UPDATE: Blackjet has reached out to state that it is, in fact, not radio silent with recent coverage in a roundup of jetting apps in the New York Times and a tripling of flights on its New York to South Florida route.
UK-based private jet booking startup Victor has nabbed $8 million to fill its tanks for the long-haul over the pond into the U.S. market. This move is essential, as America accounts for nearly half of the global private aviation marketplace.
The startup offers on-demand jet charters with direct side-by-side comparisons. This offers full transparency for the price, jet type and operator without having to go through an opaque channel that makes it challenging to compare offers.
The website offers access to over 7,000 jets of various types, from short-range to super-luxe long-range "head of state" aircraft.
Of course, online private jet charter is an extremely niche market. Victor distinguishes itself from others in the market that focus on subscriptions or fractional ownership, such as NetJets, by positioning towards those unwilling to lock in a set contract or those with only occasional private jet needs.
Effectively, Victor is an online broker for jets. It partners with local aviation providers to bring their inventory online and make it bookable. The services are then carried out by those third parties. The company doesn't actually own or operate any of the jets that it books.
In a message to TechCrunch, Victor founder and CEO Clive Jackson says that the lack of transparency within the broker market is the key driver of the startup's value proposition:
I saw a gap in the market where consumers were being kept in the dark when it comes to jet charter. There is no disclosure, no transparency, and no regulation over what a middleman can mark up and no obligation to disclose or pass back any savings if the price comes down.
This is an industry that is controlled by the middleman who acts as broker and market maker and who get away with often highly excessive margins because they keep both parties (buyer and seller) separated at the end of a phone and in the dark.
The startup also offers empty legs for more "affordable" options when an empty jet is being repositioned. Those flights are usually between small-to-mid-market airports, but can offer quite a deal of savings for those flying in this market.
The website claims to have 14,328 members and membership is free. An iOS app has also been launched to correspond with the funding, facilitating on-the-go mobile jet booking.
Blackjet, a competing private jet service backed by celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, failed to take flight last year and still seems to be taking memberships despite the recent challenges and general radio silence. Perhaps this new addition to the North American market will heat things up again!