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JetSmarter, widely considered the Uber for jets, is going the extra mile to help users get closer to their favorite celebrities.
The private transportation start-up, which is part of a disruptive clutch of companies trying to make private jets more affordable, now offers a function to notify members when certain celebrities will be on a flight — allowing them to hitch a ride. Thus far, JetSmarter's clientele include celebrities who fly private, yet aren't megastars like Tom Cruise or Sean "Jay-Z" Carter, who each own their own private planes.
"Passengers and celebs will get a lot of networking value," Sergey Petrossov, JetSmarter's founder and CEO told CNBC. "Friendships and business relationships are created daily between our passengers."
JetSmarter is hoping that flying private isn't intended for just the elite. In fact, a passenger who flies often enough might actually save money, the company contends. In addition to offering bookings for entire jets, JetSmarter's most popular platform is a subscription service by which members pay $9,000, annually giving them access to unlimited, free deals on one-way flights offered exclusively through JetSmarter.
Actors Emily Ratajkowski, Jamie Foxx and entrepreneur Daymon John have recently been among those boldface names who got to share a jet with fans. JetSmarter users get a notification saying which leg of a flight they're booked on, and inviting passengers to book as well. According to JetSmarter, John, who is a judge on "Shark Tank," recently used the service to fly to Cuba for an event related to President Barack Obama's visit.
Ed Mermelstein, a real estate attorney, has been part of the service for several months. He recently shared a jet with Foxx from White Plains to Atlanta. "He was great, and very personable, talking with passengers throughout the flight," Mermelstein told CNBC. "You never know who you will meet, and I now look forward to flying."
Despite the risks that come with overzealous fans that may seek out personal interactions with a celebrity, Silicon Valley is buying into JetSmarter's concept. The company has raised more than $50 million in venture financing for its niche services, JetSmarter told CNBC, and has just recently expanded its routes into Europe.
Petrossov, 27, said his vision started after he began flying private in 2009 after selling a technology company. At the time, he felt like the private jet industry was very archaic: "It's brick and mortar process of picking up the phone, waiting hours and speaking to numerous different people in order to charter a jet was outdated and inconvenient."
Petrossov said his typical user is anyone from entrepreneurs growing their business, to real estate brokers traveling from city to city or country to country making deals. Travelers include a mix of both business and pleasure fliers. By matching users with private jets, Petrossov ultimately thinks he's matching supply with demand.
"The average private jet flies roughly 250 hours per year, but optimal utilization is around 1,200 hours per year," Petrossov said. "We believe that the market could get three to four times bigger with our efficient utilization models."