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JetSmarter partners with XOJet to offer more flights, as sector comes under pressure

The startup that wants to make flying in a private jet feel affordable is partnering with one of the industry's largest private jet-charter companies.

JetSmarter, often called the Uber of private aviation, has teamed up with XOJet, so for an annual membership fee and one-time initiation fee, members of JetSmarter will get unlimited access to flights in North America, Europe and the Middle East, including on XOJet's aircraft.

A Gulfstream G650 private jet
Source: Gulfstream
A Gulfstream G650 private jet

The new deal means XOJet is giving exclusive use of its inventory to JetSmarter's digital distribution channel. In return, XOJet's more than 5,000 clients will have access to JetSmarter's range of services, including its concierge offering.

"Private aviation customers are becoming much smarter today and want alternatives on a trip-by-trip basis," Sergey Petrossov, JetSmarter's founder, told CNBC. "Even private jet owners can't always justify flying their own aircraft, either due to route or passenger amount."

JetSmarter was started in 2012 after Petrossov saw major inefficiencies in the marketplace.

According to Petrossov, the average private plane has less than 30 percent load factor during trips, while 35 percent of trips are completely empty. Load factor is a measure of how well an airline is utilizing its capacity, and is used to assess how efficiently an airline operator is filling seats in return for fares.

Leveraging its technology, JetSmarter matches supply with demand by buying unusued "aircraft hours" in bulk and distributing them through its app. JetSmarter says the load factor on its flights is more than 90 percent, which cuts costs for users and increases efficiency.

With the new deal, members of JetSmarter will now have access to more empty legs, so when a private jet needs to get from one city to another for a purchased trip, its members can ride for free.

"This is the first time a leading private jet owner-operator like XOJet has exclusively committed its fleet to a digital player," Brad Stewart, XOJet's CEO told CNBC. "This represents the continued evolution of the private jet industry towards fully integrated, on-demand solutions and away from fractional models."

The partnership comes after a string of challenges this year have proved how volatile the economics of private aviation can be. Beacon, which offered unlimited flights between Boston and New York, for a monthly fee, went bankrupt, while BlackJet, an on-demand private jet service, backed by Uber co-founder Garrett Camp ceased its operations in May.

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