CoGoJets introduces jetpooling

A new business aims to help private jet travelers find a way to “jetpool.”

CoGoJets, an Omaha-based business that launched in December, caters to a potentially oxymoronic market: frugal jet-setters.

The company offers members access to a nationwide social networking Web site where they can search for others interested in sharing a flight. Once they form a group, CoGoJets acts as an agent to charter a jet, and the travelers split the cost of the flight.

Alpharetta resident Greg Ablett, one of CoGoJets’ early members, said he thinks “there’s a huge savings in being able to fill up private jets that are not normally filled up.”

Ablett, who works as vice president of operations strategy at West Asset Management in Marietta, said he has flown on clients’ jets and it’s “certainly nice.” Rather than leaving home three hours before a flight, he can leave 25 minutes before takeoff to fly out of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport.

“I can pull the car up and many times, less than five minutes later, we’re in the air.”

Given the crunch in the economy, “it seems a logical step that people would want to share their jet travel,” said Joe Leader, president of the Air Taxi Association, which is based in Atlanta. “Even the phrase jetpooling was used” when auto industry chief executives flew in corporate jets to Washington, D.C., seeking a federal bailout late last year.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York) asked the automaker chiefs, “Couldn’t you all have downgraded to first class or jetpooled or something to get here?”

Founder and chief executive Jamie Walker started CoGoJets out of an Omaha aircraft charter operation he runs, Jet Linx Aviation. Walker said he surveyed his customers and found 85 percent of them said they’d like to share private jet flights. Jet Linx is also one of the operators that will be used to charter flights for CoGoJets members.

Private jet users “understand the convenience that a private aircraft offers them and many of them use it as a business tool to get more done,” Walker said. “With the economy in the shape that it’s in, they don’t necessarily want to get rid of that business tool.”

CoGoJets is temporarily waiving its $2,500 annual membership fee as it builds its membership. The company charges $3,000 per hour to rent a light jet. If that price is split among six people, it would be $500 per hour per person.

One high-profile company that tried using a per-seat model for private jets failed last year. DayJet, based in Florida, operated as an air taxi and owned aircraft, unlike CoGoJets.

Walker said CoGoJets is different. “CoGoJets is really a meeting place for people to arrange and coordinate their travel plans,” he said. “You could almost say we’re the middle man.”

It’s not the only company trying this model. Another is Flymiwok, whose service area is limited to Southern California. Other companies, such as ImagineAir in Lawrenceville and SATSair, based in Greenville, S.C., operate air taxi operations that cover the Atlanta area.

CoGoJets’ membership base is small so far, limiting the utility of the network, and it’s unclear how successful the service will be.

Originally published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution- click here for feature.

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