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US airline takes off on mission to become the 'Uber for private jets'

Rise claims that it is 'democratising' luxury private air travel

Tom Brooks-Pollock
Sunday 14 June 2015 21:53 BST
Members pay up to £1,700 for unlimited shared “private” trips
Members pay up to £1,700 for unlimited shared “private” trips

An airline that claims to be the “Uber for private jets” has said it hopes to start operating flights between London and Dublin as early as next year.

Rise aims to “disrupt” the luxury short-haul flights market just as app-based minicab service Uber has upset more established operators such as London’s black cabs.

Passengers will no longer have to suffer the “loss of dignity” associated with catching a normal commercial flight, such as the “nightmare” of queuing, passport checks and baggage reclaim, the firm says on its website.

For the promise of shaving three hours off the door-to-door trip between London and Dublin – and sharing only with other high-end customers – subscribers will pay between £1,000 and £1,700 a month. Rise, an American firm that launched last year, currently shuttles its members in shared “private” flights between cities in Texas, including Austin, Dallas and Houston.

Despite the price tag, Rise insists it is not “elitist”, claiming that it is “democratising” private air travel just as Uber brought down the cost of cabs and AirBnB revolutionised the city break.

Chartering a private plane can cost £10,000 but taking out membership with Rise allows you to make as many flights as you like for the set monthly fee. Flights can work out at a shade under £500 per person for entry-level “Express” members.

Rise says its customers currently number “several hundred” in the US. Subscribers book online, are picked up from home and dropped off at the airport, greeted by a member of staff and given a complementary drink and snack before being shown on to a spacious, eight-seater executive plane. The firm, which owns no aircraft itself, says it is in talks with private operators with a view to making its first flights between London and Dublin from early next year, subject to clearing regulatory hurdles – and finding a suitable landing strip.

The deadline will partly depend on enough people signing up, with the first 100 gaining the accolade of being “founding members”, complete with a specially embossed membership card and their signature on the side of the first plane. Other companies, such as PrivateFly, have already been compared to Uber for private-jet travel services from London to destinations such as Cannes. Their business is based on the so-called “empty-leg” model of selling seats for as little as £392 per person on unoccupied flights on their way to pick up various glitterati.

The Rise model, which turned a profit from day one in the US, is “anything but elitist”, according to the firm’s co-founder, chief executive and chairman Nick Kennedy. He told The Independent: “It is a niche market. Our customers range from entrepreneurs with one employee to business executives from major companies – anyone who travels frequently.

“If you are not travelling frequently, or commercially, then it becomes cost prohibitive but if you do travel frequently and privately, it could be a bargain.”

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