Ever Dreamt of a Private Jet Trip? Dubai's iFlyPrivate Capitalizes on Empty Seats

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For all of those travelers who have fantasized about flying on a private jet, iFlyPrivate is now making private travel more accessible to more flyers.

The Dubai-based company, which launched in July in partnership with Arabian Business, offers customers a chance to book private flights on chartered planes that would otherwise be empty. Through deals with charter companies across the region, iFlyPrivate is able to offer discounts on extra charter flights that serve popular MENA and European destinations.

It may seem like an idea dreamed up by a frequent flyer, but founder Roula Rabbat has 15 years of experience working in the flight chartering sector in MENA, first working for Air Partner’s MENA office, one of the largest flight chartering firms in the region, and later acting as a consultant to U.S. and European flight carriers. After a bit of research, Rabbat realized that empty flights often occur when a private charter books round-trip flights and only fills the plane one-way. These inefficient flights offered an unexplored opportunity.

Rabbat estimates that there are between 50-100 empty flights in MENA every month. iFlyPrivate lists these available flights and contacts customers within one hour of booking, sometimes even in as little as 5 minutes, to confirm the flight. Currently, iFlyPrivate only offers one-way flights, as it leverages unused return trips, but round-trip flight may be available in the future.

Of course a central question is, how much does it cost? The iFlyPrivate prices are 5-10% of the typical price of a charter flight (which can range from $45,000 - $250,000), but they're still quite expensive, appearing to range from around $3,000 to $16,000 at time of print (although certain flights are also available for $1- a potential placeholder). It's clear that the site is making it more affordable- for very high end customers. 

Target customers include individual businesspeople, couples taking a romantic honeymoon, and those enjoying a family or group gathering, Rabbat says. While iFlyPrivate aims to fill the cabin, it still provides privacy, she says, and there is even a minimum age of 12 years to ensure that passengers are not disturbed by rambunctious flyers.

For those taking the plunge to fly private, it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Rabbat points out. “This is a beautiful experience, and people like to share it with at least one or two people they know." 

One of the biggest perks of flying private, aside from any comfort and exclusivity (and a cuisine that promises to be above standard tray fare), is that flyers only have to be at the terminal 20 minutes before the flight and, when they reach their destination, they are out of the airport in less than 10 minutes.

Without a regular schedule of flights, iFlyPrivate is counting on the availability of empty flights to certain destinations by suppliers, and consumers will likely have to book return flights with another service or airline. This irregularity may turn some consumers away, but it also fills a gap that was previously left empty. Perhaps iFlyPrivate will begin to address this by offering round-trip flight options in the future. But consumers would still likely have to mold their trips around available flights in the empty sector listed on the website.

iFlyPrivate presents a unique model, one that is trying to capitalize on a middle-luxury niche market, that has been left untapped thus far. It will be interesting to see how iFlyPrivate can scale its exclusive service to put luxury travel within reach of more MENA consumers, balancing lower prices for consumers with revenue shared with suppliers.

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