I flew home for the holidays on a little-known airline with zero wait time that feels like a chartered jet, and I'm never flying 'normally' again

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider
  • I flew home for the holidays, from the Bay Area to Los Angeles, on a boutique but affordable airline called JetSuiteX.
  • There was no wait, minimal security, and a cosy lounge offering free drinks, snacks, and WiFi – perks that helped soothe the anxiety I normally have before a flight.
  • Here’s how the private company manages to charge less for a superior flying experience.

It was around the time my cab driver asked whether I’d given him the right address that I realised I was either about to have a unique flight experience or end up completely lost. A few minutes later, as we pulled up to what looked like a small hotel, I saw the sign that should have reassured me.

There, on a small white banner perched atop two stakes in the ground, was the name “JetSuiteX.”

This was how my experience with a boutique but affordable airline began.

My trip from the Bay Area to Los Angeles on a chartered semiprivate plane with JetSuiteX cost a fraction of a traditional flight and convinced me I’d never suffer through a giant airport for the journey again. There was no wait, minimal security protocols, and a comfortable lounge with free snacks, drinks, and WiFi.

There was, however, one drawback, which I’ll describe later.

Here’s how JetSuiteX manages to charge less for a superior flying experience.

With no ticket and no boarding pass for my flight to Burbank, California, on the chartered semiprivate airline JetSuiteX, I wondered whether I’d made a huge mistake.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

But as I pulled my luggage out of the car, I spotted another sign emblazoned with “JetSuiteX,” and what looked like a few other customers – mostly people with small dogs – scattered around the tiny entrance.

When I walked into the terminal — a few minutes’ drive from the Oakland International Airport — a JetSuiteX rug helped assure me that I was in the right place.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

As someone who deals with a fair amount of preflight anxiety, I hoped my JetSuiteX experience would be different.

Some of my normal triggers – the things that tip me from antsy to on-edge – include large crowds, long wait times, and invasive security checks. JetSuiteX claimed to have none of that.

There was no wait for my flight. A cheery customer-service agent greeted me and asked for an ID. She used that to print my boarding pass.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

She then swabbed my hands and luggage with cloth designed to check for traces of explosives – part of the standard protocol for Transportation Security Administration agents at major airports.

Only there were no TSA agents, and that was the only security I’d encounter.

JetSuiteX says on its website that its security measures “exceed” the TSA’s requirements.

“Every customer is matched against the TSA watchlist like any other commercial airline,” it says, adding that regulators for the TSA, Federal Aviation Administration, and Department of Transportation “have approved all JetSuiteX security measures.”

Once I was checked in and ready for my flight, I was invited to wait in JetSuiteX’s lounge area. It looked more like a cosy coffee shop than an airport waiting room.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

A few people had set themselves up with laptops at numerous stations throughout the area, which had plenty of outlets and WiFi.

There were also free snacks and drinks — which got me wondering: How does JetSuiteX manage to charge just $US125 for a flight that normally costs $US300 while still offering perks like these?

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

Turns out that JetSuiteX is a charter air carrier that sells tickets only for flights within California and Nevada. It was founded in 2011 by Alex Wilcox, one of the founders of JetBlue, and raised $US7 million from that airline.

So it’s perhaps thanks to investors like JetBlue that JetSuiteX is able to make budget flights feel like a boutique experience. Even the restroom area had a cosy lounge feel.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

Still, my flight experience had only just begun.

After hanging around the lounge for about an hour, I and a couple dozen other passengers were called to board the plane.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

At the glass french doors opposite my side of the lounge, a ticketing agent called us to board and checked our boarding passes. The whole process took about a minute.

Before I knew it, I was up close and personal with the plane I was about to use to fly from Oakland to Burbank.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

Though it was founded in 2011, JetSuiteX didn’t start flying until April 2016.

As of this year, the airline sells tickets for flights to five cities in California – Burbank (Bob Hope Airport), Concord (Buchanan Field Airport), Mammoth Lakes (Mammoth Yosemite Airport), Oakland (Oakland International Airport), and Santa Ana (John Wayne Airport) – and Las Vegas.

To board my flight, all I did was walk up a small flight of stairs at the front of the aircraft.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

Our plane was a regional airliner called an Embraer ERJ-135, or E-135 for short. The planes hold up to 35 people and have a small bathroom at the back.

Inside the plane, there was just one flight attendant, along with about 25 other passengers. Outlets at each seat made it convenient to charge my phone as we flew.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

During the flight, there were more free drinks – including alcohol – as well as a selection of snacks such as veggie chips and miniature bags of coconut flakes.

As we cruised above the Bay Area, I couldn’t help but pledge to myself that I’d never fly another airline within California again. But there was one minor drawback.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

On a small plane like the E-135, you can feel the push and pull of the air pressure around you. It also felt as if it dipped and swooped a bit more than the average long-haul plane.

Admittedly, I deal with fairly frequent motion sickness. Car rides make me sick. So do swings. So it’s worth noting that everyone else on the plane seemed just as relaxed as usual.

About 50 minutes later, we touched down in Burbank, a 20-minute drive from downtown Los Angeles. The flight attendant handed me a mint. A staff member wheeled out our luggage. And we left through an aircraft hangar.

Erin Brodwin / Business Insider

Before I knew it, my first JetSuiteX flight experience was over. Until next time, JetSuiteX!

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.