JetSmarter is a Jay Z-backed private jet booking startup wants to be Uber in the sky

JetSmarter, a private jet booking app backed by Jay Z and the Saudi royal family, is looking to be an Uber-like disruptor in the sky. The company wants to make private flying accessible to more than just the 1 percent by offering discounted trips.

Since its launch in March of 2013, JetSmarter has had more than 350,000 app downloads with a monthly growth rate of 15-20 percent, said its CEO Sergey Petrossov. This year, the company looks to expand its private jet shuttle options and reach more business travelers via TV, in-app promotions and social media.

Whereas aviation company XOJet focuses mostly on digital advertising, JetSmarter debuted a seven-figure TV ad buy on April 15, after raising around $52 million in the new funding. Its new 30-second TV spot features two beautiful private jet attendants greeting a businessman, and will run for 12 weeks on CNBC, CNBC Europe, CNBC Russia, Bloomberg, Bloomberg Europe and Bloomberg Russia.

Petrossov explained that the financial broadcasters have a broader reach and can better target potential JetSmarter members, the majority of whom are entrepreneurs as well as real estate and advertising executives. A JetSmarter membership is $13,175 for the first year and then $9,000 annually after that.

In terms of digital, JetSmarter has seen a lot of success on Instagram with the help of celebrity endorsements, Petrossov told Digiday. For example, at this year’s Coachella music festival, “Pretty Little Liars” actresses Ashley Benson and Shay Mitchell shared their JetSmarter experiences on Instagram, which, Petrossov said, “did really well” for the company. He declined to disclose if these two Instagram posts were paid.

Meanwhile, JetSmarter uses SEO and SEM to make sure it ranks high up in Google’s search results. For example, if you enter “private jet rental service” in Google’s search bar, the first result is an ad from JetSmarter. The company also sends users mobile notifications and email newsletters to keep them updated on special offerings. With an additional focus on word-of-mouth referrals, JetSmarter collaborates with anyone from real-estate brokers to rising entrepreneurs in its user pool to promote JetSmarter within their networks.

JetSmarter mobile notification
JetSmarter mobile notification

Petrossov emphasized that JetSmarter stands out from other private jet-booking services in that it is an app first, and thus it enables users to charter a jet by a simple click. But Doug Gollan, editor-in-chief and founder of DG Amazing Experiences, a travel e-newsletter for private jet owners, believes that booking apps don’t have obvious advantages over booking websites. After all, booking a private jet is different from hailing an Uber. There are many details involved, like whether pets are allowed, changing departure times, special catering requests and changing arrival airports. All these require human assistance.

Last year, global long-term spending on private jets started to slow for the first time since 2009, and deliveries from 2015 to 2025 was valued at $270 billion, down 3.6 percent from 2014’s projection, according to Bloomberg.

Currently, JetSmarter partners with more than 800 air carriers worldwide to offer around 3,200 aircrafts. In spite of the global slowdown, the booking app is working on its expansion into Asia this year.

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