No lines. No security. No airport parking fees. And, yes, you can even bring your vanilla latte on board.
Here comes Arrow, a new private jet club that’s looking to connect busy professionals in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay Area.
Let’s just call it … the nerd bird.
Founded by aviation geek Russell Belden and backed by Seattle entrepreneur Andy Liu, Arrow is looking to fill a gap in the airline travel business by catering to folks who aren’t quite rich enough to own a personal jet themselves, but also can’t afford to sit in airport lobbies or stand in security lines.
“We’re not the airline for the one percent,” says Belden. “We’re about the achievers and doers, the people who want to get stuff done, and they’ve decided: ‘I am not wasting anymore of my time or life in lines.’”
Belden thinks the private club will appeal to busy professionals who make frequent trips between Seattle and the Bay Area, many of whom work in the tech industry. Attorneys, bankers and venture capitalists who conduct business in the two tech hubs are prime candidates for membership, as are executives at tech giants like Facebook, Google, Zillow and Microsoft, which have large workforces in both places.
Belden has a simple pitch to these folks: Time is money.
“We are selling freedom and time,” he says. “Once you do it, you’ll wonder: ‘why did I put up with all of that crap at the airport?’ It is not about privilege or social status or bling — it’s just that you want to get somewhere and do things.”
He believes flying Arrow will reduce travel times by as much as two hours between the Bay Area and Seattle — when factoring in things such as security lines and airport parking. Arrow will fly from Seattle’s Boeing Field where Transportation Security Administration is not required. The plane will be equipped with Wi-Fi.
One of the company’s marketing messages is: “What part of your business plan involved waiting in line?”
As part of that mantra, Arrow plans to work with rental car companies and private driving services to make sure that ground transportation is immediately available to its members.
Now, here’s the critical question: How much does it cost to join the club?
Corporate memberships start at $500 per month, which allows a business to choose five people who can fly on Arrow’s scheduled flights between Seattle and the Bay Area. (It plans to fly at yet-to-be-determined times to both Oakland International and San Jose International, utilizing the facilities for private aircraft at both airports). After a company designates members, each individual round-trip ticket between Seattle and California will cost $1,000.
The first 40 corporate members also will be able to add four family members to the accounts, and be able to charter the planes for $2,490 per hour.
Arrow also is running a special rate for individuals. Those memberships cost $200 per month, with the same Seattle to Bay Area ticket price of $1,000 for round-trip flights. The individual membership rate is available only to GeekWire readers, obtained by mentioning the “GeekWire Deal” when contacting the company.
If all goes as planned, Arrow also plans to offer service between Oakland/San Jose and L.A. at the $500-per-month corporate membership level, charging $600 for round-trip flights for each person.
The ticket prices may seem like a lot for those accustomed to scouring Kayak or Expedia for the latest deals. But a round-trip first-class flight between Seattle and Oakland, priced for this week, cost $824 on a commercial flight. (Economy class tickets are currently priced at $492, but have been as low as $200 in recent weeks).
Meanwhile, heavily-funded Blackjet, which has been described as the Uber for private jet travel, charges $2,500 for its annual memberships, with a one-way cross-country flight from New York to San Francisco costing more than $3,000. Using an air-charter method, Blackjet’s flights cost about $1,500 one-way between Seattle and the Bay Area.
Arrow is launching today with a test flight between Seattle’s Boeing Field and the Oakland International Airport. (GeekWire will be tagging along on the maiden voyage to see how things go, but more on that later).
Here’s the unique twist: Arrow only plans to launch service if it can attract 200 members in the first few months, at which point it will then move forward with a plan to purchase the $7 million Piaggio P180 Avanti II turboprop aircraft that it plans to fly between destinations.
Yes, Arrow is taking a Kickstarter-esque approach to getting the airline off the ground.
Belden said they should know in the first few months whether they will have enough members to support service between Seattle and the Bay Area. If all goes as planned, he hopes to officially launch later this year.
What if it doesn’t work out? Belden said that if they don’t achieve the 200-member goal, the money (to be held in escrow) will be returned to those who had secured membership.
The Avanti II is an unusual looking aircraft, a lightweight turboprop with a maximum cruising speed of 463 miles per hour. Its most distinctive characteristic is that the props sit behind the main wings, creating what the Italian aircraft maker Piaggio says is “a serene environment to relax and work in.”
“It is unlike any turboprop in the world,” said Belden. “It is as fast as a jet, but it is quieter and more efficient.”
To get the service off the ground, Arrow is partnering with Kenmore Air, the 67-year-old Seattle seaplane operator. Kenmore will hold the FAA certificate as the scheduled carrier, and pilots from the company will fly the planes on behalf of Arrow. As part of the agreement, Kenmore Air has an option to take an ownership stake in Arrow.
“There are a lot of similar interests,” said Thomas Tilson, director of flight operations for Kenmore Air.
Among those interests is developing a more efficient and comfortable way to get busy people up and down the West Coast.
“We are a flying club. We are not a lounging club,” notes Belden. “Here, you show up, you get on the plane, and you go.”
Note: I’ll be giving Arrow a try today on its initial voyage to Oakland, writing about the experience. Check back for updates, hopefully some from the in-flight wi-fi system.