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Private Revolution
Virgin Charter Takes Off
by Dylan Nugent

A Citation aircraft, one of the aircraft available on Virgin Charter
Virgin Charter allows passengers to bid on private jet travel.

NOTE: Virgin Charter ceased operations October of 2009

The always-industrious Richard Branson recently launched Virgin Charter, which opens the door for thousands of private aviation companies in the United States to bid for the growing number of customers that charter aircraft for business and personal reasons. This unique service will directly compete with traditional brokers, individual charter companies, as well as companies that let frequent flyers invest in their jets with other partners.

The company recently launched in the U.S., but will be expanding to other regions soon. Branson says the new business is courting the approximate $30 billion market for booking private air travel by letting operators market availability and allowing customers to bid and book online.

Virgin Charter aims to bring simplicity to a business that has always been somewhat difficult to navigate. Most customers have traditionally paid brokers or instructed assistants to call dozens of operators by phone before booking a flight. This service allows customers to submit trip requests with a few clicks of the mouse and then compare quotes for the journey from the various charter companies, along with a rating of each individual aircraft. Another interesting aspect of the site is the constantly updated listings of “empty legs” which offers the routes certain planes will be flying empty – routes that can be had for a deeply discounted rate.

These FAA–certified planes, from turbo props (6 to 9 seats) to heavy jets (9-15 seats) and airliners (44 to 400 seats), meet both FAA requirements and the high standards set by this new company. According to a Virgin Charter executive, booking through their site will take 20 percent off the cost by cutting out the broker, and will take days off of the process.

(Updated: 02/16/10 CT)

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