How to Fly Private for Only Slightly More Than the Cost of Coach
You’re trudging endlessly through a shopping mall disguised as an airport, and the distance between when you’re parked or left your Uber or taxi seems to get longer every time. Once on the flight, you’re competing with other passengers for precious overhead space and getting snarled at by surly flight attendants, who, once airborne, will try to make it up for it by giving you a tiny bag of mixed nuts.
Every traveler says the same thing: There’s got to be a better way.
Fortunately, one of those travelers with the same lament was Alex Wilcox, who helped launch both JetBlue and India’s now-defunct Kingfisher airline. In 2016, Wilcox founded JetSuiteX, re-branded as JSX in 2019, which may well be the future of aviation—a hybrid between the ultimate travel experience of flying private, while at the same time offering fares that aren’t too much higher than coach prices on commercial airliners. The result is an experience on the ground and in the air unlike anything else in the travel industry.
“The JSX experience is 90 percent of what flying private feels like,” says Wilcox. “The only difference is that in addition to you, there are 28 other people on the flight, but you’re paying a fraction of what private costs. Otherwise, it’s virtually the same experience.”
JSX flies out of private air terminals at its destinations, which include Miami, Dallas, Las Vegas, Orange County, LAX, Oakland, Monterey, Calif. and now, Westchester County, N.Y. If you’ve never done so, it’s a huge upgrade to fly out of private jet terminals instead of the chain store emporiums cleverly disguised as today’s airports. First, the distance between where you park, get dropped off or leave your rental car is measured in footsteps instead of miles.
Next, there’s just no hustle or stress because instead of tens of thousands of passengers with that zombie-like “get out of my way” look in their eyes, you just have a few dozen other folks calmly awaiting their flight. And you don’t have to show up hours in advance of your departure time; 20 minutes will be perfectly fine.
“There’s no clearer marker that commercial aviation is broken,” Wilcox tells Worth, “than the fact that LAX and some other airports ask you to arrive three full hours before your flight. If you’re flying somewhere short, like LAX to Las Vegas, or New York to Boston, you might as well just give up and drive.”
Security is a breeze for JSX passengers, who may not even notice that the same TSA security protocols found in commercial airport terminals are being followed—minus the humongous lines. You’ll go through two metal detectors, perhaps without even noticing them. Keep your shoes on, why don’tcha? The machines are calibrated to recognize inappropriate or dangerous items, not Grandma’s iPad. So you feel like an adult, not a felon, as you approach your flight. Your driver’s license and carry-on or checked baggage will be swabbed, and the overall security experience is so unobtrusive that you’ll wonder if there’s any security at all. (Trust me, there is).
Most roller bags are checked instead of carried on, which eliminates the free-for-all mad dash for overhead bin space that marks pretty much every commercial flight. And since there are only 29 people on your jet, you’ll board and deplane in less than a minute, even if you are seated in the middle of the jet.
JSX utilizes Embraer private jets, which aren’t state-of-the-art from the perspective of the most demanding private jet passengers, but they are pretty darn nice, whether you’re the pilot or a passenger. In keeping with the fact that people want space from strangers in our COVID-drenched era, there’s only one seat on each side of the aisle. Personal space on board a flight? Seriously? Yup, seriously. And you can even take your cat or small dog as long as Rover or Pussy fits in a carrier stowed underneath your seat.
Now, let’s take a look at some actual fares and see how JSX matches up with commercial airlines. Right now, airlines are practically giving seats away because people aren’t flying, due to COVID concerns. So, the gap between commercial airfares and JSX are artificially low right now. However, once the Omicron variant abates, expect commercial fares to shoot back up to normal pricing. So here goes:
If you want to fly this month or next month from Love Field in Dallas to Las Vegas, the fare on JSX is $659. If you want to fly on a commercial airline, you’re looking at $218. (But for reference, in 2019, prior to COVID, the average cost of a commercial flight out of Dallas was $420.) Of course, you’ll have to fly through DFW, so you can add a couple hours of extra traffic, frustration and airport navigation to your travel time instead of the breezy and convenient Love Field.
Miami to Westchester County will set you back $749 on JSX. You can do the same route on American or Delta for under $100 right now (double or triple that during non-Omicron times), but you’ll spend an hour or more changing planes in Charlotte, Atlanta, Washington or Chicago on the way. And we all know that’s no fun.
On JSX, a trip from Monterrey to John Wayne Airport in Orange County goes for $289. You can fly the same route on JetBlue, shlepping through commercial airports, for $165 right now with a $75 change fee and no carry-on bag permitted. Or you can have a stopover in San Francisco, Denver or even Seattle (that’s how commercial airlines fly from Monterey to John Wayne…have they ever seen a map of the United States?) and get there hours later and frazzled to a pulp.
“If you’ve never flown private,” Wilcox says, “the JSX experience will be a welcome change from the overcrowded, stressful commercial jet terminals. Most of our flights are so short that by the time you get to the airport—just minutes instead of hours before you fly—you’ll find yourself at your destination, relaxed and refreshed instead of tense and exhausted.”
“If you look at our social, you’ll see that 99 out of 100 comments say things like, ‘You’ve made it impossible for me to fly commercial again,’” Wilcox continues. “When we see that, we smile, because that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”