I expressed some skepticism about the LinkedIn business model in my posting of April 22, but there were not many doubters today as the IPO took off for the stratosphere. There were many private jets taking off today too, and a new startup in Smyrna, TN hopes to make such flights much more affordable. Although a private jet charter is incredibly convenient, it is not affordable for most people. If there were friends or family who were going along for the flight, however, the per person cost could become much more affordable. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to organize a flight for a dispersed group of people. Enter Social Flights. With more and more of the population using some form of social networking, getting people organized to share the cost of a private jet charter could become much easier. That is exactly what Social Flights is making possible. Suppose you live in Connecticut and you want to attend a USF football game in Tampa, Florida. Is it possible that there are other alumni of USF that live within the NY-NJ-CT metropolitan area? Very likely. Do you know who they are and their email addresses? Very unlikely. Might these fellow alums be users of Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn? Good chance. Social Flights becomes the gearbox that connects you, your fellow alums, and Corporate Flight Management (CFM), a jet charter operator based in Tennessee but with a half-dozen airplanes in Connecticut. CFM can provide competitive quotes for use of a private jet that is owned by others, but made available for charter when not being used by the owner. You and your soon to be alumni-friends may end up geting very spoiled in a private jet for $1,000 each. The cost will never meet a Jetblue discount ticket, but for the convenience of being able to step on the plane and be in the air ten minutes later, the premium may be easy to justify. CFM jets use professional pilots and have safety insprections that equal what the best airlines can offer.
What Social Flights is doing is what all busineses will eventually do — making social networking an integral part of business planning and operations. I view social networks as a natural evolution of the Internet. The Internet is the basic communications infrastructure that enables every computer in the world to be connected to every other computer in the world. Sitting on top of the Internet is an application called the World Wide Web that provides application services such as email, electronic banking, and e-commerce. On top of the Web is a new layer of functionality called social networking — or the social Web. The social Web enables services such as instant messaging, tweeting, crowd-sourcing, collaboration, and widespread sharing of information. The social Web is people driven, not company driven. It is grass-roots people-power that provides product reviews; medical experiences and doctor referrals; book, restaurant, and wine recommendations; and, of course, travel planning for alums who want to charter a private jet to go to a football game, or business people who want to go to a conference. Finding a way to fill empty seats on private jets has been a dream for many years. By leveraging the social Web, Social Flights may have found the key to making it happen. I suspect we will be hearing a lot more about Social Flights. The Fast Company story and New York Times blog posting have said some positive things already.