10/23/08

Virgin Charter: Branson Flies Small

Sir Richard Branson, famed English entrepreneur and business magnate, is turning his attention to small planes.

At present, privately chartered flights are generally booked through brokers or by a lengthy phone process. This can be inconvenient, unreliable and expensive, not to mention downright confusing at times.

The new venture, Virgin Charter, is targeting the $30 billion market for private air travel and taking it to the internet, hoping to add a dose of user-friendliness to the experience.

There are some 2,500 operators of private aviation to go along with the thousands of U.S. customers looking to fly in this manner. Branson’s online service allows multiple operators to bid on a flight itinerary submitted by a traveler. The traveler can then select between bids and finalize arrangements, all through Virgin Charter.

How convenient..!

Certainly seems like a sound plan. This should even cut private travel costs some 20% according to the company, due to reduced operating expenses as well as the missing brokers and their fees.

At launch a few months ago, Virgin Charter was offering access to over 100 operators with approximately 1,000 planes available. All operators are independantly screened for quality and safety.

Outside of fractional ownership through a company such as NetJets, this seems like a real winner. Let’s see if the market bears that out…

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