Necessity is the mother of invention. While Clive Jackson was travelling with British Midland Airways from Mallorca to London for the last time – the old British airline had been absorbed by market competitors and the air link to the Balearic Island was being cancelled – the clever IT business entrepreneur had an idea. Why not take advantage of the flexibility of an executive jet instead of an inflexible scheduled or low-cost airline? Still somewhat uncertain, he immediately asked eight fellow passengers seated behind him, if they could imagine chartering a jet for a flight to Palma, and sharing the costs. They could – and Clive Jackson was convinced that he could offer them the right way to do that.
Less than 18 months later the service was ready. Jackson launched his website www.flyvictor.com – the first flight search engine for executive jets. At first glance it works like any other website offering flights: From a list of services one can select a flight in an executive jet. The prices vary, depending on the workload of the jet, between 3.500 and 500 euros. Motto: The more passengers, the cheaper the individual fares.
There´s a significant difference from conventional online flight providers, however. “If there are more seats subsequently sold on the plane, the passengers get refunded the difference between former and current price,” says Jackson. And if an offer is too expensive, one can also make a bid for a seat. The owners of private jets, or someone who has chartered an entire jet, will decide whether to accept the offer or not.
Jackson is especially proud of a very special feature of his website. One can choose not only from existing offers, but create one’s own private jet flight individually. “Let’s imagine you want to fly from London or Frankfurt to Nice or Palma on a certain weekend in November, but there´s no corresponding offer on the homepage,” Jackson explains. No problem. “You put your request in a list. If more interested people gather to fly the same route at the same time, the site software generates an offer and sends it to you via email to computer or smart phone,” says Jackson.
With www.flyvictor.com the Briton wants to balance supply and demand in the executive set industry. Jackson: “First, we show people who do not own a private jet, they can fly exclusively.” He emphasizes that it´s not a luxury only available for the rich and famous. Many people are tired of queuing in stale air in terminals, the obligatory traipsing through the airport maze, flight delays – and the nature of some of their fellow travellers. Many people just want to travel directly, quickly and flexibly to their chosen destination. “Anyone who wants to travel even short distances by plane needs a lot of time and patience. The queues at check-in and hand luggage checks are getting longer.” Often a whole day is lost in the airport arrival and departure processes. For business people, time is money. “Waiting at the airport is a waste of time and money,” Jackson remarks. The international executive jet business is no longer a privilege of the rich and famous – thanks to the thriving market: “Nowadays it´s no luxury to fly with an executive jet. It has become just a fast means of transport. People would be amazed by knowing how many SME business people use it.”
By the way, many aircraft owners are looking to reduce their costs – and www.flyvictor.com is a good tool to manage this. “An executive jet is rarely fully booked out. Flyvictor.com helps to generate more bookings and thus more money through so-called “empty legs,” says Jackson.
His flight sharing programme is proving to be attractive. The “jet set” community has more than 300 members in Europe. Over 150 aircraft and 950 airports are registered in the database of the online portal. Even dogs are among the members. “Dog owners usually have to shut their pets in restrictive cages for hours. This is sheer torture. A couple has already booked a seat for their dog on our website,” says Jackson.
Jackson wants to expand his business aviation market internationally over the next few years. “After Europe we want to offer our services in the U.S. market and later in Asia.” The offer is not only limited to providing exclusive flights. Flyvictor.com collaborates with luxury hotels and agencies in order to allow its members the best possible service at their respective destinations. “A few years ago such a website might not have been possible,” Jackson admits. But the global economic crisis has made even the rich price-sensitive. “Even those who can afford to spend, prefer to save money.” And be honest: sitting on a leather seat with a glass of champagne in your hand is better than being crammed into economy class with a soggy sandwich – isn´t it?