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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A cheap, hassle-free alternative to commercial airline travel?

You don't think you can afford to fly off on vacation on a private plane? Think again. Smart Flights, a new company based in Smyrna, Tennessee, now brings the style and comfort of privately chartered flights to the average airline passenger.

"We're essentially using social networking to fill vacant seats on private aircraft that go all over the place every day, often with nobody on board," explains CEO and co-founder Jay Deragon. "A company or group might charter a jet to take them to California, but then that plane flies back empty. With Social Flights, people can buy individual seats on the return trip, giving the charter company revenue it wouldn't have had."

The company began a local beta test of their services back in February and plans to begin offering flights throughout the U.S. next month. 12,500 people have already registered for the service at, and 91 private charter companies have signed on to offer their empty seats to Social Flights customers.

The costs are lower than one would expect. For example, a one-way ticket from Destin, Florida (less than 50 miles from Pensacola), to Nashville, Tennessee, would cost around $200. Private charter flights aren't limited to the major metropolitan airports, which means passengers could also save money on parking and car rental.

The real savings, however, comes in the form of hassle-free travel. Booking a flight on a private plane helps you avoid the normal inconveniences of commercial airline travel, such as plane changes, five-hour layovers, lost luggage, long security lines, irradiating porno scanners, and frisky TSA agents. In short, Social Flights is seeking to bring back the joy and comfort of flying.

I don't expect this to revolutionize the airline industry, but introducing another element of competition is the best thing that could happen.

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