Victor, an on-demand private jet hire service, just raised around $US8 million ($10.5 million) in new investment funding, expanded into the US, and launched a mobile app on Apple’s iOS mobile platform.
The UK startup works much like Uber, but instead of booking a car, people pick a luxury aeroplane to fly around the world — in just a few clicks.
It even has a service for dogs, “Pets on Jets,” for people who don’t like the idea of Rover riding in the baggage hold of a commercial jet.
In the app, the first option is to charter one of its 7,000 registered private jets. The company takes out the “middle man,” so all you have to do is choose a time, place, aircraft size, and then pay.
Types of jets include the “Head of State” (not dissimilar to President Obama’s multi-million Air Force One), the “Mid-size” (good for longer European trips), and the “Very Light Jet,” which might take you from London to Berlin, for instance.
Prices vary depending on time, place, and the size of each aeroplane. The cheapest fare we found was a flight to France for £450 per head, if you have seven friends who fancy a bit of impulse wine-tasting.
Victor is supposed to be cheaper and more “transparent” because it takes out additional fees incurred through agencies and member clubs. Victor partners directly with aviation suppliers, so there’s no need for brokers who might hike up costs through commission, CEO and founder Clive Jackson tells me.
“We make it cheaper by removing the broker,” Jackson says. “It’s a really simple process — it’s quick, easy, and there’s just one fee. You can click a button and be flying instantly.” He says the market was “inefficient and unclear” with brokers. Instead, Victor provides “full transparency into the aircraft, crew and pricing system”.
“Traditionally, booking a private jet is an ineffective process with consumers at the mercy of brokers who often considerably mark up the cost due to the lack of regulation in the market,” Jackson explains.
Once signed up to the service, users can get instant quotes, price comparisons, click to pay functions. They can see photos of what they’re buying, complete with aircraft details.
“People who fly this way want the best,” Jackson adds. “They want to see they’re getting the newest, most exclusive plane.”
Through the app, trips can be added to your smartphone calendar and travel information is sent to your email inbox, and Apple Passbook. You just have to turn up at the chosen airport.
Despite its ease, Victor is designed as a luxurious and “bespoke” service. Customers are given a concierge to handle bookings and make sure every need is met.
“They act as a PA would,” Jackson notes. “But instead of having a PA call companies and sort everything out, it’s all done through the app.”
Victor’s Pets on Jets programme allows dogs to fly with their owners, hassle free. And Jackson even hinted that there might be a partnership with Uber in the future, which would seal a door-to-door process.
FTSE 100 executives and music industry professionals are the typical target market — people who need to travel a lot. There are now 14,888 members, many of whom are shareholders — these are the people who funded the 2015 expansion into the US and Victor’s app development. Elton John is one of them, I’m told.
There’s also an “Empty Legs” part of the site. This uses a Victor-built algorithm to find and compile all the spare private jets sitting at airports. These might be owned by private companies, but haven’t been booked, so customers can do so through Victor.
Here are some prices for flights out of London at the time of writing — just £3,327 ($6450) to Bordeaux, France. Yes, this is much more expensive than EasyJet, but split between seven people it’s relatively affordable, at a mere £475 ($920) per person. To book through a traditional service would be much pricier, of course. The cheapest deal I found was just £990 — from London Luton to Birmingham International.
Jackson, based in the London office, also tells me the app and US expansion are natural progressions for the business. “We’ve been really successful in Europe and have lots of great investors. The US market is huge for aviation, so it certainly feels right to launch there.”
Victor has opened a branch in California and is hiring tech engineers all the time. He says the US is the largest region for private jets and accounts for 49.7% of the global market; Europe has a 20.8% share.
“Expanding our operations to the US ensures we have presence in the most dominant market and are able to be closer to our customers in the region. Our shareholders are also some of Victor’s most frequent fliers which is evidence that our customers value and trust our business model.”