ShareAJet bucks the slump in business and luxury travel
Oct 1, 2009 12:00 PM, Richard H. Levey
Private plane travel increases with charter jet brokerages and new aviation firms
At 30,000 feet, a steward offers a perfectly iced martini. The passenger sets it down next to the newest issue of Forbes, stretches out (leg room is not an issue on a private jet) and leans back in his upholstered leather chair, all the while zooming toward his destination at 550 miles per hour.
But these are recessionary times, and the days of the solo private jet are numbered: For today's flight, two groups of strangers share the jet's cabin — and the expenses.
The groups have been brought together by ShareAJet Exchange, a program launched in June by private jet brokerage firm Blue Star Jets. Under ShareAJet, fliers post either itineraries or desired trips and hope to attract fellow travelers.
Under ShareAJet Exchange, fees can be half those of regularly chartered flights. And value and time savings are the two key components of ShareAJet's marketing.
“The rich do spend,” says Sitomer. “However, every day they are reading about the downturn. That makes them cautious.” The company came up with ShareAJet Exchange as a “win-win” for those who wanted some of the experience of private jet ownership.
Spending by the wealthy is a leading indicator, says Sitomer, and he has seen some loosening of purse strings since the first half of the year. “Since business has picked up, we have increased our marketing efforts,” he adds.
Spring has also arranged for Blue Star to become the preferred supplier to travel agent groups, which feature the brokerage firm in their own marketing initiatives. And inclusion within a top-level Neiman Marcus loyalty program reward package (collected by a customer who earned 5 million program points) didn't hurt the company's image, either.
Not that traditional media didn't get its share. Sitomer ran six large ads in consecutive editions of the Sunday New York Post.
Three months after ShareAJet Exchange's launch, the program boasts 1,500 people logging on. Sitomer expects this number to reach between 6,000 and 7,000 by the end of winter, as the affluent take their traditional holiday trips.
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