As marvelous a technology as air travel is, the airport ranks up there with the doctor’s office and the DMV on the list of “I wish I was anywhere else right now.” And although its peers typically only merit annual visits, the airport can be a biweekly event for many people.
A new Dallas company, Rise, aims to cure the ills of long lines, cramped seats and general discomfort of flying by putting its members in the swanky confines of a private jet.
Founded by entrepreneur Nick Kennedy, Rise offers memberships beginning at $1,650 per month for unlimited flights between Dallas, Houston and Austin on an eight-seat Beechcraft King Air 350 jet. The plane is purposely posh, but it’s the time that’s saved pre- and post-flight that Kennedy says is the real benefit.
“We want to give our members their time and dignity back,” says Rise CEO Nick Kennedy.
“I’ve lived in Dallas the last 15 years,” he says, “but I haven’t done much of my business here. I’m flying every week, so it’s a passion of mine. You see the dead looks on people at the airport who travel all the time and how it sucks the life out of you.
“I think that the best companies are ones that fix people’s problems and focus on giving people’s time back to them.”
That saved time comes from little luxuries like arriving directly at the private flight terminal at Love Field, no lines to wait in and a five-minute turnaround from getting on the plane to taking to the air. Depending on how frequently a commuter travels, Rise may be more expensive than flying commercially (maybe not), but it is considerably lower than the mid-six figures required for a stake in a private jet.
“We have a lot of oil and gas people that want in,” Kennedy says, “but there are also business people, different firms, small business owners and even families that have already signed up.”
Kennedy’s background in software has allowed him to create an algorithm to ensure Rise will serve exactly the right amount of passengers when the service launches in late November/early December. The initial schedule will include 16 daily flights, and Kennedy plans for Rise to expand to other cities, including New Orleans, San Antonio and Midland once it is established.
Already, Kennedy says, there are members signing up in those cities and others to ensure they avoid the waiting list. A similar company in California, Surf Air, has a year-long waiting list. In fact, Surf Air’s co-founder and former CEO, Wade Eyerly, whom Kennedy calls “the godfather of the model,” is a Rise board member.
But Rise isn’t just about getting business people from point A to point B. It will also offer what it calls “fun flights,” which could be anything from a weekend trip to Vail or Las Vegas to trips down to College Station or Lubbock for a football game, all included in the monthly membership fee.
“There’s nothing better on a 115 degree day in August than flying to Vail to get out of Dallas. We think our members deserve time off,” Kennedy says.
And rather than the typical claustrophobic commercial flight sitting next to strangers, Rise aims to cultivate a community among its members, beginning with terminal service that includes craft cocktails. In the air, Kennedy hopes his customers will be open to conversation among like-minded entrepreneurs, vice presidents and consultants.
“You can make these connections with people in industries you’re in or adjacent to for 45 minutes and then get off the plane,” he says. “It’s a bit like a new version of the country club.”
Kennedy expects Rise to fill its initial memberships within the month, with founding members putting a refundable deposit of $750 down for a spot. An app to make reservations as painless as possible will launch in time for the first flight.
Some might blanch at the $1,650-per-month price tag, but Kennedy thinks the whole package makes it more than worth it.
“We want to give our members their time and dignity back,” he says. “You get the luxury of a private jet and don’t have to worry about being stuck in the middle seat.”