- XO is offering a private jet experience where passengers fly between New York and Florida on a VIP-configured Bombardier CRJ200 for a fraction of the cost of a charter.
- Passengers only pay for their seat and but still get nearly the full private jet experience.
- Flights depart from and arrive at private terminals in New York and Florida and in-flight meals and WiFi are complimentary.
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Private aviation firm XO has created a unique East Coast air bridge this summer that promises the luxury of private jet travel at the cost of a first class airline ticket.
On weekends throughout the rest of the season, XO will be shuttling passengers between New York and Florida on a VIP-configured Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft. Normally used for airline operations, the converted regional jet offers one of the largest and widest cabins in its class, helping flyers social distance in the sky easier than on an airliner.
Chartering the aircraft to traverse the coast for a weekend normally costs upwards of $US25,000 but for a one-way flight, XO passengers only pay around $US2,000 – and often less – for a seat and can still indulge in all the luxuries of private flying. The only catch is that they have to share the jet with up to 15 other flyers.
It’s called a public charter where XO charters the entire plane and markets it to passengers on a per-seat basis, bringing down the cost for flyers as opposed to chartering the entire plane. Much like how the airlines fill their planes, it allows passengers to experience the private jet set life for less.
Business Insider caught up the jet before one of its trips to Florida.
Here’s what you can expect when a buy a seat on this luxury aircraft.
The New York departure point for the service is Westchester County Airport in White Plains, a 30-mile drive from Manhattan but in the heart of the suburbs on the New York-Connecticut border.
It’s smaller than the majors like John F. Kennedy International, Newark Liberty International, and LaGuardia, as well as less congested than Teterboro, which allows for shorter taxi times and fewer delays.
XO operates the service out of Million Air, a private terminal on the airport’s south side from where all passengers for the flight will arrive and depart.
The private terminal offers free parking just a short walk from the main entrance or valet for $US20 per day.
Million Air is one of Westchester County Airport’s newest and arguably nicest private terminals, also known as a fixed-base operator, or FBO for short.
There’s no winding check-in lines, invasive security screenings, or long walks to the gate, only cosy living areas in which passengers can relax before the short hop down south.
Well-appointed lounge areas also replace the crowded gates of the commercial terminal just across the runway.
And there’s no shortage of fireplaces to get that true mountain chalet feel, though the fires aren’t roaring during the summer as much as they are in winter.
Passengers first check-in with an XO representative where bags are tagged and health declarations are filled out.
While the passengers wait to board, the private terminal offers complimentary beverages, Starbucks coffee, and free WiFi.
Masks are required in the elegant terminal with hand sanitizer stations also scattered throughout.
The “boarding door” for the flight closes 10 minutes prior to departure – the latest passengers can arrive – but passengers frequently arrive extra early and get to enjoy all the amenities of the FBO that also includes a golf simulator.
When it’s time to board, passengers are escorted across the ramp for a quick walk to their awaiting chariot.
Tennessee-based Corporate Flight Management, also known as Contour Aviation, operates the aircraft, which XO just charters and markets on a per-seat basis.
Waiting at the bottom of the air-stairs is the cabin attendant, greeting each passenger as they board.
After stepping aboard, passengers are then immediately greeted by the 16-seat cabin.
While most airlines typically offer the jet in a 2-2 configuration with around 50 seats, this CRJ200 is in a social distancing-friendly 1-1 layout with mostly forward-facing seats.
Each seat is a leather recliner with plenty of legroom.
Standard amenities include a foldable tray table stored in the armrest that can be extended half-way for drinks…
And then all the way during the meal service or for working on a laptop.
Other features include a 110v AC power outlet and USB power outlet at each seat…
Personal reading lamp and air vent…
And XO branded headrest covers.
As it was originally intended for airlines, the CRJ200 is wider than most private jets.
This creates more room to stretch out in the recliners and, of course, for social distancing in the skies.
Passengers still aren’t six feet apart but they’re spaced further than on comparable private jets or a commercial airliner.
Most seats face forward but there are four pairs of seats that face each other.
Those sections are ideal for families or couples travelling together.
The jet also has an enclosed restroom in the very back.
It’s a standard set up but also comes with some additional toiletries like lotions and hand sanitizer.
Hopping between New York and Florida is routine and typically takes around 3 hours.
The crew is minimal with only two pilots and one cabin attendant serving all 16 passengers. After take-off, the snack and beverage service begins with brand name offerings like SkinnyPop and Cliff Bars.
Once passengers are settled, it’s time for the in-flight meal service, served by the cabin attendant.
Menus are sent to passengers in advance of each flight with around five options to chose from.
After the meal, it’s time for dessert and if there’s time, a hot towel.
The dessert menu is simple with some Ghirardelli chocolates and mints served quite literally on a silver platter.
The seat-backs are bare on the jet as there’s no in-flight entertainment but complimentary WiFi helps pass the time.
The seats also offer a deep recline, perfect for a post-meal nap…
As long as there’s nobody in the next seat.
Each seat also has its own window for those who enjoy gazing upon the upper altitudes and Earth’s surface as entertainment.
Mood lighting is offered on the aircraft with the cabin changing colours between white…
When the CRJ-200 is not in operation, another luxury private Gulfstream G400 is used instead with a similar 1-1 configuration and 14 seats.
The CRJ200, however, is unique in its design and offering.
Though the airframe is nearly 20 years old, the interior appears brand-new with the leather recliners and carpeted floors not showing any signs of age.
But you don’t have to be a millionaire to fly on the plane as seats sell for a few thousand dollars one way and are often the $US1,000-$US2,000 range.
With airlines split on how to tackle social distancing in the skies, flying private is becoming more popular but for those who can’t justify the cost, this service is the perfect middle ground.
The firm offers memberships where private flyers can crowdfund flights and purchase seats on existing charters but buying a seat on this service doesn’t require one, though non-members do pay an extra $US395 fee for each seat and the lowest membership only runs for $US595 per year.
XO typically offers one of these flights per day in each direction from Thursday to Sunday though flight times and offerings vary depending on the day and routings can change.