If you’re one of the few that get to fly by private plane, you know the exclusivity. For those that don’t, you also recognize the exclusivity. And for pilots that have their license, there may be an untapped situation waiting for you.
That’s where Jettly flies into the conversation. Founded by Justin Crabbe, who is an internet marketer and licensed pilot based out of Toronto, the Uber of X model business is rounding out its first phase and heading into the next.
Just like Uber, the current development calls on licensed pilots heading somewhere — between 45 minutes and three hours away — to post their flight and pick up passengers. However, unlike Uber, pilots don’t make a profit. Due to regulation, the pilots must share the cost among how many people hop the flight with them. As Crabbe put it: “These are not airlines that have flight attendants; these are planes that are the size of you, me and two other people.”
These are planes that are for a “hop, skip and a jump” rather than international travel. That said, the business has already received interest and appreciation from people across the globe, not just in the U.S. and Canada but, according to Crabbe, “in Thailand, Australia and everywhere in between.”
For context, Crabbe said that there are more than 5,000 airports in North America, but only about 500 are used by the commercial sector.
Regardless, the future of Jettly is changing. Later this fall, it will release an iOS and Android app, and at that point, the hope is that more business travelers will join and the platform will truly be closer to the Uber model, with pilots and passengers jumping aboard together on a for-profit opportunity.
Already, there are more than 170 licensed pilots that have signed up and about 1,000 standard users.
PYMNTS spoke with Crabbe about the impetus of the business, how the second development will roll out and what the future of the sharing economy could really look like.
PYMNTS: Talk to us about how the business works. What’s the Jettly way?
JC: The current installation is to connect private pilots to people who want to hitch a ride with them in exchange for a portion of the fuel cost, oil and things of that nature. If I was was flying across the state or the city, I would post the flight and allow you or somebody else to jump aboard and purchase an empty seat on the flight and pay only their share of that flight. That’s the current development.
There is an additional development that connects air taxis together on a commercial basis. Certain commercial operators are connected to an app where users can post flight requests. And once a flight request is posted, it gets sent out to a number of commercial operators in the area, and then, those air operators are then to bid on those flight requests.
PYMNTS: How did the idea for Jettly start?
JC: Looking at the business models that are everywhere and in the sharing economy, there is a similar outfit in Portugal that I came across. I’m a pilot as well. So, the idea came up in a newsfeed at one point and triggered the idea to start the business basically in the Canadian market.
PYMNTS: OK, I’m in. How does it work?
JC: So, if I’m a pilot and it’s going to cost me $150 to get across the state and I’m flying at 2:00 on Saturday afternoon, I’ll post that flight on the website. If there are two people on the plane, the regulations are very strict to the amount that you can make as a private pilot. You can’t make money, which means that everything needs to be split evenly on the realized costs. So, that’s fuel, oil, the rental, the landing fees, anything that is associated directly with the flight is split evenly between the amount of people on board, including the pilot. That’s through the current development. The pilot can make money by reducing the cost of ownership. Fuel costs are enormous out there. And on the passenger side, they have an easy way of transportation across state or across a city, something they would normally have to drive hours for. And the air taxi element is the bigger element of the whole application, which is scheduled to launch in the next few weeks. It connects these smaller airlines that don’t have a major Expedia.com that helps them market and things of that nature and connects them with business travelers that are looking for direct flights to these tertiary airports and airports that are very far away.
In terms of aviation, there are more than 5,000 airports in the United States and Canada, but conventional airlines only serve 500 airports. So, you can imagine the difference in the market to be able to land right next door to your meeting and have an easy way out and in.
PYMNTS: As a startup, how much funding have you received?
JC: No funding. It’s been entirely bootstrapped. I’ve been in internet marketing and launched more than 50 or so websites and marketed them. So, it’s entirely bootstrapped. The marketing is done in-house. There’s product sales on the back end that are contributing to revenue through the user base.
PYMNTS: What does the “Uber of X” concept mean to you?
JC: It’s kind of a rendition of Uber of X, this particular model, in the sense that it’s flight sharing and it’s part of the sharing economy. But it’s not necessarily the same objective of the drivers. The pilots aren’t here to make money in this current development. So, it’s kind of 50/50 as it relates to the Uber model. I don’t classify it directly the same way, but once the air taxi development is added and the iOS and Android app launch, then it will become something for-profit, as it will connect these smaller operators to a central system that hasn’t ever been before. It will then allow business travelers to tap into the app similarly as you would with Uber and connect up with a licensed operator that’s qualified to fly and commercially rated and everything.
PYMNTS: What do you think of the sharing economy in general? Is it sustainable?
JC: I think the landscape is going to change significantly. I think there is a boom coming, and these entrepreneurs are taking these concepts that are very old and conventional — like the taxi cab industry, like the airline industry — and really revolutionizing them. You know, will the sharing economy continue? There’s only certain markets that you can do the sharing economy, in my view, and that’s bigger ones, if you want to make the most impact. I think it will plateau similarly to Groupon, which was kind of the first wave of the collective pool of the sharing economy.
PYMNTS: So, what’s the future looking like for the airline industry in this sharing economy?
JC: Once we get into people’s phones and in the app market, we need to create a lot of awareness that business travelers have options. Nine times out of 10, people are actually close to an airport by 20 minutes, but they still have to drive to the international airport. We want to change that and give people an option so they can connect with commercial operators that may be working for a large airline that have access to a plane that is commercially certified and be able to either pick up these side jobs or whatnot. That’s our objective: to grow the air taxi element and connect them up to a central system that they don’t have.
PYMNTS: This is still for a select group. This is not a family vacation situation, right?
JC: That’s what people have to understand here. You’re not getting into a big airplane. In fact, it’s slower than the bigger airplane but a lot faster than driving. It’s also a lot more bumpy and windy, and it can get bumpy up there. They could be old planes, new planes. There’s no restrictions on what types of planes that are available. Similar to Uber in that there is UberX, UberBLACK and other options.
PYMNTS: What do you think will happen to the airline industry, and where will Jettly fit in?
JC: It’s an industry ripe for growth. When you look at the private jet market, it’s very limited in the growth that will happen. You’re talking about 0.3 percent of the world that are interested in those jets. At the same time, companies are typically focused on private jets because they get the big $50,000 tickets or the airline industry. But what we’re focusing on is the small guys that, chances are, the guy you’re calling at your local airport is the same guy who is flying the plane. It’s much different, but the room for growth there is much different. It’s significantly larger, but it is an uphill battle to get the awareness out there and to get these people — especially the business travelers — to arrange travel.
We’re talking under 1,000 nautical miles, generally. So, another thing is it’s not designed to get you across the country. You wouldn’t want to take one of these “tin cans” across the country; you would want to take a regular airline. So, this is about taking short hops across the state or cities — 45-minute to 3-hour flights.