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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

One South Florida Wheels Up member is Rodney Barreto, founding partner of consulting firm Floridian Partners, LLC and president and CEO of The Barreto Group, a diversified company specializing in corporate and public affairs consulting, real estate investment and development, and healthcare data management.

Barreto purchased his first private jet 15 years ago, and a second one several years later. He joined Wheels Up as a way of maintaining his access to private travel when either of his planes are unavailable, usually for maintenance.

Barreto explained the importance of having instant access to jet travel.

"If I fly to Tampa for a fundraiser for an elected official, and afterward there's a private dinner, I don't have to rush," he said. "I can stay until 11 p.m., or 1 a.m. even. It's a luxury, but it allows you to finish an important conversation. That's important when you're negotiating."

Easy access

Just a few years ago, booking a private jet involved making multiple telephone calls, sometimes weeks in advance. No longer: A slew of companies now provide apps that put a private jet flight a finger's tap away.

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Signing up doesn't come cheap. But it's far less than the multimillion-dollar price of owning a private jet and keeping it fueled. Not to mention hiring a pilot and crew.

Though each of these companies offers a high-flying version of ride sharing, they vary in destinations served, equipment flown, and pricing. A seat from Miami to New York on one of BLADE's retrofitted, 16-seat Bombardier CRJ 200s costs $2,250, while NetJets offers services ranging from part ownership in a Gulfstream 450 -- price quoted upon request -- to an annual membership card starting around $165,000 for 25 flying hours.

Clients get more than just the ride; most planes are stocked with high-quality food and beverages, along with personalized concierge services (think flight attendants who greet you by name and remember your drink and seating preferences). And as more companies enter the jet card or jet sharing market, these companies now compete on side perks and experiences that come with membership, such as luxury hotel stays and exclusive tailgating parties at the Super Bowl.

At Art Basel, experiences will include Wheels Up's "Wheels Down" party; a free two-night stay at the Faena Hotel for BLADE members, Sentient Jet's luncheon with Sotheby's art experts and NetJet's VIP lounge at Art Basel.

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