The quest for the Holy Grail


The holy grail of business jet charter is solving the issue of empty legs. This happens when an aircraft needs to return to base, or position to a different airport to perform its next paid flight. It is generally accepted that around 40% of all private jet flights are empty each year.

There are many different ways that people have looked at how to solve this. Head on, and indirectly.

The indirect way is the Stellar and Stratajet route. Both aim to eliminate empty legs by having a critical mass of flights available in their system. Both of these platforms are integrated into the operator’s ops systems, and they know where an aircraft is all of the time. Stratajet has created a dynamic empty leg system where it reroutes aircraft to where it knows that there is an empty leg.

They also know where it needs to be and when, so if there is a possibility of filling that empty leg then potential customers searching for flights will be offered them in their normal search results.

Whilst this is a great way of trying to eliminate empty legs it requires a critical mass of aircraft to be using the platforms.

The other, simpler attempt to solve the problem is offering empty legs at a significant discount.

This is not new. Some companies have sections on their websites where potential customers can see what empty legs are available. Other companies have been set up to only offer empty legs and you probably get emails from them.

JetSmarter has tried something different and bought the right to sell empty legs from operators. It offers this service to its members at significant discounts.

Historically, the selling of discounted empty legs has not very user friendly. Potential customers were greeted with a banner telling them they can save a huge amount on a private jet charter. But often there is no price. So customers have to email or make a phone call. This puts off casual users. If they are looking for a flight from London to Dubai they want to see the price straight away. Otherwise they quickly lose interest.

One of the new ways of trying to address the empty leg problem is by opening up auctions for the flights. TapJets recently began offering flights this way. This has been explored before by others, but only as a trial.

Although the TapJets system is still in beta, CEO Eugene Kesselman says that a number of auctions have already been completed. Crucially, he says, both operators and customers have been happy with the results. Think of it as a little bit like eBay for private jet charters. The genius of eBay is its simplicity. You find what you want, you place a bid. If you get outbid by somebody else, you make a choice. If you really want what you are bidding on then you increase your bid. If not, you walk away.

We all know that sometimes the simplest of ideas are the best. And we all know just how big eBay has become.

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