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Despite stalled growth in China, Brazil and Russia, a wave of newly middle-class travelers from the BRICs and beyond will start visiting international destinations in the coming decades — dwarfing the numbers we’ve seen thus far.
Private jets occupy a space where price doesn’t really matter, and users don’t mind the middleman. Actually they do mind if the middleman is just an app and not a person who will bend over backwards to help them.
The launch of Returnjet means the elitist private aviation industry will become more grounded, according to serial entrepreneur and founder Mark Blanchfield.
The new business allows globetrotters to search, track and directly reserve private planes via a consolidation site.
Mr Blanchfield has set up the system, which cuts out the middle man and substantially reduces the cost of chartering a private jet.
“There is no restriction to what the brokers in this business can charge,” said Mr Blanchfield. “Meaning that 100pc to 200pc margins can sometimes be made.”
The website gives the end-user more choice of flights, connecting the consumer with the aircraft owner.
The brand new business has already signed up two thirds of the UK’s private jet operators.
It gives customers access to a skyline taxi service, and shows which jets are empty and where, giving jetsetters more choice.
“This is not about luxury, but functionality, getting from A to B,” said Mr Blanchfield. “I came across the idea when booking flights for my family and friends to go to Ibiza after the London Olympics,” he said.
There was an exodus from the UK following the Games, which allowed the airlines to hike their prices.
“The flights were really expensive, so I started searching for a private jet at the last minute and ordered one for £2,000 for five people. But it took me three hours to track one down,” he said. “This is a service that families should be able to use.”
The system also takes advantage of the fact that 40pc of private jet flights are empty.
“A primary charterer of the plane uses it to fly out on holiday. The plane then returns empty, before heading back out to make the pick-up. By utilising these empty flights we can make travel by private jets more affordable for families and businesses.”
It also allows customers to share flights.
Building the software with the UK market in mind, Mr Blanchfield had no intention of going global so quickly.
“A president of a US corporate is already interested and we’ve had inquiries from Australia and across Europe,” he said.
He teamed up the Software Farm to develop the Returnjet platform.
The technology company built a new online billing system for 02 and a business management service for the pub group Greene King.
Mr Blanchfield’s previous business, Epilson, tested electrical safety. He sold it in 2008.