The Aero experience: What it’s like flying on a semiprivate jet for under $1,000

Oct 27, 2021

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I’m a firm believer that we’re still living in the golden age of travel. It has just evolved.

While the days of onboard piano bars and chateaubriand sliced in the aisle may be gone, flying private has become more accessible than ever. More and more companies are introducing their own versions of semiprivate jet travel — where you enjoy the convenience of flying out of private terminals but share the plane with strangers.

Some companies, such as JSX and Surf Air, focus on offering a private-like experience at the lowest price point, while others like Blade and XO still try to deliver all of the glitz and glamour associated with flying private. Regardless of which option you go with, one thing is for sure: The amount you’ll pay will be a drop in the bucket compared to chartering an entire jet.

A recent trip to Las Vegas for the National Business Aviation Association Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition proved the perfect opportunity to try out another one of these semiprivate companies, Aero. The company has been around since 2019, but it recently announced several new routes, including Los Angeles (Van Nuys) to Las Vegas and Los Cabos. I was booked to fly Aero’s second-ever flight from Vegas to L.A. but due to a last-minute schedule change, my flight ended up being the inaugural (AvGeek achievement unlocked).

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In This Post

Flying ‘private’ comes at a hefty premium …

My one-way flight from Las Vegas to Los Angeles cost $950. That equates to about $15 per minute, which isn’t exactly cheap.

At the time of writing, there are first-class seats available for flights in the next 48 hours for about $300 each way. That said, flights booked closer in can sometimes cost $500 or more.

Meanwhile, seats on JSX’s semiprivate LAS-to-LAX route start at $99, but you typically need to book at least three weeks in advance to get that fare. Last-minute bookings cost around $569 each way.

So, flying Aero does come at a price premium over other by-the-seat options, though it’s still significantly cheaper than the $7,000-plus you’d spend on chartering an entire jet. It’s also worth mentioning that Aero’s fares remain relatively consistent regardless of when you book and they’re fully refundable up to seven days before departure. Cancellations made between seven days and 48 hours before departure result in a full credit to be used toward a future flight.

Related: Yes, you can fly private — here’s the secret that will help you do it

… but you can save some serious time

What you’re paying for is the time savings. Aero advises guests to arrive 40 minutes before their departure, which, in my opinion, is playing it really safe. Since flights operate out of private terminals, there are no long check-in lines, traditional security checkpoints or airport traffic to worry about.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

When I arrived at the airport, I simply walked up to the Aero agent holding a tablet and presented my ID. The agent weighed my bag and asked some basic security questions, such as if I packed it myself and if my bag was with me throughout my entire trip, and before I knew it I had my boarding pass in my hand.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

This was no ordinary boarding pass, however. It was a frosted plastic card more akin to a hotel keycard, or better yet, a private jet card. Seats were randomly assigned.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Aero advertises “private lounges,” but in reality, it just uses the facilities of various FBOs, or fixed base operators, which are used by other private jet flyers as well.

(Note, after publishing, Aero reached out to share that it will soon be opening a private terminal lounge at Van Nuys.)

There was complimentary coffee and tea, but the only snacks and drinks available were via a vending machine. While that’s fairly standard for FBOs, it was a bit disappointing considering Aero’s website specifically teased “a glass of bubbly ” before boarding.

Once it was time to board, the Aero agent escorted me and my fellow passengers to the plane. While it would’ve been nice to be driven to the plane, the walk was short and sure beat navigating a busy terminal.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

This flight was just 65 minutes long. Upon arrival in Los Angeles, my checked bag was delivered to me in a matter of minutes. Being in a private terminal meant there was no stressful baggage claim to deal with.

But perhaps a bigger benefit to some flyers is that Aero flies into Van Nuys Airport (VNY) as opposed to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) or Hollywood Burbank Airport (BUR). This means less traffic around the airport and easier access to areas like Bel Air, Encino, Malibu and Calabasas.

Aero’s concierge is no joke

While I usually use concierge services when I need help with a restaurant reservation or planning a special occasion, a prominent selling point of Aero is its dedicated concierge team. So, I decided to put it to the test … and it delivered!

Shortly after booking my flight, I emailed the concierge team requesting that they stock some of my favorite snacks and drinks on board. Specifically, I requested a bag of jalapeno-flavored Kettle potato chips and coconut water. The concierge replied that they’d do their best to accommodate the request and, sure enough, they did. Waiting at my seat upon boarding were my bag of chips and coconut water. There was also a handwritten welcome note and hand sanitizer gift but those were offered to everyone.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Even aside from that, the service felt very personalized. About 45 minutes before my flight I got a call from a concierge agent letting me know that our flight would be delayed by about 15 minutes and an explanation of why. But what really surprised me was that the agent finished the call by saying that they’re big fans of The Points Guy. TPG’s policy is not to alert the airline that we are reviewing a flight so they clearly did some research on their passengers.

Finally, before boarding, the ground agent asked all passengers if they already had ground transportation set up or if they needed the concierge to arrange it. This way no one would have to waste time waiting for an Uber upon arrival.

Related: The best cards for booking private jet travel

Cabin configurations may vary

Aero flies two types of aircraft: the Embraer ERJ135 and Legacy 600. They’re operated by a wholly owned subsidiary, giving the company direct control over the aircraft.

Any photo you’ve seen on Aero’s website was most likely of the ERJ135. It’s painted in an elegant black livery and offers 16 seats in a 1-1 first-class configuration.

Aero cabin
Aero’s ERJ135 cabin (Photo courtesy of aero.com)

However, my flight was operated by the Legacy 600, which looked completely different. Normally, I’d be disappointed boarding a plane that’s different from what I expected, but in this case, I didn’t really mind since it felt more like a typical private jet than a fancy regional jet.

Related: A look inside the largest and longest-range business jet

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

The cabin was split into three sections. At the front were club seats facing each other, followed by another section with seats around a conference/dining table.

Then, at the rear of the cabin was what felt like a separate room with another two club seats and a three-seat sofa.

In total, there was seating for 13 passengers, though there were just five on my flight. That’s about half of the number of seats as on JSX’s jets. The cabin was quite tall and did not feel claustrophobic by any means.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Overall, the cabin had a very social feel to it. Naturally, when you’re seated directly facing a stranger, chances are you’ll strike up a conversation at some point. While that might not be ideal for business routes, it works for Aero’s more leisure-focused routes like L.A. to Vegas.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Aside from at the sofa, each seat had access to a table and power outlet.

I was assigned seat 1A at the very front of the plane. While nowhere near lie-flat, it offered a comfortable recline as well as a legrest with foot support. That said, legroom could’ve gotten tight had someone been seated across from me.

There was free Wi-Fi available on board, but I mostly kept my eyes glued to the window during the hourlong flight.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

At the very rear of the cabin was a lavatory. As is fairly common on private jets, the toilet was hidden beneath a leather bench.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Open bar and tasty snacks

Aero’s snack and drink game was on point. In addition to my coconut water and chips, upon boarding I was offered a pre-departure beverage choice of NV Louis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne or water.

Once in the air, our flight attendant Jennifer came around the cabin to distribute drink menus, which were quite extensive. In addition to just the usual coffee and tea, there was hot chocolate, cold-brew coffee and iced tea. Some other unique soft drinks included Health-Ade Kombucha and Rishi Sparkling Botanicals.

The wine, bubbly and beer selection was curated by Wally’s Beverly Hills, a well-regarded wine bar and restaurant with locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas. All of the wine retailed for about $50 to $100 on the ground. Meanwhile, the cocktails were from Catch LA, another well-known establishment with locations in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York City and Playa del Carmen. Other options ranged from Amass hard seltzers to Soto sake. Clearly, Aero has put some thought into partnering with local and artisanal brands.

I went with the “Kali” cocktail, which was a jalapeno-infused passion fruit margarita with a hint of yuzu. It was delicious, though I was a bit surprised to learn that there was just one catered on the flight.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Shortly after, Jennifer passed through the cabin with a snack basket. The assortment was both healthy and tasty, including options like Hippeas chickpea puffs, Kibo chickpea chips, Garrett popcorn, Tate’s Bake Shop cookies and Rxbar protein bars. Sure, caviar would’ve been nice but I didn’t expect anything too substantial given the short flight time.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Additional snacks and periodicals were available in a basket in the middle of the cabin.

Bottom line

Aero is a fantastic way to fly. The service is top-notch and it can save you a ton of time. Not only do you benefit from traveling through private terminals but you also fly in and out of Van Nuys Airport, which can be far more convenient for some Angelenos than LAX or Burbank Airport.

My only gripe would be the price. Although far less expensive than chartering an entire jet, flying Aero still costs a pretty penny. Even if you’re booking at the last minute, you can likely save a couple of hundred dollars and still enjoy the convenience of a semiprivate flight by flying JSX. However, you wouldn’t get quite the same level of luxury and service.

 

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Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.

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