Since May 2016, TapJets has sold close to 600 flights aboard private jet aircraft and served more than 3,000 passengers. The Houston-based company is to the private jet industry what Uber and Lyft are to the ride-sharing economy; TapJets owns neither the fleets, nor employs the flight crews. But it does provide its users with instant access to more than 1,700 jets.
With nearly 19,000 downloads, the on-demand private jet app allows users to book a private jet in less than a minute, eliminates the broker process and membership fees and only charges clients for the time they fly. Founder and CEO Eugene Kesselman says:
“We’re the only company in the world that lets you book a private jet today in under a minute –signed, sealed, done and you head to the airport. We’re the only company’s that’s automated the process from end to end.”
Clients have the option of booking door-to-door service or private jet charters between two airport locations. TapJets’ auction platform also offers discounted flights. But Kesselman says that growing the auctions platform is high on the agenda for this year as he and co-Founder and EVP, Operations Capt. Robert Klumb “haven’t spent much time on that segment of the business.”
Selling dead leg or repositioning flights could mean flying for as little as 25 percent of cost for travelers and bolstering profits by as much as 20 to 30 percent for aircraft owners and operators. “As more and more customers download the app, these sales will happen more frequently,” notes Kesselman, who isn’t currently planning to seek outside investment to enhance TapJets’ auction business.
Yet, developing the technology that drives the app was no small feat as the software has to interact with fuel pricing, jet availability, customs costs and local facility fees to serve up a flight with accurate pricing in real time. With that in mind, TapJets currently offers service within North America only as it continues to add new destinations with associated terminal and customs costs to the app while also sourcing car service companies for new destinations added.
Kesselman explains that “it’s a combination of machine learning and algorithms that we developed while also connecting directly with the schedules of every company that runs the jets.”
The CEO along with Klumb privately funded the startup, which Kesselman describes as making great cash. Although he also added that as the company continues to grow rapidly, “we may seek additional funding, but if and when we do, it would be a first round of funding.”
In the meantime, a solid base of high net worth customers, ranging from corporate customers, professional sports organizations and celebrities, drive strong revenue. Moreover, the company began accepting crypto currency payment with Ethereum and Bitcoin in January.
Since then, the number of bookings has tripled month over month and generated 25 percent of revenues. “This has brought us additional new customers as well,” he said, adding that private jet brokers from across the country have since contacted TapJets to let them know that the startup’s new payment methods is causing a drop in brokerage bookings.
Still, a new wave of clients has yet to be converted and Kesselman envisions traditional brick-and-mortar travel agents to be TapJets’ next source of business.
“We believe the airline industry left a lot of agents in limbo when they moved to fully electronic booking and cut travel agent commissions to zero when more travel agents are now working with high net worth clients.”
TapJets will launch a travel agent portal this year where these retailers can make client bookings, arrange in-flight catering and pre- and post-flight car service and manage flight itineraries from their desks, with commissions fully paid to agents. The service may also be extended to include OTAs.