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JetBlue to Sell Semi-Private Plane Fares with JetSuiteX

JetBlue’s announcement of a new codesharing deal with semi-private plane carrier JetSuiteX highlights the behind-the-scenes growth of a new class of airline—corporate travel.

JetSuiteX offers scheduled flights on a handful of routes from Burbank, California to nearby Concord, Las Vegas, Oakland, San Jose, and (seasonally) Mammoth. The big difference from your standard airline is that JetSuiteX flies small jets outfitted for corporate travel. Its Embraer 135s boast 30 seats, each with a 36-inch seat pitch.

The convenience factor is that JetSuiteX uses fixed-base operators—the folks who provide ground service to corporate jets—rather than commercial terminals, plus it boasts upscale cabin service, freedom from most annoying airline fees, and other service features that private jets can provide.

But don’t expect a low price for the luxury. On routes where JetSuiteX competes with regular airlines, its fares are at least double. Presumably, the fare premium will be acceptable for travelers who really want to avoid the hassles of regular-airline travel. Operating out of Concord is an interesting plan: It allows residents of some high-income East Bay areas to avoid the daunting traffic they face in getting to nearby Oakland, San Francisco, or San Jose.

The codeshare with JetBlue could be a bit of a poser, though: Codesharing is supposed to be “seamless,” but the issue of having to schlep to a JetBlue terminal to make a connection seems like it would be pretty substantial.

JetSuiteX is an offshoot of JetSuite, a corporate jet charter. Other similar operations include MagellanJets and Surf Air, both of which currently feature membership plans that provide unlimited trips (for a very stiff fee). They’re certainly not for the Spirit crowd.

But as commercial travel becomes more and more of a hassle, and as airlines keep piling on the fees, the JetSuiteX semi-private plane business model looks increasingly attractive to some.

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Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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