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Innovation & Startups

Need a private jet fast? FlyRuby, the Orbitz of charter travel

Face it, private jets will never be affordable for the huddled masses. But for business execs who are watching the bottom line, an Expedia or Travelocity-like web tool goes a long way to helping companies reduce the cost of last minute charter flights .

That's the idea behind flyRuby.com, a website that is bringing the convenience and competitive pricing of commercial airline travel to private charter clients. The model, developed by 27-year-old Michael Leek, founder and CEO, not only reduces the inefficiencies of private charter flying and cost to customers, but creates a dynamic online scheduling tool for the private jet industry.

Leek developed the idea initially for The Pittsburgh Technology Council's Enterprize Business Plan Competition, in which he was a finalist. The technology, a spinout of Carnegie Mellon University, was developed by Dr. Stephen Smith, a computer sciences professor, to solve a similar problem for the U.S. Air Force. Dr. Smith is the company's CTO and flyRuby employs five.

The challenge for flyRuby is there's no set schedules to search in the private charter world, explains Leek. Jets often fly places to deliver passengers and return with no one on the plane.

About $50 billion was spent on private flights last year and 38% of those flights were flown with no passengers. flyRuby uses a list of all the small operators in the U.S. and matches up flights to find the most efficient solution for both parties.To put the savings in perspective, jet setting from Pittsburgh to Boston for the week would be about $10,000. flyRuby.com's search technology could reduce that trip to about $5,000 for 7 people, much closer to the cost of a first class ticket.

"What my company really does is give the small and medium sized businesses an opportunity that was previously only available to large companies that had their own plane," says Leek. "You want to leave in three hours? We provide accessibility unheard of in the industry."

There's a growing trend today to return to the face-to-face business model of the past, he adds. "The shake of the hand is coming back. The way to do this is through private jet travel, doing meetings in the same day, no overnights, no loss of productivity."

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Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Michael Leek, flyRuby.com
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