Membership Gets You More
Business Traveler|December 2020/January 2021
In the days of coronavirus, what subscription travel offers is a sense of being in this together – apart
SUSAN MCKEE

Some call them “isolation vacations.” Others call them corona breaks – safe travels to beautiful spots where you can cut away from your crowded daily life and try out a new normal in holiday-making without getting tripped up by COVID-19 worries of gloom and doom.

Comfort. When I first started traveling extensively, I joined a travel club to be assured of like-minded companions, a staff dedicated to smoothing my journey end to end, and amenities keyed to my contentment. It made travel easy, comfortable.

These days, travel is fraught with difficulties involving not only the intrinsic hassles of the experience, but the unknowns due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Once again, clubs come to the rescue. But growing trends in membership clubs and subscriptions are taking hold. They’re the travel equivalent of gated communities offering private transportation, vetted accommodations, expert travel advisors and on-site concierge services, plus stringent cleaning protocols and no contact check-in options.

The two basic categories for these arrangements are the travel and the stay.

GETTING THERE

Air travel is an essential. Business travelers fly to meet clients because it’s inefficient to drive long distances. Most companies cannot afford to keep private jets and dedicated pilots available. That’s where business jet clubs and subscriptions come to the rescue.

Of course, business travelers can buy tickets on commercial carriers, but flying on a smaller jet means being exposed to far fewer passengers than on larger aircraft, thereby lowering the exposure possibilities to COVID-19. In addition, terminals reserved for private jets allow passengers to avoid the often-long TSA screening lines in the public terminal. The ability to schedule flights at the passenger’s convenience is obvious.

Chartering a jet is pricey – that’s why flight clubs have emerged.

Flying private is expensive, but if you’re “sharing,” it’s not as much as you might think. When charter flights fill empty seats, typically the price of the flight goes down for all the travelers, according to Carl Marbach, president and CEO of SharedCharter, a flight-sharing service.

How does sharing work? The process starts online. Passengers can search the network for existing flights or sign up for a no-cost membership to initiate a new itinerary or join an existing trip. When two parties match a flight, SharedCharter provides secure, anonymous communication between them to discuss specifics. Assistance from the company's concierge can manage flight arrangements among potentially thousands of private air travel brokers and certified FAA aircraft operators.

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