Vail Valley users learning about new ride-sharing service for private jets | VailDaily.com

Vail Valley users learning about new ride-sharing service for private jets

Private aviation is growing at the Eagle County Regional Airport. A new service, FlightLink, is working to make private aviation more efficient.
File photo of a private Jet at the Eagle County Airport.
By the numbers
  • 36%: Increase in private flights into and out of the Eagle County Regional Airport between 2016 and 2019.
  • 16,481: Total 2018/2019 flight operations at the county airport.
  • 150: Gallons per hour used by a light jet.
  • 1.7: Average occupancy of a nine-passenger private jet.
Source: FlightLink

Private jets are a convenient way to get around — for those with the means to do so — but it’s an inefficient way to travel. Tom Filippini wants to help change that.

Filippini is the founder of FlightLink, a young business that works to link those using private planes with people who want to fly.

This isn’t Uber-style ride sharing. Those who ask to share FlightLink flights have to be approved, first by the service, and then by the hosts.

But Filippini said he expects to see a good bit of demand for the service, and is now visiting resort airports, as well as private clubs in those resorts, to boost awareness.

Filippini calls himself an “asset optimization expert.” He started Exclusive Resorts a few years ago, which provides access to exclusive homes around the world. Filippini said second-home owners use their places an average of 24 days per year. Exclusive Resorts allowed owners to optimize the use of that property.

The idea of optimizing assets led Filippini to create Straighline Private Air, a partnership with NetJets that allowed users to book private flights to reach resorts.

FlightLink is an offshoot of those businesses.

Filippini said he was “always shocked” at the cost and inefficiency of private air travel.

Private planes always have unoccupied seats, and are frequently flying empty between picking up and dropping off passengers, Filippini said.

Since a light jet can burn 150 gallons of fuel per hour, that’s a lot of waste.

FlightLink can help cut down on that waste, Filippini said.

The idea is to alter the supply and demand balance to make the market work better. In the FlightLink model, a listed flight is the supply, and people who want to ride are the demand.

Beyond efficiency, there’s a social element to the FlightLink idea, Filippini said.

Those who fly in private jets often travel alone, which can be isolating, Filippini said. FlightLink is a way to share experiences with other members.

At this point, there are about 200 people on the FlightLink platform. And, while Filippini is based in the Denver area, FlightLink’s first target market is Texas. That’s because Houston to Dallas is the third-busiest route in the country for private aviation, Filippini said.

Texas also has a solid connection with Colorado ski resorts.

Filippini said there are plans to expand, of course, “but you can only really start in one place at a time,” he said. “You need a lot of common flights going in common directions.”

Paul Gordon is president of Vail Valley Jet Center, the private jet service center at the Eagle County Regional Airport. Gordon said he’s known Filippini for some time, primarily through StraighLine. Gordon said he believes the FlightLink model will be successful.

Gordon said the service will be helpful in reducing the carbon footprint in the general aviation sector, and will save people money.

“It seems like a win-win,” Gordon said. “I wish them all the best.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.