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TPG Contributor J. Keith van Straaten recently flew one-way on JetSuiteX’s Embraer 135 during a Memorial Day Monday afternoon commute from Burbank (BUR) to Las Vegas (LAS) — for $77. Read on for his impressions of the experience.
While private jets are not uncommon between Southern California and Las Vegas, booking a seat for $77 on one of them is. Thanks to a Travelzoo promotion by JetSuiteX, regular travelers had a unique chance to get a taste of the private jet lifestyle.
I don’t really need an excuse to visit Las Vegas from my home in Los Angeles, so when I got an email from Travelzoo saying flights on a private jet were available for $77 each way, I suddenly had plans for Memorial Day.
Following the Travelzoo link brought me to JetSuiteX, which had an easy-to use interface, allowing me to book my flight quickly. As part of the promotion, there weren’t any extra fees to pay — the $77 price was all-inclusive and I gladly put the full amount on my Business Platinum Card from American Express.
Airport and Check-In
I love flying out of Burbank (BUR) whenever possible since the airport is small and the people are friendly. It’s even better flying out of JetSuiteX’s Hangar 2 — once you find it. Following the signs to the airport won’t help; in fact the last turn my driver made was a left when the sign showing the airport pointed right.
Once you arrive at the hangar, valet parking is available for $28 per day, compared to the usual $24 per day for the valet at the main terminal.
Check-in was a breeze. Two agents worked the counter and with only 30 passengers on each flight, the line was short and sweet. A few minutes after showing the agent my ID, I was given a paper boarding pass. Then came the weirdest part: I was done. There is no terminal to take a train to, there are no monitors to check for gate numbers and, most astonishing, there is no security line. Why? There simply is no required security check for charter flights. Take that, TSA!
Two small rooms served as lounges. One had desks and chairs, while the other featured more of a traditional lounge setup, with free Wi-Fi, packaged snacks and soft drinks available.
A sign explained that the lobby was not yet complete and that “some of our furniture is running late.” Fortunately, though, the Foosball table had already arrived. Unfortunately, the doorknob on one of the lounge doors broke, briefly trapping the passengers inside.
Though my boarding pass said we’d begin boarding at 1:15pm, it wasn’t until 1:30pm when a family with a small child and stroller were allowed on, followed by a general announcement — shouted, since there’s no PA system out here.
Boarding was smooth despite a narrow stairway, partly because the aircraft had been modified to remove the overhead bins. This not only allowed for more headroom, but also eliminated the time wasted while passengers fuss with their luggage. The door closed at 1:37pm and we pulled away from the gate one minute later.
It was a bit of a drive to get to the runway and we were delayed for ten minutes by the tower before finally taking off at 1:58pm.
Cabin and Seats
The Embraer E135 has a 1-2 seating configuration while JetSuiteX’s leather seats are spaced to provide a decent amount of legroom and 36 inches of pitch with a comfortable recline. In-seat power is available along the wall.
Under-the-seat storage for the single seats was limited by the curve of the wall — one of my bags that was designed to be stowed under standard airplane seats could not fully fit. Across the aisle, the two-seat storage option was more roomy.
Free in-flight Wi-Fi by Gogo was easy to connect to and use (about 25-minutes worth on such a short flight), with download/upload speeds of 2.96/.3 Mbps.
The Flight Experience
This may be the cleanest aircraft I’ve ever been on. Not just because the aircraft was practically new, but every surface I saw was spotless. The seat pocket contained a menu of beverages and a safety card. The tray table was large and stable.
One flight attendant handled all the duties, with two pilots in the cockpit. Drink orders were taken ten minutes into the flight and delivered 10 minutes later. As promised, cocktails and snacks were free, though I would not categorize chips and fruit bars as “gourmet,” as the airline’s website did. Cups and wrappers were not cleared until after landing, which was an inconvenience.
The flight was smooth and quiet until 29 minutes after take-off, when the captain announced the initial descent, and warned that it would be bumpy. It was.
As we were about to touch down 17 minutes later, the plane suddenly ascended quickly, causing some passengers to gasp and hoot. I heard the landing gear retract and a few minutes later the captain explained that another aircraft taking off across from us was running late and was still on the runway! I’m not sure if this was the fault of our crew, the other crew, or air traffic control, but either way it caused some headaches and nausea and delayed us by another eight minutes.
Wheels were down in Las Vegas at 2:52pm. A few minutes later, the flight attendant collected the trash and at 2:57pm the engines were off and the door was open. All passengers were off the aircraft in about two minutes — it’s nice to not have overhead bins! — and loaded into a waiting shuttle van.
We waited for six minutes inside the shuttle van as we saw two passengers load into limousines that were waiting even closer to the plane. Less than a minute later, we were at the terminal for Atlantic Aviation, a charter building that looks more like a traditional airport terminal. Luggage followed quickly after. From door to door, the flight scheduled from 1:30pm to 2:40pm came in at 3:06pm.
The Atlantic Aviation terminal is far from the rest of McCarran, which meant I couldn’t avail myself of my hotel’s free shuttle. The upside is that the exit spits you out into a driveway about 20 feet from the street. Some passengers hailed taxis from the sidewalk as others waited for Uber and Lyft rides.
Except for the mishap of our first attempted landing, this was one of the most stress-free flying experiences I’ve ever had. Not having to deal with TSA is a huge plus — if you don’t think too much about the risks of traveling with unscreened passengers, which I do have mixed feelings about.
I really enjoyed interacting with everyone at the airline. Before I booked the ticket, I emailed a question about the arrival terminal and got a response within five minutes — has that ever happened with a commercial carrier? I asked a crew member (without identifying myself as a reviewer) at BUR if I could take photos of the empty aircraft and he gave me a personal tour and showed genuine enthusiasm about the company. Every employee I encountered was smiling and it really makes a difference. So does a $77 fare for a private jet experience.
Have you ever flown private on JetSuiteX? Tell us about it, below.
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