Have Plane, Will Travel

In olden days, if you needed to get somewhere faster than commercial- airline speed, you had to purchase your own jet. Later, buying access to a jet—for a substantial deposit—was an option for the well-heeled time-challenged traveler.

Today, with a trademarked service known as FlyPrivate offered by a company called Private Business Jets, you can charter a private jet in less time than it takes to down a bag of pretzels.

“We give our customers all the access of ownership, fractional owner- ship, or jet membership without the large upfront capital commitment,” explains Don Smith, BA’86, chief operating officer at Private Business Jets (PBJ). “Our FlyPrivate service is simple: Pay as you fly.”

Customers use PBJ for a range of reasons. “Corporate business travel and personal-vacation travel comprise our core business,” Smith says. “But once-in-a-lifetime events and someone who needs to get home in a hurry also create a niche for this kind of service.”

Smith should know about niches. After several years in the flight industry, he and Greg Goodwin, vice president of marketing, started PBJ in 2002 when they recognized an untapped opportunity.

“We don’t ‘own’ the jets, so our customers don’t have to either, which is how we have created a more economical business model,” says the Centerville, Massachusetts, native. “We’re a national charter brokerage with logistical access to a network of jets owned by high-net-worth indi- viduals or corporations.” 

If these jets have empty seats, PBJ books the flight. Customers can fly almost anywhere, without having to slog through com- mercial airports.

Business has taken off. “After 9/11, the industry went into overdrive,” Smith says. “There was a surge because big [airline] companies dropped routes and because of the delays at terminals.” Another time saver: PBJ passen- gers are prescreened against the U.S. government’s Do Not Fly list.

Smith uses a handy screen for his own crew: his alma mater. A string of Northeastern students have done co-ops at PBJ’s Hingham facility. Smith credits the university for helping him spread his wings. “I got the confidence to start this company from my own co-op experience,” he says.

—Katy Kramer, MA’00