By GREGORY ZELLER //
Now, everyone is in the air-charter-booking business.
Well, not precisely. But any website can host the new “Quote and Booking” widget released this month by FlightPartner Technologies Inc., allowing visitors to research and reserve super-fancy private-jet flights from virtually any third-party webpage.
FlightPartner is a virtual middleman between aircraft owner/operators and brokers who arrange private flights for professional athletes, C-suite executives and other high-net-worth clients. Incorporated in 2015 by founder and CEO Douglas Schmohl, the cloud-based SaaS provider – a resident of Stony Brook University’s Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology – incorporates a global database of more than 100 operators and 1,000 aircraft, making everything from twin-engine turboprops to tricked-out Boeing jumbo jets available to subscribing brokers.
“It’s basically a button that appears on your site,” he told Innovate LI. “We supply the code and you can drop it anywhere you want.”
The “Quote and Booking” widget, available exclusively to FlightPartner subscribers, is actually an update from an earlier Beta version, and features several “advanced features,” according to Schmohl.
The button opens a window on the host page – which remains in the background, logos and all – and offers several drop-down menus allowing users to customize their search by date, geography, aircraft type, amenities (WiFi-enabled, pet-friendly, etc.) and nearly a dozen other factors.
“You can surgically select the aircraft that you’re looking to charter,” Schmohl noted.
The search returns options and prices, and after finding the right charter the user is prompted to enter a name and contact information. A subscribing broker fields and vets the request via the cloud, then accesses FlightPartner’s air-charter commerce system to find a match.
While “no knowledge of website development is necessary” and the button “empowers any website to take reservations for private aircraft,” the widget is probably best suited for websites where visitors are already thinking about flying the friendly skies, according to Schmohl, who suggested “a travel section or something like that.”
“We’re a B2B solution,” the CEO noted. “So you may be a travel agent, or some kind of luxury travel platform. Wherever this is, it’s going to appeal to high-net-worth individuals.”
That said, there are “many business models that can employ” the B2B model, Schmohl added, and any website is welcome to add the button – as long as its owners pay FlightPartner’s $99-per-month subscription fee.
Although the latest version of the “Quotes and Booking” app has only been available for about a week, several third parties have already incorporated it. Schmohl commended RightFlight LLC, a California-based air-charter broker, for its “good job implementing [the widget] and creating a nice, modern user experience.”
Brokers like RightFlight are the widget’s primary target audience, and Schmohl – a veteran pilot with over 16,000 hours in the cockpits of Gulfstream 4 private jets, Boeing 727 cargo jets and several birds in between – will be conducting email and cold-calling campaigns to spread the word through industry channels.
But wherever the button lands, once users submit a charter-flight inquiry, a certified and subscribed broker with access to FlightPartner’s proprietary database will take the stick, Schmohl noted. And for a “sales-driven business” like FlightPartner, the more destinations for “Quotes and Booking,” the better, according to the CEO.
“For us to make money, sales need to come through the system,” Schmohl said. “So, of course we’re going to encourage more use of our system and plug it into every opportunity we can get.
“Our business model is to empower the air-charter marketplace,” he added. “We really want to be that pipeline between the demand side, the clients looking to charter an aircraft, and the supply side, the aircraft operators.”