The Status Match
This all started with JetSmarter running a pretty crazy promotion a couple weeks ago. The company offered a status match to anyone who had top status with an airline or over 1 million miles/points. For their status match, they would offer a free three month JetSmarter membership. Keep in mind a year-long full access JetSmarter membership cost around $5k.
I don’t have top status with any airline (unless you count the Southwest companion pass), but across multiple banks and frequent flier programs I have over 1 million miles/points collected. I wasn’t sure that this would work, but I submitted a screenshot of all of my points collectively to show that I was over 1 million miles/points. I received an email about 3 days later saying I had been approved for a free three month membership!
What is JetSmarter?
I guess I should probably explain a little more how JetSmarter works. Basically think Uber/Lyft for private jets. They offer discounted seats on shared chartered or shuttle jets, but the best perk as a member is their empty leg deals. These empty legs are basically when a private jet company has a contracted flight at Airport B, but the jet is at Airport A. Therefore they need to get the plane from A to B, but instead of flying it empty they work with companies like JetSmarter to fill the seats for the empty leg.
The beauty of it is that JetSmarter can offer these empty-leg seats for free to it’s members. They actually offer 2 free seats per member. No additional cost (except obviously your membership fees).
Seattle to Van Nuys
Fast forward to a couple weeks after receiving the membership, I got a message from a friend (and fellow travel hacker) who had been able to status match to JetSmarter as well. He sent me the screenshot you see to the right and asked if I was going to jump on this empty leg deal.
I looked on my own app and sure enough there it was. An empty leg flight Seattle to Los Angeles on a Friday night. As you can see, the first 2 seats are free for members. I immediately called my wife to confirm that we didn’t have any Friday night plans and we could take this private jet flight down to LA.
She could probably hear my excitement over the phone and of course asked all the important questions (i.e. where are we going to stay? how are we going to get back?). All important things, but questions I didn’t quite have the answers to at this point.
First things first though, I went ahead and requested seats on the JetSmarter empty leg. They have to reserve your seats and then you receive an invoice for $0. To officially confirm your seat, you have to accept the invoice within an hour. So I went ahead and requested seats while I did research on everything else.
Luckily, Van Nuys is close enough to some of family that we were able to contact them and see if they could pick us up. During my lunch break, I figured out possible last minute routes to fly back from LA to Seattle. I found a few different options for around $125 – 160 per person. While that wasn’t terrible, I’ve found roundtrip flights for that much. Then I realized I should probably look at options on Southwest Airlines due to the fact that we have the Companion Pass and would only have to pay for one person.
I found one flight on Saturday and one on Sunday out of Burbank for around 10k and 9k Rapid Rewards, respectively. I booked them both on points knowing that I could cancel either of them and we could decide later which flight we actually wanted to take.
Our Private Jet Experience
We took an Uber to the Boeing Airport from our apartment. We got there 10-15 mins before we were supposed to board. We waited in a lounge area with three other people for the plane to arrive. It arrived about 30 minutes late. The pilot then came out and asked to see our IDs. We then headed straight out to the jet. It was pretty weird getting on a plane without having to go through security.
Upon entering the plane, we took our seats and started chatting with the other passengers. The guy sitting next to us owned his own business and paid for the JetSmarter membership. The other couple was a son and his mom who also got a JetSmarter membership from the status match promotion.
We tried to take as many pictures as we could without being obnoxious. It was quite the experience. The takeoff and landing was smooth for such a small aircraft. Unfortunately, the group that was on the jet before us cleared out most of the snacks and beverages, which the pilots apologized for.
The leather bucket seats that we chose to sit in were super comfortable. They rotated, reclined, and slide forward/back. You could pretty much re-arrange them however you want. There was also a couch towards the back on the plane, which sat 3 people. It was basically like flying in a living room.
We were able to see the sunset during our flight. The cockpit is open throughout the flight so I was able to go up and talk to the pilots and learn about all the controls and dashboards.
The whole experience was pretty surreal. I would definitely do it again, but don’t think I would pay for a full JetSmarter membership ($5k/year). I’m way too cheap for that. If there’s another empty leg deal out of Seattle in the next three months, we will definitely jump on it.
I would have never dreamed of flying on a private jet and to think that we’re flying in business class less than a week from now is unbelievable. All of these crazy experiences would not be possible without travel hacking.