Twenty-seven-year-old Sergey Petrossov is on a one-man mission to change the way we socialize. A natural entrepreneur, he gravitated towards tech at an early age, co-founding his first IT company at 18, which he ran out of his University of Florida dorm room. He credits this experience for opening his eyes to the range of possibilities after amassing a network of engineers, developers, and creative thinkers. A fresh college graduate and 21 years old, he sold the first company and started another one, this time in the business learning space. Petrossov says he was, “accidentally exposed to the private jet business” when he tried to book a plane for a trip with friends. “I met the owner and I asked him, ‘is the only way to book a plane by calling and faxing an invoice?’ He replied that the industry is complicated, and they have dispatchers that make calculations based on fulfillment risk, maintenance, pilot errors and other metrics, so they prefer to do it this way.” The seed for JetSmarter, his Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based private jet booking app, had been planted: it was 2009—the dawn of the digital mobile era—and here he was, faxing an invoice.
Petrossov continued on with his business learning venture, but knew that he wanted to return to the private jet space sometime in the future. He made contacts in aviation through consulting work, and introduced himself to various operators and data providers to maintain ties to the industry. As time went on, he realized the issues he saw in booking a private plane were fixable with math, science and engineering in the same way these disciplines have improved a wide range of industries, for example freight and the stock market. The owner of the jet company Petrossov used during that fateful trip mentioned that he liked booking over the phone, because clients want instant gratification. By now, it was 2012, and instantaneous no longer meant picking up the phone, but tapping a screen, instead. Sensing a huge opportunity, Petrossov stepped down as CEO of his business learning company to enter intense R&D for his new company, JetSmarter.
JetSmarter’s bread and butter is managing inventory: how it's bought and sold, how to access it, and how to exploit underutilized planes and routes. Overall, the company has diversified its product lines by buying in bulk and paying per seat, which lowers the barrier to entry for many consumers. JetSmarter has two product lines: on-demand and scheduled, or, as Petrossov put it, “you choose the time or we choose the time.” The on-demand products include whole aircraft charter, which is by far their most exclusive and expensive option. He called it the, “ultimate on-demand product.” The other option is a shared charter, where clients book by the seat between certain routes. JetSmarter takes the risk on the rest of the seats, and the price is determined by an algorithm that sets the minimum for a given day.
Their scheduled products are what they call shuttles and deals. The shuttles are consistent, scheduled flights between certain popular routes, like New York to Miami, for example. As more shared charter planes are booked, more excess seats open up, and those become shuttle seats. The deals are different pop up flights to random destinations. “Think spontaneous getaways,” Petrossov clarified. Members get complimentary access to all shuttles and deals. The range of options creates product diversity that allows the consumer to customize the experience and democratizes the entry point for luxury air travel.
Petrossov emphasized that such democratization is paramount to everything JetSmarter does. This is philosophical in addition to being economical: he is passionate about personalizing travel and lifestyle, in particular. “Notice, I didn’t say air travel. We are aggressively expanding into creating curated experiences on the ground. We connect cities, and then we know our people are in those cities, engaging in our system. The average user checks 12 times a day—that’s more than Instagram!” He believes JetSmarter is at the forefront of a concept he calls “social aviation,” which he says humanizes digital experiences. Petrossov thinks that a lot of products and services are affected by the current wave of social media and because the company can now tap into that digitally, they want to eventually connect people physically as well.
In that vein, JetSmarter’s ambitions on the ground are geared towards providing a full-service travel experience for its members. Petrossov used dining as an example: “You’re at a restaurant. You know how in the old days, they used to say, ‘put it on my tab’? That’s what we’re trying to create. As a JetSmarter member, you’ll have unique menus, curated dining experiences, maybe even dinners with other members, and you’ll never have to reach for your wallet.” He mentioned that food and beverage is just one example—he’s concerned with where people sleep, shop, and bring their kids, too. Community is the vein running through all of Petrossov’s ideas.
JetSmarter’s future incorporates the idea that people will change their lifestyle and habits for the right product. As the luxury market moves from mere consumption to more experiential, Petrossov is quick to note that he stands for de-commodification of travel. People associate certain products and services with certain companies, and currently, people use social media to interact and access those products and services. He thinks the next wave is taking that level of interaction and building a community out of it, thereby creating a digital club of people with likeminded lifestyles. Clients are sometimes resistant to interface strictly via app, wanting to email and discuss details, but, Petrossov said, the vast majority end up adapting and loving the experience. “We worked hard to create the interface, which is digital. People initially aren’t accustomed to this kind of booking experience, but they get used to it, and their habits form around it. Think of the last seven years. How different are all of our lives since the iPhone came out?”
As for flying, Petrossov has a few favorite things of his own. When in the air, he can usually be found listening Michael Bublé and other smooth jazz-type artists, some meditation music, and pop. He’ll often crack open a book mid-flight; he doesn’t like fiction, and prefers to study up on business-related topics or read autobiographies of successful people throughout history. He’s also practical in terms of vacations – he noted that when he goes away, he thinks of family first, and will choose a destination based on that, as “convenience is key.” If he’s making the plans, the destination is usually the Florida Keys, the Bahamas, or St. Barthelemy. With that kind of pragmatism in his personal and professional lives, we suppose you can expect to see Petrossov’s dreams for JetSmarter take off in more ways than one.