Wannabe jetsetters can now hail a private plane anywhere in the world from their smartphones thanks to an app that makes luxury air travel more accessible, at least to those who can afford the $7,000 membership.
JetSmarter, the brain child of Sergey Petrossov, 26, allows users to hire a jet in a matter of seconds. "Our goal as a company is to democratise private aviation," he told Reuters in Zurich, where the company will open a European office in 2015.
Launched in March last year, the app has been downloaded over 300,000 times and facilitated more than 1,000 flights so far in 2014.
While the average ticket costs around $20,000, those who become members for $7,000 a year can get free or discounted "empty legs" flights, which travel empty when a plane returns to its home base after dropping off passengers,
The average JetSmarter member is tech-savvy, aged between 25 and 50 and earns at least $1 million a year, according to Petrossov. A-list celebrities, royalty and sheiks are among its users.
Some of the most popular routes include the "Golden Triangle" between Miami, New York and Los Angeles. But almost anything is possible. JetSmarter once received a request to transport a tonne of gold between South America and Europe.
Flying with a falcon? Lufthansa design is suitable for birds of prey
What is the point of having a luxurious private jet if you can't transport your own falcon?
Lufthansa Technik, the maintenance division of the German airline which also specializes in fitting cabins on big VIP and executive jets, has come up with a gadget for those who want to keep their bird of prey by their side when traveling.
Called the Falcon Master, the platform and stand for transporting falcons or other birds can slot above a folded-down seat in a range of Airbus or Boeing aircraft.
Falconry is a popular pastime in the Middle East, where it has been practised for thousands of years, and Lufthansa Technik said it had developed the Falcon Master with help from falconry specialists in the region.
The platform comprises a stainless steel surface for easy cleaning, with sides to protect the rest of the plane from any waste and dirt created by the bird.
Buying commercial airlines and tailoring the cabins for private use became popular with royal families in the Middle East in the 1970s. Until then, only governments had used tailored cabins for commercial aircraft.
Russian and Asian customers have joined the ranks of those looking for tailored VIP cabins for large aircraft in recent years, according to Lufthansa Technik.