Many eulogies have been written for the Jet Age of the 1950s and ’60s, when air travel was easy, fun, and glamorous, but a new category of semiprivate carriers is trying to restore some of that lost luster. “There’s an opportunity to make flying magical again,” says Uma Subramanian, CEO of Aero Technologies, which launched in 2019 with a focus on underserved routes connecting premium leisure destinations, such as Ibiza to Mykonos. Companies like Aero aim to eliminate the hurdles and hassles of flying today, with streamlined check-in and breeze-through security, often at rates that are squarely within the realm of affordability for many travelers. A one-off initiation fee at Wheels Up, the private-jet-charter company that was a first mover in the space, is $2,995 in addition to hourly flight rates; subscription-based Surf Air has flights from $99 per leg. JSX offers what it calls “hop-on jet service” throughout the U.S., with a focus on California, making it from L.A. to Tahoe in two hours. “Time and simplicity are the ultimate luxuries,” says founder Alex Wilcox. For JSX, check-in typically happens 20 minutes before departure; these carriers cut costs and time by flying out of smaller airports. Many are working with the major airlines, forging code-sharing and reciprocal travel-booking arrangements. And while “semiprivate” might make some travelers worry about the size of their carbon footprint, this new breed of carriers is leading the way into a green travel future; JSX’s planned expansion relies on small hybrid, electric, and hydrogen-powered planes. Perhaps the greatest proof of the new guys’ success is that their routes are increasingly influencing travelers’ vacation choices. “It’s not just making something they already wanted to do easier—now we’re changing behavior,” says Wilcox.
This article appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Condé Nast Traveler. Subscribe to the magazine here.