The aircraft charter business model traditionally has been an interesting and potentially confusing and even frustrating experience for customers. Typically, a customer would contact one of the 2,500 or so aircraft charter brokers. They have arrangements with aircraft owners and operators. Brokers obtain quotations, adding a margin to the charter cost to the end customer. The margin covers the cost of vetting aircraft and flight operators, arranging the trip including ground transportation and catering, and monitoring the process to ensure things go smoothly for a customer. What a customer gets from this margin varies significantly among charter companies.
The traditional aircraft charter business model is changing, with several companies, including Jettly, Paramount Business Jets, Wholesale Jet Club, and Victor bringing pricing transparency into the process. Jettly has ambitions of becoming the Expedia of the aircraft charter business. The company operates somewhat differently from the traditional brokerage model, and we spoke to their CEO Justin Crabbe to learn more about the concept and technology underlying this new approach.
Jettly’s aircraft charter business model differs from traditional charter brokers in several ways. They utilize a membership approach to strip out commissions and eliminate the need for a customer to shop multiple brokers. “A customer might receive 5 offers at different prices from five different brokers, all for the same aircraft tail number for the same route. We have eliminated that process by dealing with the aircraft owner or operator directly and providing pricing transparency into the process”, said Crabbe.
Using a membership model to generate revenue, Jettly in its four years of existence now generates a higher volume than most charter brokers. It has gained substantial credibility with aircraft owners as a resource for charter customers, according to Crabbe. “Based on the volume we do and the indirect qualification of a customer, our booking rate per inquiry is higher than a typical broker and attractive to aircraft owners.” Unlike Expedia, where most assets are tied to a schedule, the aircraft charter business is more fluid, as aircraft do move around and their availability status can rapidly change.
Jettly has created a database utilizing FAA, Transport Canada, and EASA records, to determine which aircraft have come onto FAA Part 135 or equivalent international charter certificates enabling revenue operations. The company contacts operators, with access to more than 23,000 different aircraft. About 80% of these are business jets and Jettly reaches out to operators based on aircraft type and flight requirements. When a match is found for a charter it is priced and sent to clients for review and can be booked online.
The company is focusing on customer service as a differentiator and provides 24×7 customer service. With the information technology now in place, the company is expanding its strategy to address shared seat models similar to XO or Wheels Up. Jettly is adding a portal to their internal systems to enable customers to filter aircraft and operators and directly examine available aircraft and operators within the network. Once those capabilities are in place, the next task is to address the empty leg issue. Their database already interfaces with several scheduling products, including BART Siegel, to obtain scheduling details to propose empty leg flights.
“We’re trying to get away from the broker-driven aircraft charter business model, letting technology expose potential charter aircraft much as AirB&B and VRBO do for properties, including reviews of the operators, safety, cancellation policies, ARGUS, and Wyvern audit status, and other factors,” said Crabbe.
Aircraft charter is certainly quite different from reserving an airline seat, with variable airports, timing, aircraft, operators, and pricing. Technology can help deal with the complexity, and Jettly, along with other high-tech-oriented firms, is moving the aircraft charter business model towards more transparent operations.