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- Set Jet is a membership-based private jet firm offering seats on private aircraft on set routes across the American West.
- Flights cost less than $500 but still offer most of the trappings of a traditional private jet flight.
- I flew on a Set Jet flight and was impressed by the luxury of the service for the low price point.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Flying on a private jet is the very pinnacle of air travel and has traditionally been reserved for the ultra-wealthy, until now.
Set Jet is a Scottsdale, Arizona-based private aviation firm that offers by-the-seat private jet flights on routes across the American West. The idea isn’t new but its founders say they’ve found a way to make the service consistent, safe, and profitable.
Fares are only between $449.95 and $489.95 one-way on most routes but only pre-approved members can book flights. A monthly membership costs $99 and flyers have to pay a one-time security fee of $99.
From Scottsdale, Set Jet’s route network includes locales like Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, Burbank, and the Bay Area in California, as well as Las Vegas. And the firm soon plans to fly cross-country flights between New York and Los Angeles.
I joined Set Jet on one of its exclusive members-only flights from Scottsdale to San Diego on a Bombardier Challenger 850 aircraft. Here’s what it was like.
I arrived for my flight at Set Jet’s member lounge, located at the company’s headquarters adjacent to Scottsdale Airport, rather than a private terminal.
Set Jet just finished construction on this facility to give members a more exclusive experience.
Upon entry, flyers go through this “security checkpoint,” where metal detectors will flag any items that require further inspection. There are no Transportation Security Administration officers doing pat-downs or bag checks, however, and passengers just walk through.
Once on the other side, the cabin attendant checks passengers in for the flight.
First-time flyers only have to show identification once and then it’s saved into Set Jet’s system for future travels.
The well-appointed lounge on the second level then awaits to spend the short time before departure.
Flyers can enjoy snacks and drinks here as they wait to board, just like a normal private terminal at an executive airport.
Set Jet’s frequent flyers typically arrive at the terminal no earlier than 30 minutes before departure. The cutoff is arriving 15 minutes before departure in yet another perks of private flying.
Passengers then load onto Set Jet golf carts that will bring them straight to the plane. Parking at Set Jet’s facility is free and all spots are just a short walk to the terminal.
The golf cart ride to the plane takes less than five minutes and flyers can even leave their car keys with Set Jet staff to have their cars waiting planeside upon their return.
Our aircraft was waiting just beyond the airport gates and the golf cart pulled right up to the boarding door.
Set Jet says that the economics of the Challenger 850, the private jet version of the CRJ200 airliner, is what helps make its affordable flights possible. These aircraft are only used for Set Jet flights and are owned by the firm’s investors, ensuring consistency and control.
Flight times are determined by the first person to request the flight. There’s no extra fee to do so and proactive flyers can make Set Jet flights work around their schedule.
It’s a first-come, first-serve seating basis and frequent flyers usually have favorite places to sit.
Groups traveling together might prefer the conference and dining section, which includes four seats around a table.
Solo travelers have their pick from one of the eight captain’s independent chairs, arranged in pairs along the cabin walls.
There’s also a private compartment with only two captain’s chairs and a divan.
Flyers can sit here for a more exclusive experience, away from the rest of the passengers up front.
There’s even a full-size lavatory in the back of the plane, as well as some toiletries.
For a first-time flyer on this type of aircraft, it was hard to pick where to sit.
But I eventually settled into one of the forward-facing captain’s chairs for the one-hour flight.
All seats come with tables that can be used to get work done on a laptop, rest drinks and snacks, or play a card game with a neighbor.
The interior wasn’t brand-new and some of the features showed signs of wear and tear. But those are the tradeoffs for the low price point.
Another perk of flying private is that the plane can leave when all passengers show up; though, Set Jet flights won’t leave more than 30 minutes early because that’s the cutoff for booking flights.
We taxied out to the runway once all eight of us were strapped in.
Scottsdale Airport was only moderately busy and it was less than 10 minutes from starting up the engines to reaching the runway.
We passed private jets with passengers likely paying much more than it costs for a seat on a Set Jet flight.
Into the Arizona sky we then went, just 15 minutes or so after reaching the airport. The convenience factor of flying private cannot be overstated.
The flight time to San Diego was less than an hour and the flight was progressing quite quickly, aided by the elegance of the aircraft and personal service from our cabin attendant.
Most seats are window seats, allowing for great views of the Southwest. The only issue with this aircraft is that the windows are below head level and aren’t as large as those on more modern private jets.
Only seven other passengers were on board this flight, with Set Jet vowing to operate the flight even if only one passenger requests it. Frequent passengers told me the loads vary and one passenger told me he’s been on flights with 14 people.
Tom, a business owner traveling on the flight, told Insider that the flights have been a lifesaver since back issues make it difficult for him to bear the drive between Phoenix and San Diego. He wants Set Jet to fly to Costa Rica next so he can continue avoiding the airlines.
Maps in the cabin kept passengers informed on the flight’s progress and time remaining as we crossed the desert. Before I knew it, we were down to the last half-hour of the flight.
There no in-flight entertainment but in-flight WiFi is available. The speeds weren’t the fastest but it could send texts just fine.
I ordered a club soda with lime and was pleasantly surprised to see actual glassware on a plane. Most airlines had done away with glasses during the pandemic but this was a private jet, after all.
I also had some of the peanuts that were available. It wasn’t much but did the trick for an hour-long flight, and was nice to see that many of the perks of flying private were available considering the low price of the seat.
Another perk of flying private is that the cockpit door is open during the flight and passengers can get the rare look out of the front window.
It wasn’t long before it was time to descend into San Diego. Our hour-long flight had only climbed as high as 26,000 feet.
I knew we were getting close once the famed Salton Sea came into view.
Our cabin attendant cleared the cabin as we descended lower and lower into San Diego. Soon, America’s Finest City appeared from under the clouds and our flight was nearing its inevitable end.
Set Jet doesn’t have its own terminal in San Diego, or any of its outstations, but does use private terminals.
Passengers deplaned onto the tarmac, which is the best way to exit a plane, in my opinion.
Some flyers even took pictures with the jet before heading in.
And into the private terminal we went, just under an hour and a half from arriving at Scottsdale Airport.