- Ascend Air
How nice would it be if business trips were as luxurious and fun as they appear to be in movies?
In reality, even high-level employees will find having to take commercial flights frequently for work a pain in the neck.
Even if you are travelling on business class, commercial flights are often time consuming, expensive and extremely draining. It doesn’t help if your schedule is packed with back-to-back meetings in different cities.
Now a new private jet club, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia, is promising to take away the dread in business travels by flying its clients in first class private jets for a fraction of the cost.
Founded by Singaporeans Christopher Choo, 25, and Pluto Pang, 24, Ascend Air is a club set up to allow frequent travellers to purchase single seats on luxurious private jets.
Instead of chartering a short-haul plane for tens of thousands of dollars, or splurging thousands on commercial business class seats, Ascend Air members are able to book single seats on private jets at a fraction of the full cost.
In an e-mail interview with Business Insider, Choo, who previously worked at a global investment company, said that his experience of flying between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur showed him just how inefficient short-haul business commercial travel can be.
Not only do passengers need to check in 90 minutes ahead of time, they also have to deal with long queues at customs and immigration, and spend time commuting between airports and city centres.
He said: “If you are a frequent flyer who travels once a week, the time spent traveling really starts to add up. So I started to look for a solution to this problem and I realised that there was a small group of people – those who can afford to travel in private jets – who do not face these hassles when travelling.”
Passengers who take private jet flights do not need to check in early at the airport, and hardly have to queue as private terminals are a lot less crowded. According to Choo, this could ultimately save a traveller about two hours of travel time if they are flying from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.
- Ascend Air
For business travellers, private jets also offer a range of comforts including high-speed WiFi and sectioned seating, so that groups of three or four can have a section all to themselves.
Unfortunately, private jet charters are not an option for the average traveller as high costs can set one back by tens of thousands of dollars.
But Choo and Pang are trying to change that by pricing Ascend Air’s membership fees so that each flight costs no more than a commercial ticket would.
The club offers three tiers of membership priced from $1,250 to $4,250 a month. Depending on the tier, members receive four to 16 flight credits every month, and can book flights with these credits.
Slated to commence in Q1 2018, Ascend charges one flight credit for Singapore-KL flights, and two credits for a Singapore-Jakarta flight. It will soon also add Bangkok to its destination list.
This means that a one-way private jet flight between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur could cost as little $265.
However, there is a one-time initiation fee of $500, which is waived only for a limited number of early sign-ups.
The company also does not own any of its own aircraft but partners private jet operators which have been screened for track record, compliance and experience.
It currently engages large-sized jets such as the Embraer Legacy 600, and can accommodate between 13 to 16 passengers at a time.
Unlike commercial flights, Ascend does not have any fixed schedule flights. Instead, the company employs technology to work out the best times to organise flights based on members’ demand patterns, Choo said.
“We foresee that a large number of our flights will be scheduled in the mornings and evenings to facilitate business travel.” he added.
But just because you want to be part of the region’s first private jet club doesn’t mean you’ll be able to.
Choo told us that the number of memberships available are limited at this point “to ensure an optimal and personalised experience for each member”.
So if you aren’t quick, you may find yourself on a waiting list until the company decides to expand its operations.