Seeking to simplify the process of booking charter flights, Virgin Group launched a Web-based travel portal for private jets, VirginCharter.com. The search function is currently by invitation only, but the Web site is scheduled to become available to all users this fall.
Customers will have access to roughly 2,500 charter operators in the United States. After inputting dates and desired itineraries, customers will be able to choose from bids submitted by charter operators and private jet owners, creating an eBay-style marketplace for the luxury service. Virgin is encouraging registered jet owners and operators to secure third-party safety certification from groups such as Wyvern Consulting, whose parent company, Charter X, is a Virgin Charter partner.
The search engine also is expected to bring the cost of private jet travel down. Currently, clients often are charged roundtrip prices for one-leg travel to cover the cost of planes flying back empty. With the portal service acting as a clearinghouse for empty legs, price competition may open up in a big way. It also will allow greater transparency in the price structure of private jet travel, as customers gain access to a range of price quotes from multiple suppliers.
Source: Business Week