How JetSmarter Tries To Fine Journalists Who Don’t Write Nice Things About Them

A vast majority of my travels are self funded (through miles & points, or through cash). Over the years I’ve had a few travel experiences that were comped in one form or another, though I always disclose it, and it’s a tiny percentage of my overall travel.

However, not once have I ever been told what I needed to write. I’ve always been told to share my honest opinions, whether those are positive or negative. I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

Well, it looks like JetSmarter takes a different approach. For those of you not familiar, JetSmarter is basically the Uber of private jets. While I think it’s an innovative concept, I’ve never used them, and don’t really see all that much value in it. That’s because JetSmarter gives you access to shared private jets in exchange for an annual membership fee.

What makes private jets cool is that they’re private — they’re otherwise typically not more comfortable than what you can get on a commercial plane, assuming every seat on the private jet is taken. But hey, to each their own, and I know a lot of people swear by it.

Gulfstream-2

What’s interesting, however, is how they’re basically trying to force journalists to say nice things about them. The Verge writes about how they were approached by JetSmarter and offered a free demonstration flight (a roundtrip flight within the U.S.). It’s not uncommon for companies to approach journalists in hopes of getting some coverage, so that’s not unusual in and of itself.

JetSmarter wanted a credit card, so that they could charge $2,000 if the journalist didn’t hold up their end of the agreement within five days:

Upon the execution of this Agreement, Journalist shall provide Company with a credit card and a copy of an ID of the credit card holder (“Credit Card”) and shall authorize Company to charge the Credit Card in the amount of $2,000 should (i) Journalist cancel the trip on the date of departure of the outbound flight or in the event that Journalist fails to arrive at the departure location at the scheduled departure time or other unforeseen delays or (ii) in the event Journalist fails to post the article described above on the first page of this agreement.

Okay, it’s fair enough that they’d fine someone for not showing up for the flight in time or for canceling last minute. But what’s problematic here is what JetSmarter was requiring from the coverage. In exchange for the flight, the journalist needed to write “a full-feature article on flight and positive experience with JetSmarter, highlighting the concept and services.”

Ouch. So if you don’t have a great experience with JetSmarter, they still want you to write a positive review, or you’ll be asked to pay $2,000. That’s not cool…

(Tip of the hat to Jacob)

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

More articles by lucky »

Comments

  1. Just cancel the credit card immediately after the trip, or call and dispute the charges. I can’t imagine it would hold up if a company was trying to charge something like this.

  2. This company sucks. They raise prices every 3 months and start charging for membership perks that used to be free, right in the middle of your contract. I would stay away from these guys, they do not operate an honest business.

  3. Kinda different, I’ve been asked a few times to “Mystery Shop” hotels in my Travel agent consortium network, and always have to put down a card, which gets charged a fine if I don’t submit my report in a timely fashion.

  4. My first question when I read the headline was how many journalists are flying JetSmarter anyway? Journalism isn’t exactly a high-paying profession. So I guess the answer is that they’re comped in exchange for selling their integrity.

  5. @Brian It’s a bad business practice for sure, but it’d have been a legal agreement if The Verge had agreed to the contract. They would have sued for breach of contract and probably would have been successful.

    Kudos to The Verge for not agreeing to the contract and for publishing about it instead. They’re a great site and I’ve been a reader of theirs for a long time.

  6. Long time lurker, don’t usually post comments. I felt compelled to comment here, as I felt mistreated by Jetsmarter. They customer service agent Brent H assigned to my account, was downright rude and not honest.

    They offered a promotion to the public for $1000 in credit, the promotion did not list any expiration date, so you would assume that you add it to your account you are good to go. They removed the credit 1 day and refused to have it reinstated, claiming that the credit was there and than claim I never had a credit on my account to begin with.

    They recently ran another promotion offering their entry level membership as a trial version for 90 days. My $1000 reappeared and was going to book a flight with it. Again they removed the credit and had my account updated to show a $0 balance.

    Like a previous commenter wrote, they also chance their cost table many times, and what used to be a free private empty leg is now only a shared empty leg with other people. I agree with Ben, this is not the perk people want. They offer a few private jets in Europe but that is about it.

    I would not trust this company with a membership.

  7. Interesting. Sam Chiu had some extensive write-ups on Jetsmarter. He said he purchased the membership and get referrals if people sign up using his code. I wonder if he will have any follow up on his experience soon.

  8. The others are no better. And you know it.
    If you don’t write a good review they won’t invitel you back. If you write a good review you get showered with goodies. You know this. They are not dumb. They play this game because it works for them

    Conflicts of interest are a real thing which is why it is so disturbing to see they are not taken seriously in a context that is in the news all the time nowdays regarding a blond primate.

  9. So my takeout is that you won’t be able to trust anything positive written by a journalist about Jetsmater, because it will have been done under threat.

  10. I’m very very curious to see what will happen with JS. Something doesn’t add up. And interesting how members also have in their contract that they cannot share negative experiences which I find even more interesting.

    https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20170304/10304636836/pr-stupid-jetsmarter-will-charge-journalists-2000-if-they-dont-write-positive-reviews.shtml

    They have invited me to try their service in return for an Instagram post (only). I looked at some European shuttle options and there wasn’t a single one you could fly in and out the same day. Paris, Geneva. My husband goes to Paris for meetings for the day and if the concept worked – $1000/month (based on the $12,000 annual fee), it would save us/him/anyone so much money, as a day return on BA is often in that region. But the flight would leave London, say, at 1pm, land at 4pm, and return at 4.45pm. What use would that be to anyone?

    I politely declined as I personally felt the service really wasn’t of much use to me. Better things to do with my day other than fly to Paris and back and post something on Instagram.

    Also, quite a few comments from competitors and industry about them – this is worth a read. https://www.flyvictor.com/blog/jet-charter-you-can-trust/

    Something tells me it won’t end well. And the numbers just don’t add up. How can they make money?

  11. Sometimes, the comments and posters tell me more about the subject and the travel industry than the article.
    Seeking absolute truth in ad driven forums and the world of blogging is hopeless.
    The human factor and greed will show itself whenever free or discounted is the primary focus. Believe half of what is initially claimed and connect the dots on the other half. All business will push the limits for free and positive publicity.
    It is up to the reader to determine what limits the business sets for itself.

  12. Did I miss where it says it has to be a positive review? I see a timeline for a review to be published. But I’m not seeing language requiring the content to be positive

  13. @ Phil latessa — According to The Verge, the first page of the agreement stated: “a full-feature article on flight and positive experience with JetSmarter”

    Having to write about the “positive experience with JetSmarter” would be the issue with all this.

  14. What a horrible, disgusting, and distasteful practice! Thanks for bringing this and the verge story to our attention.

    Also thank you very much to several of the commenters (@mrsaroundtheworld, @Alinsfca, @YB), as that really adds to the picture very much as well.

  15. This is kind of an interesting post by TPG from a year ago, also with illuminating comments. See the posts by “JetSmarter beware” and “SJZ.” Apparently “SJZ” was inspired by the original TPG post to join, but soured on the experience.

    http://thepointsguy.com/2016/02/why-i-love-jetsmarter/

    “JetSmarter beware” commented 8 months after the initial TPG post that “I think this review needs to be updated. I am a jet smarter member and was promised my membership would stay the same ongoing. They totally bait and switched. This month they released a higher level (3 or 4x the cost) membership and took some of the features of the existing membership and made them only available at the 4x $$ Not cool jet smarter. Someone come up with a competitor as everyone on my recent flights was super pissed and will join. Ex. There were free transfers to the airports they fly from – from nyc. They are now charging 150 each way. For 300 I can get my own round trip to Florida and get points for it. Please update as I respect your opinion and used it to make my choice to purchase my JetSmarter membership. No one else should get burned due to lack of update here. They also started 2 tokens (you only get 2) for flights to west coast. So if you have anything booked you can’t book your leg back until you leave. With limited seats it’s super impractical.”

    “SJZ” responded to “JetSmarter beware”:
    “Exactly this. You can read my excitement from when I signed up in a post below. Now, almost a year on, I feel much the same as you. I’m looking into legal options. It’s a breach of contract and classic bait and switch by anyones definition. Pay this amount for X and you’re locked in. You’re still locked in, but X now costs more. You can pay this price to get X back.”

  16. The business of reviews can be so sketchy. Look at all the fake reviews out there for products and services. On Amazon alone I wrote a bad review (nothing scathing, just what was bad and why i didn’t like it). The vendor of the product promptly contacted me and wanted to give me a discount on the product. What do you think the cost of that discount is? 🙂 remove the bad review of course. Not the first time either. Didn’t take their offer because I believe in transparency with consumers.

  17. @Joe, my friend had a bad experience with a ground transportation shuttle service, but even worse experiences when trying to resolve with customer service over telephone and email with several representatives and supervisors. He finally posted the entire story on Yelp and got IMMEDIATE resolution. He said thank you on yelp and then promptly received an email asking if he would remove his yelp review since the problem was resolved. I thought this was so dishonest on behalf of the company!

  18. Or perhaps the “journalists” could not have the expectation of a free flight (with the assumption that the airlines that DON’T offer free service won’t get ANY coverage) and pay the fare like any other customer if they expect to have completely free reign to write positive or negative reviews……of course that probably doesn’t compute to the entitlement generation.

  19. So, @Lucky, this brings up interesting questions about literally everything you write. Will you state, ***unequivocally***, that you’ve never ever received anything of value (or future value) in return for writing positive things?

  20. Full disclosure: I am a current member.

    There are definitely more than a few members who think this could potentially be a mistake on JS’s part. They have and do promote the product by offering discounted or complimentary flights to social influencers who would then post about it.

    In those cases, its more understandable to expect a positive review. This is very different from journalism, which should be unbiased. So there is a real possibility they used the same contract language inadvertently for an actual journalist that they’d use for a social influencer.

  21. No. They did not use the same contract language “inadvertently “.

    The use of the word contract should be an indicator.

  22. Since they do have very questionable business practices and the product is nowhere near as reliable, luxurious, or pleasant as they advertise they have to spend time and effort managing the bad reviews/press. They maintain social media accounts for members that they monitor and censor. They control what’s said/posted and threaten anyone who says anything bad.

    I was a member for a year. I did not renew. It was great until reality set in for them that they can’t possibly make money with this business model. Then it goes bad quick.

    People are sold that their rate is locked in forever (or until they go out of business), and that services will only continue to be added, ostensibly at the expense of new members paying an ever-increasing membership price.

    Instead of turning to new products/services/members, they turned to their existing membership to gouge and started to change the rules, charge exhorbitant fees (miss a shuttle flight? Sorry that’s $5k). You read that right, they will charge you $5,000.00 for missing a flight and they have your card on file. That’s a huge portion of the entire membership price paid to begin with! It’s ridiculous and they don’t deny there’s no basis for the fee other than added revenue. (They don’t pay anything if you don’t show up.) They actually hope you miss the flight so they can actually make some money. It started at $1000.00 a flight then they changed the fine print, somebody noticed, and only then did they formally announce it to the membership. Very sneaky untransparent way of doing business. Another indication of how they operate.

    Bait and switch? All true. They sell their membership on the basic idea of a fixed rate and services during your membership term. Then they change material things and start imposing arbitrary fees for things that used to be included/free. They deal in semantics as in “we said complementary, not complimentary.” And if you say anything about it, they cancel your account and keep any flight credit you have (thousands of dollars in some cases) and threaten legal action to “vigorously protect their brand.”

    Bad service by unresponsive, rude employees who actually tell you that you should feel lucky to be their customer. Everyone seems younger and amateurish.

    As for the flights, the shuttles are filled with social climbers taking nonstop photos of themselves with the plane, inside photos when other pax don’t approve..you will end up on someone’s instagram. I’ve been delayed by both pax and the company taking publicity shots of you that they put wherever they want. Most pax were nice but I’ve been on shuttle flights that were nonstop loud crazy booze flights with half the plane carrying on like they’re at a party in a loud bar and some people trying to sleep/work/enjoy quiet time. Just a mismatch and uncomfortable situation. For LA to NY, the lie flats on each of the majors are much better. Just the airport part sucks but if you have TSA Precheck and airline elite status it’s not a big deal really. Trust me, a fully-packed GIV is not comfortable. If you’ve ever flown in these planes you understand that they are not comfortable when packed to capacity. All seats back up to each other so you can’t even recline comfortably, you’re sitting facing someone else playing footsie (someone even put their feet up on my seat), and heaven forbid you get stuck on the couch, which does not recline, and you sit next to another person. It’s like sitting on a park bench in a crowded space for 5.5 hrs. Not comfortable, definitely not luxurious. And you have to show up almost an hour before anyway so it’s not like a real charter where you drive up to the plane 5 mins before your departure time and leave. You’re still wasting time waiting, only at an FBO instead of a regular airport where there are lounges and services. Not to mention your luggage is laid out and sniffed by a dog and you will be questioned about every medication you take because the dog smelled it. I mean heart meds and stuff, not like you’re carrying a load of opioid painkillers or narcotics. More intrusive than TSA if you can believe that.

    All the luxury and convenience that flying private entails, the showing up 5 mins and driving up to your plane, the stretch out comfort of a private cabin that you can comfortably walk around, no security bs, the time savings, the privacy and exclusive experience…none of that exists here. This is not a true PJ experience whatsoever. It is for those who can only afford this poor service.

    For the empty legs, they have a really high cancel rate. Often cancelled while you are sitting at the FBO ready to step onto the plane. No explanation and no further support from them. The only way to use an empty leg is to buy the rest of the seats. Sharing a mid or even supermid jet while full is VERY uncomfortable and that’s not counting if the other pax are inconsiderate or not.

    Even JetEdge, one of their main partners for shuttle flights, stopped allowing Jetsmarter to use their empty legs (even the ones between JS’s own flights) because the classy members were destroying the planes with spilled booze/food, animal urine and general overuse. Yes I have seen milkshakes fall into the seat and dogs having accidents. Having to cover the white carpet of a beautiful GV with plastic (pretty low class) because your pax can’t control themselves should tell you something.

    This service is for people who can’t afford or won’t pay for regular air charters which are very expensive obviously. That’s who you’re flying with although they are trying to sell a lifestyle membership too by playing up the company you’ll be in. Every celebrity endorsement is obviously made through arrangement of free services. And they fly once or twice on promo flights (for new members only) to get their fee or free service. No real celebrities or CEOs on board for you to rub elbows with if that’s what you’re after.

    This is just a big ponzi setup that will fold like all others who tried this, some with significantly more funding. Just hope that you’re not the new member who gets caught when the app goes dark and they stop answering the phones.

    As for Lucky, great blog. I read frequently but have never posted. Glad you finally updated on this company so others aren’t fooled. I fly about 400k mi annually, mostly long haul international, always in first or business, on all the majors foreign and domestic and am pretty well-versed in all the best and current hard/soft products out there. I’m currently in love with Etihad’s First Apartments and fly them whenever the route makes sense for my destination, quite a few times this year so far. I’ve flown every A380 first class, most in business too. All without a single review posted haha. If I want to remember my experiences I can always just read your blog. Thanks for keeping your writing fair, honest and relevant..journalism, social influencing or otherwise.

  23. Jetsmarter is a great app program I have had no problems with them at all it really works for the People only who travel lot to the destinations that they are going to. If you don’t really work or travel to these certain destinations it wouldn’t make sense but for the most part they are a great company and its a great app that needs maybe just a bit more adjusting like more flights but how can you complain when your flying private and most people on the plane are great people to meet. Who doesn’t like meeting new people all the time ?

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