Booking a private jet should be as easy as booking a cab, according to Sergey Petrossov, the founder and chief executive of JetSmarter, an app that is known as the Uber of private jets.
The 26-year-old from Florida had the idea to create a digital platform to book a private jet after encountering a lot of hassle when he and his friends tried to hire a plane in 2009.
“I had to call the jet operator, give him my itinerary and get a physical invoice sent by fax,” he said.
“I was thinking that this is the digital age, that everything is online. I wondered why anyone hasn’t created a centralised infrastructure to book private jets.”
Mr Petrossov got with some developers from a previous project, and over a few years he tracked down and contacted a number of private jet operators.
“People thought it was an absolutely cool experience to get an instant response through an app. By March 2013 we had rolled out JetSmarter,” he said.
The app offers a number of features such as connecting users to an aviation specialist.
“There’s an aviation concierge that you can chat with. It’s real time customer service 24/7. You can add the human element that always existed in this business,” he said.
“They will answer your questions; help you arrange your catering. We bridge the gap between digital and human.”
The app helps users deal with a process far more complex than booking a commercial flight. Executive travel involves a number of variables such as fuel, maintenance, airport permits and slots, all of which need to be taken into account when booking.
“For commercial travel, you have a fixed schedule, so you know where these planes go and you have prices set by these operators,” Mr Petrossov said.
“In our business you have more variables, because any plane can go anywhere at any time. This changes the ball game completely.”
“You are calculating a number of things in real time. These things are never taken into account for regular commercial travel.”
Mr Petrossov said the app is meant to cater to “not-so-wealthy” people too. For an annual membership of US$8,000, users get push notifications for 2,500 free flights per month.
In what is known as an “empty leg” flight, private jets can be scheduled to fly from point A to B and return empty. JetSmarter coordinates with operators to fill the available space on the empty return leg.
“We have a special exclusive relationship with the operators for this excess capacity, in which our members are able to get access to it,” he said.
“We have people buying into the programme who never flew private in their life.”
An American citizen, Mr Petrossov was born in Moscow. His family moved to the United States when he was four. He graduated from the University of Florida, and JetSmarter is his third start-up.