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How Art Basel and Uber-style apps are helping fuel Miami's private jet industry

Rob Wile, Miami Herald on

Published in Science & Technology News

But one look at recent developments on Miami's skyline, he said, shows a new wave of users flush with wealth are interested in making South Florida a more permanent part of their lives.

"Private aviation follows that," he said.

'Working wealthy'

Spend too much time on Instagram, and you might believe the typical private jet user to be an A-list model or DJ.

That is far from the case, especially in South Florida, according to aviation industry executives.

Gollan said both his biggest customers, and the industry's, are wealthy professionals like doctors or lawyers, and C-suite executives or business owners. These fliers may travel between two homes, jet off on vacation, or need to meet with clients based elsewhere.

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"The common denominator is, they probably have net worth of $5 to $10 million, with many worth $50 million or mor," Gollan said. "For the upper end, the last few years have been good."

Justin Firestone, founding partner at private jet membership club Wheels Up and its head of South Florida operations, explained that for many clients, catching a private air lift is a way to make business time more productive. Case in point: On a recent Friday morning, a principal at a Coral Gables law firm boarded a Wheels Up jet at a private facility at Miami International (no standing in a security line), had a lunch meeting in Augusta, Ga., then used the plane's Wifi and cell service to conduct business on his way home, landing in time for dinner back home.

Making the trip via commercial carriers would be far more cumbersome. For the "working wealthy," as Wheels Up calls them, private aviation offers one of the scarcest commodities in the world: time.

Said Firestone: "If you asked that individual, who bills by the hour, it's the most productive use of their time," he said. "We're not talking about folks posting photos for social media."

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