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Driving from Toronto to Montreal takes more than five hours at the best of times, down more than 500 kilometres of potentially congested highway and into soul-crushing city traffic.
A direct airline flight takes slightly more than an hour from departure to arrival, plus check-in time and travel to and from the airport.
But the same trip can be made in less than two hours in a single-engine Piper Cherokee, without the hassle of boarding procedures or lineups, and a new service called Jettly Gigs is touting this as a better way to travel.
“This would allow them to … hop onto a single-engine, propeller-based aircraft and charter it for a flat fee,” said Justin Crabbe, CEO of parent company Jettly, which is based in Richmond Hill, Ont., and also operates a cell phone app-based marketplace for aircraft charters.
“Instead of driving … they would be able to fly in a single-engine plane and get there in half the time, for a very similar cost.”
Jettly Gigs is a web-based platform that connects passengers with commercial pilots who operate small aircraft, for short-haul flights in North America and the United Kingdom.
Passengers visit the Jettly Gigs website, enter their departure location, select a pilot and aircraft, and make arrangements to fly.
The pilot determines whether or not they want to accept the “gig,” sets their own fee, and accepts payment directly from the passenger. Jettly takes no commission from the pilot’s earnings, but does charge for the opportunity to list their plane in the Gigs network.
“What I try to do with it is essentially make it the Airbnb of private aviation,” said Crabbe, referring to a popular service that connects travellers with hosts willing to rent out private residences.
“Let’s bring it down to the low-level, mass market pilot in your local community who has full credentials and fully licensed and everything is compliant with the law, and allow him to charter you and fly you from A to B for a fraction of the cost of a commercial airline and a lot less hassle.”
Jettly Gigs launched in mid-September and is currently building an online database of available community-based aircraft. The existing Jettly network complements the service by offering passengers the chance to charter hundreds of aircraft makes and models in more than 4,700 cities and more than 6,000 airports.
Most Jettly Gigs flights are relatively short–less than 1,000 nautical miles–and the service is also presented as a revenue opportunity for pilots whose aircraft might otherwise be left on the ground for long stretches of time.
“If it’s in the air, they’re making money,” said Crabbe. “They’ve significantly reduced their operating costs because it’s no longer sitting on the ground. It’s now generating money.”
Jettly Gigs doesn’t vet pilots, and Crabbe said it’s up to the customer to review the operator’s credentials. The operator’s insurance certificate is displayed on the Jettly Gigs website, and customers can view pilot reviews on the website to determine who they want to hire.
“When you jump into a taxi cab, it’s not like you’re trying to see what his [the driver’s] background was, in terms of the amount of tickets that he has gotten for speeding and things of that nature,” said Crabbe.
“You trust the systems that are in place … similarly, the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] and Transport Canada rigorously regulate pilots and air operators. We see those regulations as very reliable.
“We can’t possibly supplement what the government has put in place, that’s for sure,” added Crabbe.
Ultimately, Jettly Gigs is about connecting passengers with pilots, and providing an alternative to long drives and potentially stressful airline flights.
“It’s a great experience for people that wouldn’t otherwise have an experience flying private before at an economical cost,” said Crabbe.
“On the operator side … this is a way for them to have a central connecting medium and process in place where they can obtain these passengers that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”
UPDATE: The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) says its staff is actively engaging with Jettly Gigs to confirm the nature of its services and, if applicable, ensure compliance with air transportation regulations.
In an emailed statement to Skies, the CTA noted the Canada Transportation Act requires that persons hold the appropriate licence before they can operate an air service.
“Licensees are subject to a number of passenger and industry protection provisions, including with respect to tariffs, financial requirements, and Canadian ownership,” said CTA spokesperson Martine Maltais.
“The CTA has noted that over time industry has developed new approaches to the provision of air services, some of which do not always fit squarely into the Act’s licensing parameters. One such approach is the reseller model, whereby the reseller has commercial control over an air service and makes decisions on matters such as routes, scheduling, pricing, and aircraft to be used, while air carriers operate the aircraft on the reseller’s behalf.
“The CTA has confirmed that Jettly Gigs does not hold a licence to operate an air service,” said Maltais. “Our enforcement staff are actively engaging with Jettly Gigs to factually confirm the nature of its services and, if applicable, ensure compliance with the [Canadian] Air Transportation Regulations.”