Private Flying on Aero: This Is What It's Like to Have Access to Your Own Jet

The Van Nuys Airport, in Los Angeles, is less glamorous than it is low-key cool. It's more Rat Pack than BTS. It exudes an air of luxury through its uncrowded, exclusive grounds. The small, regional airport, about 20 miles north of the world-renowned Los Angeles International Airport, is the perfect setting for Aero's private jet flights.

Aero airline
Aero's jet sits on the runway in Rifle, Colorado, after landing. TYLER HAYES

I arrived at the Van Nuys Airport and parked steps away from the airport's entrance. Within minutes I was waiting in the airline's lounge and checked in for my 9:30 a.m. flight to Aspen, Colorado. There were no metal detectors or conveyor belts in sight.

Flying has lost its appeal because comfort and convenience have been squeezed from the experience. Yet, when the time came and I walked out of the airport doors across the tarmac and approached the black jet with yellow-and-red color accents, it felt like flying could find its way back to being fun and easy again.

Aero is a new airline offering semiprivate flights with all first-class seats for leisure travel. The company is using the promise of exclusivity, such as private terminals and dedicated concierge staff, to set itself apart in an industry in which merely the promise of someone not slamming their seat back into your face would be enough to command customers' attention.

Here, however, Aero is aiming for the stars. Even before wheels up, I was sold on flying semiprivately. Traveling this way reminded me that nothing in this world is ever too good to be true—it simply comes at a monetary cost. In this case, a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Aspen currently retails for $1,250.

I'll let you decide whether that price is outrageous or an unbelievable value. This is simply a look at what it's like to use Aero for air travel.

Goodbye Los Angeles

After walking in the front door and finding a padded chair to sit down, Aero personnel came over and began my check in. This process included an ID check and weighing my two bags with a handheld scale, all done in a relaxed manner.

Part of what makes Aero different is its hands-on approach. The sense you get as a passenger is that its staff is concerned about the details, so you don't have to be. That was on display before the morning's flight even boarded. The weather in Aspen presented an air pressure issue for landing. The plane's captain visited each of us to explain the situation one-on-one. She let everyone know that the flight would be flying into Rifle, Colorado, and that we then would be bused to the Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, about 50 minutes away, to be connected with our rides.

Aero airline
Aero's boarding passes are clear acrylic cards with your seat number on them. A staff member distributes them before the flight. TYLER HAYES

Regardless of the slight detour, boarding proceeded without delay. When flying commercial, the only time you're asked to walk across the tarmac and walk up a set of stairs to board a plane is when something has gone terribly wrong. I've done it a few times, and each instance first included an emergency bus ride and trekking through parts of the airport that passengers were never meant to see. Harrowing is one word for it.

In contrast, boarding this Aero flight on the tarmac was nothing short of delightful. A leisurely walk to the 16-seat airplane was capped off with a jaunt up five or six stairs.

The narrow entryway of the plane opens into a comfortably sized cabin. The seats are dressed in gray leather, matched by a light gray fabric along the walls. Orange lights bounce off the ceiling to give the otherwise neutral interior a lively personality. There are no TVs or even Wi-Fi on the plane. The lack of screens isn't an issue, but the lack of internet feels noticeable.

While the plane is small, it's not claustrophobic. It feels roomy and comfortable. The only time its size shows is if you hit a patch of turbulence, when shaking is felt more than it would in a large airliner.

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The inside of the plane strikes a nice balance between casual and business with its gray-and-orange decor. TYLER HAYES

It only takes about an hour and a half to make it from the coast of California to the mountains of Colorado. When flying is this comfortable, you want it to last as long as possible. It did not. The plane left on time and arrived according to the updated plan. As soon as the flight came to a rest, there were no metallic sounds of seat belt buckles being ripped off. No one popped up to leave as if they were in the final stage of The Amazing Race. It was calm and leisurely.

Features and Price

Aero's advertised features and price:

  • One-way ticket from Los Angeles to Aspen, Colorado: $1,250
  • Maximum capacity: 16 passengers
  • Dedicated concierge staff
  • Private airport lounge
  • Jet sanitation process before and after each flight
  • First-class, leather seats
  • Three pieces of luggage, plus carry-on, for free

The Stay and Return Flight

The main draw of flying with Aero is, of course, the flight. It's not all the company does, however. Encompassed in its promise of unique travel experiences is partnering with hotels and other accommodations, such as getting a car or driver as needed. The destinations are limited at the moment, but the company indicates that it plans to travel to more places, including Napa Valley, as soon as spring and summer 2021.

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The W Aspen has a rooftop area with a pool, a hot tub and seating, all with a view of Aspen Mountain. TYLER HAYES

Aero assisted me in being able to stay at the W Aspen. The hotel is spectacular. It's Marriott's funkier of the two properties it has within blocks of each other in Aspen. Like other W hotels, it incorporates local design elements throughout, often subtle enough to miss. Here, for example, a topographical map of Aspen is woven into the carpet.

As impressive as the hotel is, including its available-to-own residences, its location is the showstopper. It's about 50 steps to Aspen Mountain for skiing. The mountain even has a ski-off area to put you right at the hotel entrance when you're finished for the day, or just want lunch.

When it was time to head back to Los Angeles, the Aspen airport was only a 10-minute drive from the hotel. The main commercial terminal was familiar in scope, with ticket counters and metal detectors, but on a very miniature level. Unfortunately, it didn't have any signs for Aero. Even an airport greeter at the curbside drop-off was not familiar with the airline. Flying on a jet, from a private area, does come with the added complexity of needing to know exactly where to go. Eventually, a short walk and shuttle ride later, I located the right spot to depart. It was not a terminal as much as it was just a hangar at the far end of the airport.

There was no lounge, unless you count a shuttle bus that was referred to as a "mobile lounge." Despite the lack of building, the two Aero staff at the hangar door were helpful and accommodating. The check-in process was the same as in L.A. and only took a few moments.

The plane ride was as nice back to California as it was out to Colorado. This time, however, all 16 seats were filled. The crowd was a mix of couples, families with kids, and a few flying solo. Drinks and snacks were abundant on the way home. The lack of available plane Wi-Fi was, again, the only slightly disappointing aspect. A few minutes after landing, checked bags were returned, and the trip was over.

Should You Fly Aero?

If Aero sounds in the realm of "Uber for planes," you aren't far off. Aero was started by Garrett Camp, an Uber co-founder. So, while jetting off on a semiprivate flight might sound absurd to some people today, it wasn't too many years ago that using an app to summon a stranger to your house and get in their car was equally as strange.

Aero airline
The airplane at the Van Nuys Airport before takeoff. TYLER HAYES

For now, the self-imposed limited destinations that come from ramping up a service like Aero's leaves it too far from those who may want to use it. For those who currently reside in Southern California or near Aspen, however, it's quite the treat. It even makes flying commercial first-class seem a bit barbaric.

The price will make Aero a bit of a nonstarter for some. Anyone who is financially able to consider it, however, should just do it. The experience took most of the friction out of getting from one state to another.

The running joke among Tesla owners that also applies to other premium electric cars: You shouldn't drive one unless you're ready to put in an order. Pressing your foot against the accelerator and producing instant, silent speed is addicting. It's a letdown to get back in your gasoline car and head home from a test drive. Aero is the same.

It's not that you shouldn't fly Aero, even once, if you get the chance. But once you do, be aware that you may be spending extra time redoing your vacation budget to figure out how you can make Aero fit in every time.

Book at Aero.

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