While private jets are often considered the exclusive domain of the ultra-well-heeled, Australian company Airly believes there’s a case to be made for offering a 'semi-private' jet service to the everyday corpoprate traveller.
Considering that even first class cabins are being ditched by many major airlines in the wake of a renewed focus on corporate overspending and wastefulness, the idea of private air travel for employees is enough to give both the accounting and PR departments a collective heart attack.
But when Executive Traveller put the Airly service to the test, we found that in the right circumstances there's a compelling case to be made for shared flights on a business jet, or what Airly terms 'semi-private air travel'.
How it works
At $99 per month, Airly connects their members to a booking platform that allows them to both browse available flights and propose new flights.
Members can create a proposed flight and then other members can offer to join them - once there are enough members (typically three or four passengers) the flight is “activated” and confirmed to go ahead.
Airly uses a number of different aircraft, but the most regular are the Embraer Phenom 300E (shown in our photos), Cessna Citation Mustang, Falcon 7X, and Challenger 601.
When it comes to timing, the difference between Airly’s service and a standard airline is stark: for an Airly flight you can turn up just 10 minutes before departure, which means you can get more done where you need to, rather than cooling your heels at the airport.
If you do arrive early, there’s a basic lounge with coffee and drinks – but the idea is that any time spent in the lounge will be minimal at most.
You also don’t have to worry about checking in, having a boarding pass or going through security. Instead you arrive at the mini-terminal, go straight aboard and be in the air within around 20-30 minutes.
No-frills private air travel
While private air travel is often marketed as a hedonistic smorgasbord of caviar and champagne, the typical Airly flight is much different.
You’ll get a comfortable, leather-bound seat but it’s not particularly wide and has minimal recline – it’s more similar to a seat in a sports car rather than a traditional business class seat.
To keep costs down, there aren't any flight attendants on board, although passengers have access to high-quality self-serve picnic boxes, with various options available for specific dietary requirements.
You can also order Champagne or drinks if you desire, and have more elaborate catering options.
The lack of frills means that when it comes to the pricing, Airly’s semi-private jet service can be had for similar prices to a full-fare business class ticket.
On our test run from Sydney to Melbourne, business class flights on Qantas a week in advance ranged from $903 to $1,462. In comparison, our Airly flight cost $1,395 from Sydney/Kingsford Smith to Melbourne/Essendon, or $1,210 from Sydney/Bankstown to Melbourne/Essendon.
Depending on the trip you take, you can save up to an hour compared to flying commercial:
- Check-in and security: 5-10 mins
- Boarding: 5 mins
- Taxiing – delayed flights: 15-20 mins
- Check-in bag collection (if required): 20mins
- Walk to chauffeur area: 5 mins
Additionally, landing at Essendon Airport allows you to save an extra 10 – 15 minutes when heading into Melbourne’s CBD. Accessing smaller airports can often result in time savings, depending on your final destination.
Considering the pricing, Airly’s service provides an interesting alternative to commercial air travel. While it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles that you’d expect from private air travel, the time savings can be lucrative for regular travellers, as long as you can find a flight that suits your schedule.
The writer travelled as a guest of Airly