Can Airly’s semi-private jet service beat business class?

Ditch those notions of champagne and caviar, and instead gain extra time when travelling with Airly’s semi-private jet service.

By Staff Writers, December 11 2019
Can Airly’s semi-private jet service beat business class?

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.

Note that some flights are “member initiated”, which means they will only activate with enough seats booked, while others are “member confirmed,” which means they are definitely flying.
Note that some flights are “member initiated”, which means they will only activate with enough seats booked, while others are “member confirmed,” which means they are definitely flying.

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.

An example of the terminal lounge, where you'll only spend a few minutes
An example of the terminal lounge, where you'll only spend a few minutes

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.

A typical seat with a small table for eating / working
A typical seat with a small table for eating / working

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

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 261

The logical market for these guys from Melbourne is Moorabbin airport. Lots of big employers in the south east who lose over an hour of productivity each time an employee has to get to/from the airport, not to mention up to $150 in one way taxi fares. The incremental gain of Essendon is minimal and no where near sufficient justification for a shift. Bankstown as a solution for all the Parramatta, Ryde, Macquarie Park businesses is what makes sense also.

Delta Air Lines - SkyMiles

14 Apr 2013

Total posts 326

I still prefer to fly with QF or VA on the SYD - MEL -SYD route

One of the benefits of living in a democracy.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

02 Feb 2015

Total posts 40

Essendon is still the go to. Working in CBD , where most people would leave from is a no brainer. Essendon is quick and easy and good facilities

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 5

One more vote for Moorabbin, handy for ppl living in the south eastern suburbs not having to spend 1+ hours getting home after an interstate trip.

08 Aug 2018

Total posts 3

I have often wondered why there are no commercial flights from Moorabbin on smaller aircraft. More than half of Melbournes population is on this side of the city.

Anyone able to explain this to me?

28 Feb 2018

Total posts 2

The demographic centre of Melbourne is in Glen Iris/Malvern near Burke Road, just about half way between Caulfield and Camberwell. Incomes are higher to the east of the CBD than west. So from a population and likelihood of business travel perspective, an eastern airport looks logical. The question, however, is whether air travellers to Sydney are leaving from or returning to home or CBD offices more often.

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 81

@Rick you will find it's quicker to drive from Essendon to Glen Iris (freeway all the way) than from Moorabbin to Glen Iris.

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 261

That's not quite right Russh7

As at right now Glen Iris to Essendon is 27 minutes and to Moorabbin is 23. Acknowledged that it is not currently peak hour and times wound change if it was, but equally it is not a “freeway” between Glen Iris and Essendon - tolls are payable for the entire journey if you want that 27 minute trip. Currently 42 minutes to Essendon if you want to avoid tolls.

22 Sep 2017

Total posts 81

@Steve987 fair points although it's close enough that ymmv, and do you really think someone who has just paid $1400 for the flight will complain about a $10 toll?

23 Feb 2015

Total posts 261

Agree the $10 wouldn't be a decision tipping point Russh7.

My main point is that I don't see Essendon providing a sufficiently different experience for people than Tullamarine. For much the same cost you get a simpler boarding experience but you lose on board service, status and points that each have personal value. The commute gain is insignificant.

Meanwhile, for 50% of Melbourne's population, including those from affluent bayside suburbs, Moorabbin would deliver a significant time saving when compared to Tullamarine that might make it more palatable to lose the benefits gained from flying commercial.

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