As evacuees have desperately tried to fly out of South Florida before Hurricane Irma hits, the airports have been a mess. Stranded passengers at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport were shuttled to an elementary school that doubles as a shelter, while dozens of flights out of Palm Beach County were canceled or ominously "delayed." In the heat of it all Thursday night, a man with a knife at Miami International Airport was shot by a Miami-Dade police officer in the middle of Concourse J.
But not everyone has had to schlep it with the rest of us in coach. Members of JetSmarter, a Fort Lauderdale-based startup that's been billed as "the Uber of private jets," have been booking one-way flights as high as $14,000 just to get out of Irma's path. On Friday, the service added eight extra flights from Florida to New York due to the increased demand from customers.
“In the wake of Hurricane Irma, JetSmarter wants to do everything they can to ensure the safety of their loyal South Florida community," JetSmarter CEO Sergey Petrossov says. "We’re offering emergency flights for South Florida residents, to New York, to warrant their safety."
With membership tiers that range from $5,000 to $50,000, JetSmarter's higher-tier members can basically shuttle wherever they want as a part of their subscription, while lower-tier members pay a surcharge for flights. This week, the company's phones were "ringing off the hook" as members and non-members clamored to catch a plane out of state.
Pre-scheduled flights sold out early, but custom shuttles with three seats were available for around $6,000. One-way private charters to New York started around $14,000.
The planes joined an incredible convoy of airliners headed away from Irma today:
Shared charters, where someone purchases a flight and then sells the extra seats, have also been popular, with flights taking off to New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and even Tampa and Orlando. The eight flights to New York on Friday were starting at $2,990 a seat.
Petrossov said in a statement that the emergency flights were added to warrant members' safety and offer non-members another way to get out.
"We are sending our thoughts to all South Florida residents during this time of uncertainty," he added.