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App helps wealthy travelers hitch rides on private jets

A passenger jet flies in front of the moon in Bogota November 1,2012. REUTERS/Felipe Caicedo
A passenger jet flies in front of the moon in Bogota November 1,2012. REUTERS/Felipe Caicedo

By Natasha Baker

TORONTO (Reuters) - Wealthy travelers wanting to fly in style can book empty seats on private planes with a new app for a jet-sharing service.

Although there are dozens of apps for buying seats on commercial flights, BlackJet is a new iPhone app that connects travelers with private jets that have extra room on their planes.

Flights are shared with from two to 14 other passengers, and the price is on par with a premium fare on a commercial airline, according to the San Francisco-based company.

"We had the idea to use the existing aircraft out there and to leverage the excess capacity," said BlackJet chief executive Dean Rotchin.

Passengers who are members of the service and pay an annual fee of $2,500 can book a seat on any of 4,000 airplanes the company has access to through partnerships. They can also buy add-on services such as meals and ground transportation.

The service is geared primarily towards business travelers looking for convenience, time-savings and reliability, according to Rotchin.

Travelers using the app can buy a seat in advance but they will not get a precise itinerary until the day before the flight.

"On the day of travel the experience is completely different than at the major airports. You're basically driving right up to the plane, getting on the airplane, and within 15 minutes the airplane is leaving," he said.

Flights booked with the app cost between $900 for a trip from Los Angeles to Las Vegas to $3,500 for a coast-to-coast flight.

The company offers flights from San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Los Angeles and South Florida, and plans to expand service to Chicago, Washington, Boston, Dallas and Seattle.

Since the web app was launched in October, more than 3,000 flights have been booked through it, the company said.

Another app called PrivateFly, which is available worldwide for iPhone, iPad and Android, allows jet-setters and companies to book an entire private jet.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Cynthia Osterman)

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