Should You Take A $50 Private Jet?

PHOTO: Mikhail Starodubov

A new rideshare app wants you to call a plane instead of a car.

There is officially a new rideshare app in town: BlackBird, the ride-booking app for… planes. With this new app, you’ll be able to call a private jet to fly over traffic jams, rather than, say, a regular car, à la Uber or Lyft. Should you fly rather than drive? How does it work? Where can you go? We’ve got all of the answers here.

So How Do I Fly Over Traffic?

The BlackBird app works like this: Like Lyft, you begin by choosing where you want to go. Then it immediately stops being similar because in the next step, you choose the specific type of plane you’d like to fly in, based on how much you want to pay. Finally, you choose your pilot. You then meet this chosen pilot at an airport near you.

Like Uber and Lyft, you can choose fly truly alone using the “charter” option (the most expensive). If you want to fly with someone else, you have two options: “reserve,” which grabs you a spot on an already scheduled flight, or “hitch,” which, like Uber pool or Lyft-line, let’s you share your private plane (and the cost) with other fliers going your way. Every option connects customers to commercially trained pilots.

Where Does BlackBird Fly?

BlackBird currently runs out of California, where upwards of 700 pilots fly customers between 50 and 500 miles. They’re also now running out of New York, with plans to start running out of Florida. They use the network of 1,200 or so regional airports, which are obviously less congested and traveled than the 400 major United States airports.

Dimitrije Ostojic

Is It Really $50?

BlackBird says its rates start as low as $50 a ride, so we tested a route using its Trip Estimator. A private flight from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree, a popular weekend jaunt for LA folk (and a 3-hour drive) starts at just $83 per seat for a 38 minute flight. So far, this seems startlingly cheap and convenient. Let’s dive into the pros and cons.

The Pros

Convenience is probably the biggest factor: BlackBird is available on both iPhone and Android for customers flying in or out of California and New York. The goal is to make the app more about making more transportation alternatives available, rather than just “luxury” travel. CEO and Founder Rudd Davis’s goal of making private flying more accessible to everyone is a valiant effort in normalizing private air transportation. However, this is still a luxurious way to get around, whether that’s the point or not, because it’s… a plane.

The pilots can be trusted: The pilots are all FAA commercial certified with at least 500 flight hours under their belts, so they are certainly qualified to do the job, so no worries on that front, thankfully.

The price of $50 for a private plane ride service is pretty alluring, but it should be noted that this price is typically aligned with the “hitch” (pool) option.

It CAN be cheaper than flying commercial: The price of $50 for a private plane ride service is pretty alluring, but it should be noted that this price is typically aligned with the “hitch” (pool) option. If you’re wanting to charter your own personal plane, however, it’s still going to be pretty pricey and could get up to around $1,000 a seat.

No long lines: You don’t have to deal with long airport lines, airport security, or crowds in general–you just show up at least 15 minutes prior to flying. This is a pro, despite it being concerning (mostly the security part).

The Cons

The small plane factor: These are small planes and, there are definite security and safety concerns, mostly due to the planes being used. Flights on small planes are a riskier flying option, as there are more accidents involving small planes than commercial flights. So, although the pilots are certified and everything seems fine and dandy, this is definitely something to consider when choosing to use this service.

It could be a bumpy ride: These trips aren’t for anyone truly terrified of flying—small planes are generally bumpier rides and many people are prone to nausea in these types of flying situations. There’s also the issue of a $50 flight just seeming a little too good to be true, because things that seem too good to be true, let’s face it, usually are—but perhaps that’s just me projecting my own paranoia onto it.