Private jet charters, shared flights and empty legs: Everything you need to know about XO

Nov 19, 2021

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There are a number of companies offering Uber-like services for private jets, but one of the biggest is XO.

It’s an especially great choice for first-time private jet fliers due to its easy-to-use booking platform and that membership requirement isn’t compulsory — but as you’ll see, it’ll likely make sense for you to get one if you’re the type of person who’s going to be interested in using the service regularly.

XO made a name for itself through its on-demand charter services. However, it also offers the ability to purchase individual seats on a growing number of regularly scheduled and crowdsourced flights, which have become increasingly popular amid the ongoing shortage of private jets. Further, it allows spontaneous travellers to score amazing deals on empty-leg flights.

Customers have access to a dedicated fleet of over 180 aircraft around the world, including over 70 aircraft operated by VistaJet and Talon Air, as well as over 2,100 jets that are part of the safety-vetted XO Alliance Fleet. The planes range in size from six-seat turboprops to large VIP airliners that can carry over 100 passengers.

Here’s a first-timer’s guide to flying with XO.

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In This Post

Types of memberships

Let’s start with an overview of XO’s membership offerings. Unlike competitors NetJets and Sentient, XO continues to take on new customers amid the record demand for private air travel. Additionally, as mentioned, you do not need to be a member to book flights through XO. 

Buy as you fly Rise Select Access Signature Access Elite Access
Membership fees N/A £442 ($595)/year £186 ($250)/month £371 ($500)/month £742 ($1000)/month
Minimum deposit (Fully refundable) N/A N/A £37,145 ($50,000) £74,290 ($100,000) £74,290 ($100,000)
Pricing Dynamic pricing – £294 ($395)  service fee per flight/seat booking) Dynamic pricing Dynamic pricing Dynamic pricing Fixed hourly rate and capped billing

Anyone can book private and shared flights on a “buy as you fly” basis, but you’ll be subject to a £293 ($395) non-member fee on every booking. So, even if you’re an infrequent flyer, it’ll likely make more sense to sign up for a £442 ($595)/year Rise membership since it basically pays for itself after two trips.

In an interview with TPG, XO shared that Rise Members book an average of 6.7 trips per year and cited the membership’s efficiency and pricing transparency as two major selling points. “Our RISE program is the perfect option for first-time private flyers, and it’s a great entry-level opportunity for those looking to experience XO shared charter flights,” said Lezlea List, Executive Vice President of Sales XO. “The RISE program provides the benefits of instant booking, the ability to book a seat, start a crowdfunded flight, or charter an entire aircraft with waived service fees.”

XO private jet
(Photo courtesy of XO)

XO’s higher membership levels unlock further benefits like aircraft availability guarantees, complimentary aircraft upgrades and loyalty credit flight rewards. The top two tiers, Signature and Elite, also include perks like complimentary seats on empty legs, guaranteed aircraft recovery at no additional cost and a £186 ($250) catering credit per flight leg.

Unfortunately, XO told us that it has no immediate plans to bring back any all-you-can-fly subscriptions, similar to those offered by its former sister brand JetSmarter.

Related: Costco really does sell everything, including private jet travel

Private charters

XO offers several different ways to fly, but the most obvious are private charters.

You can book private charters operated by XO’s dedicated fleet instantly with real-time prices either online or via XO’s mobile app — just like ordering an Uber. A really expensive, fancy Uber.

For other flights, you’ll receive an estimated price but will need to confirm the booking with a sales advisor. As mentioned, prices are dynamic for all members except for Elite Access members, who have a fixed hourly rate and capped billing. Additionally, non-members are subject to a £293 ($395) service fee per flight booking.

Charter flights are available across the globe, and you can even sell extra seats to fellow flyers. The flight is still confirmed regardless of whether others join your flight, but you can potentially earn future flight credits in exchange for the seats sold. The only thing to be aware of is that once you offer seats for sale, you are committing to that date, time and routing.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Shared flights

Shared flights are an increasingly common way to fly private — especially with the plane shortage. In fact, XO shared that October 2021 saw the most shared flights in the company’s history, with 90 per cent more flights and 104 per cent more seats booked relative to last year.

As discussed, you can book empty seats on confirmed private flights initiated by members. Or, another option is to book by the seat on a number of XO-initiated shuttle flights.

XO currently offers 16 shuttle flights per week for customers looking to travel between New York Westchester (HPN) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL) or West Palm Beach (PBI). The service, much like BLADEone, is also operated by a 16-seat CRJ-200 and with complimentary in-flight meals. These are regularly scheduled flights, so they’ll only be cancelled for reasons beyond XO’s control — not because of a shortage of passengers, for instance.

Seats start at £1110 ($1,495) one-way (about £743 less than Blade’s service) but keep in mind that non-members must still pay a £294 ($395) surcharge. If you plan on booking a round-trip, you’ll come out ahead with the £442 ($595) per-year RISE membership.

We asked if XO has any other shuttle routes on the horizon, but XO said that it wants to focus on perfecting its service in this market first before rushing out new routes.

BLADEone CRJ-200
BLADEone CRJ-200 (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

For other shared flights, prices can vary by distance and type of jet. However, to give you an idea, members can book a seat from New York to Los Angeles on a heavy jet for £1853 ($2,495) — about the same price as a first-class seat on American’s three-cabin A321T.

XO shared with us that New York to South Florida is its busiest market for shared flights, followed by New York to Los Angeles. Additionally, New York to Naples, Florida, has shown a strong conversion among private charter to by-the-seat clients.

XO shared flight
(Screenshot courtesy of xo.com)

Crowdfunded flights

If no existing shared flights fit your needs and you’re not ready to commit to a private charter, you can propose a crowdfunded flight. This lets you propose an itinerary and see if other people want to join.

Crowdfunded flights are only guaranteed once a designated number of seats are sold. The number of seats required to confirm a flight will increase the closer it gets to the departure date. You can cancel anytime up until a flight is confirmed and, if the minimum number of seats aren’t sold, you aren’t charged anything. You may guarantee the flight at any time by purchasing the remaining number of seats required yourself.

As with other bookings, you can create crowdfunded flights via XO’s website or app. XO controls the pricing, so all passengers pay an equal share.

Related: The golden age of travel isn’t over — it’s evolving

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Empty leg deals

The final way to fly XO is by booking an empty-leg deal. These are highly discounted flights available when an aircraft is scheduled to fly without any passengers.

Empty legs typically only become available at the last minute and are never guaranteed, so you shouldn’t plan trips around them. However, if there’s one that coincides with your travel plans, you can save a lot of money by flying them. Specifically, you can sometimes save 50 to 75 per cent with empty-leg bookings, though the savings tend to be a bit less on more popular routes like New York to South Florida. On some flights, XO even lets you book empty legs by the seat, making them even more accessible to the average traveller.

XO shared with us that to improve reliability; it only sells empty legs on its dedicated fleet — not ones from third parties, which might be less likely to take off.

Related: Inside Boeing Business Jets’ 737-700

XO private jet
(Photo courtesy of XO)

Bottom line

XO makes booking a private jet flight as simple as requesting a ride. You can instantly book flights from your phone and don’t need a pricey membership to do so. Much like pooled ridesharing, its numerous shared flight options make flying private more accessible and help cope with the private jet industry’s ongoing demand and supply issues.

Although not required, if you’re planning to give XO a try, you’ll likely want to start with a Rise membership since it basically pays for itself after just two trips.

Featured photo courtesy of XO.

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