By Molly Duffy
The Miami Herald.
Ride-sharing services are reaching cruising altitude — at least for highfliers.
Two firms with South Florida roots have created apps that allow celebrities, wealthy entrepreneurs and other high-net-worth travelers to fly private at a fraction of the price of buying or even chartering a private aircraft.
On some routes, the price is about the same as a last-minute refundable first-class seat on a commercial plane. On the popular Miami-to-New York run, for instance, a one-way seat costs around $1,000. Well, after the initiation fee.
And flying private means no winding check-in lines, unpredictable cancellations and other hassles that can go with commercial flight.
“Aviation wasn’t meant to be that way,” said Sergey Petrossov, the founder of Miami-based JetSmarter, a service-oriented technology company seeking to make private jets accessible to more consumers. “It’s supposed to be a fun experience. We’re trying to bring aviation back to its roots.”
Both JetSmarter and Wheels Up recently launched apps to facilitate filling empty seats on private charters. JetSmarter has a jet shuttle service from Fort Lauderdale to New York, while Wheels Up lets members who have chartered a jet offer empty seats up to other members. JetSmarter’s most popular route out of South Florida is to New York and includes free helicopter transfers to Manhattan, while Wheels Up flies frequently to New York; Marsh Harbour, Bahamas, and Augusta, Georgia.
In and out of South Florida, JetSmarter charters 5 to 10 flights a day, while Wheels Up charters 10 to 20.
“People who have reached that level want to hang out with each other,” said Justin Firestone, one of Wheels Up’s founding partners and a Miami-native. “You don’t get Six-Pack Joe on the airplane.”
The New York-based membership service is backed by South Floridians including Yankees’ slugger Alex Rodriguez, catcher Mike Piazza (who played briefly for the Marlins), entrepreneur Melissa Krinzman, Chico’s former CEO Scott Edmonds and tycoon Thomas Oakley.