Booking a private jet: Aircraft charter 2.0

Private Fly iPad app

A Saudi Arabian VIP client used PrivateFly's iPhone app to charter a BBJ flight for $500,000.

Business jet charter users have finally switched on their computers.
Private Fly iPad app

A Saudi Arabian VIP client used PrivateFly’s iPhone app to charter a BBJ flight for $500,000.

If you are an aircraft charter broker, now is the time to start shaking your head. But the way people are booking charter flights is changing. Fast.

Online charter booking platforms have suddenly become a key source of customers for operators. European charter companies will tell you that sites like PrivateFly or Victor are now as important to them as the largest brokers and the same is true in the US.

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We are now at the same point in private jet charter as low cost airlines were in the late 1990s. And we all know that the internet completely revolutionised their business.

It seems quaint now, but carriers like easyJet and JetBlue used to have telephone numbers painted on the side of their aircraft. Southwest Airlines led the way when it created a basic website in 1998 and Ireland’s Ryanair followed in 2000. Within a year, the Irish low-cost carrier was selling three quarters of its tickets online. Now, online booking is a key part of the low-cost airline business in every region of the world.

Avinode, which revolutionised charter broking, launched in 2002. For some reason it has taken more than 10 years for business jet travellers (or the people that book their flights) to catch up with airline passengers. Perhaps the charter downturn or the average age of business jet travellers delayed adoption? No one really knows why. But it is finally happening.

This is clearly not the end for charter brokers. In fact, they should not be particularly worried. Just as travel agents still exist, there will always be a need for good, trusted brokers (especially as booking a charter can be very complicated). Many brokers offer fantastic service and they are used to competition. But if a new generation of travellers are brought into the industry by the ease of booking online, it is surely great news for the industry.

It is odd to be writing this in 2014, but one day, this interweb thingy might really take off.