond a mode of transportation that gets you across the country faster.

“Private jets have become the essential element of modern superrich business and pleasure infrastructure, woven in deeply, the communal living space for the most acquisitive, rapacious people in the world.”

Justin Crabbe, Founder and CEO of Jettly, a web and single app charter booking platform, says the time has come to make private jet travel more accessible to more people.

Related: The world’s top luxury airports

Related: Five great luxury travel destinations for wintertime

“Private air travel is undoubtedly reserved for the rich, famous, and the high stakes game of corporate commercialism,” he says. “The rich and famous aren’t going anywhere any time soon. In tough economic times, there may be a downturn in the private air charter market as a result, but that’s going to be something that’s very temporary. We don’t see the market or economy changing any time soon. In fact, we see the complete opposite where 60% of our flyers are brand new to this industry. We’ve democratized the space and have been changing the way people fly worldwide.”

Crabbe is a pilot himself, and has a unique perspective on why the billion dollar global jet industry is booming. The people who run Jettly say their service is the Expedia of private jet aviation – go online and select your aircraft type, the date of your departure and destination, whether you need a pickup, and they take care of the rest.

Crabbe says Jettly fills an inventory void – more than 40 per cent of all private jet flights are empty legs, he adds. Jettly books customers into those empty legs. So they are bringing efficiency to it, he says, and savings to consumers in part because brokers are taken out of the equation, adding that the Jettly apps make it easier for the consumer to book what they need. Go onto their site and you can get quotes for executive jets, helicopters, light jets, turbo props, long-range jets, even ultra-long range aircraft. With over 9,500 aircraft and nearly 24K customers flying to over 190 countries, Jettly has experienced a 458% year-over-year revenue growth, Crabbe says.

The company offers membership options for individuals, families and small businesses, as well as to larger executive teams or big businesses. Jettly compares the prices for you, ideal aircraft at best price, as well as aircraft and operator safety information.

So perhaps while not the superrich who own their jets, many affluent people and business people can still have the private jet experience when they want it. For pilots and operators those jet legs would have been grounded, so why get some revenue flowing through? That’s the niche that Crabbe’s service fills.

Regarding Luxury sat down with Crabbe for a discussion about the private jet industry and his service:

Can you expand on the financial advantages for companies to use your service?
Time is money and with a private jet charter, you can save a substantial amount of time, especially when you fill the aircraft to capacity for your team of executives. A lot of our clients are constantly traveling conducting deals all around the world. Those deals could be worth $100 million in some cases and if a flight is delayed or disrupted somehow which is all too prevalent in commercial air travel these days, that could be detrimental to the entire deal. Financial savings come from time savings for the most part. You depart and arrive at specialized terminals within the airports and can be airborne in minutes. You don’t need to wait in long lines at security either. And you can fly direct to any airport that is closest to your destination, not just the main international airport that could be miles away.

Can you tell me more about the growth in popularity of your service?
We started in 2016 and since then have grown to over 30,000 users in our app. We receive and process thousands of flight requests per week on a global basis and the numbers continue to grow. The growth and popularity has been tremendous and the pain associated with commercial air travel isn’t subsiding any time soon by the looks of the sector. The population worldwide is only increasing and so is our business. We’re happy with the growth so far and anticipate it will continue through the years ahead.
Who are your competitors?
We have a few competitors in the space. NetJets, which is Warren Buffet’s company, is a big competitor of ours, and other charter brokers of course, but we feel we offer the most value for the savvy cost-conscious customer who typically fly first class or business class commercial. This customer profile is an easy conversion for us. Other charter brokers are still operating inefficiently through pen and paper and fax type of arrangements, where Jettly operates in a fully digitized way through a convenient easy-to-use mobile app.
What percentage of your business is Canadian? What is the range of clientele that uses your service?
Ten per cent of our business is Canadian and that’s simply due to the population in Canada versus the U.S. and the rest of the world. Vancouver and Toronto are our largest Canadian markets with hundreds of flights requested each year, but that’s minuscule compared to the tens of thousands of flights requested outside of Canada.
What are some of the other technologies and trends that are shaking up the private jet industry?
Shared private jet charters is always an interesting and attractive concept in the private jet industry. Shared chartering is where you’re able to purchase a single seat onboard the private jet and experience the same benefits of private travel at a reduced cost because you are splitting the cost by the number of passengers on board. This brings in ticket costs that are slightly more money than first-class commercial but come with all of the time-savings and luxuries you would expect when flying in a private jet.
Tell me more about your background as a pilot?
My father is a pilot and so aviation has always been in our family. I started flying when I was about 16 (the same time you can start driving a car in most areas of the world) and from there I was hooked. I started training at a local airport in the Toronto area but discovered the weather in Canada isn’t as favourable as other areas of the world so I continued my training military-style (condensed daily training) in Florida, to finish off my license. Since then I’ve flown all across the United States and Canada and hope to fly in Europe sometime soon. Short flights for sightseeing or dinner in a different city are always a lot of fun and something I do a lot, especially in the summer. I currently fly a Piper Cherokee but I have a brand new ICON A5 on order that I’m waiting to take delivery of. I certainly don’t see myself stopping flying any time soon.
Can you expand on how private jets have become the primary modern status marker for the rich and super-rich. This is a feature that has just come out in the Vanity Fair article. Does you agree with that?
I certainly agree that private jets are reserved for the rich and famous and are a huge status marker. The majority of our clients are in the top 1% if not the .1% usually with an annual salary income of $1,000,000 or $5,000,000 in liquid assets. This type of person usually has everything done for them in life and that includes private travel. They purchase aircraft, charter aircraft, employ full-time pilots, and sometimes even a flight attendant. The world is theirs with a private jet and you can access any area of the world you wish to travel. It’s the ultimate luxury in life.