Jessica Fisher is the brains and brawn behind the innovative company Flyjets. Currently a student pilot and lifelong aviation enthusiast, Fisher graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and earned her Master of Business Administration from Columbia University.
Within the aviation industry, Fisher has many missions. However, the focus of Flyjets is to improve affordability while also helping the environment through the FlyGreen initiative.
Fisher shared that the goal of the FlyGreen program “is to effectively establish the world’s first carbon offset and green fuel subsidy—and thereby encourage users to opt in to environmentally friendly initiatives and alternatives. The system will enable those Flyjets members who choose to offset their flight—and, in the future, fly with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and green fuel alternatives—to earn additional currency-equivalent points toward future bookings, above the number of FLYRewards they ordinarily achieve with each flight booking.”
Fisher has also dedicated part of her efforts to giving back to the next generation of pilots with the Fly Foundation.
According to the Flyjets website, Fisher also works as a principal at Monroe Capital, where she focuses on impact investments. She previously worked “as an associate producer in CNBC’s Strategic Programming and Development division, as an analyst at MBF Asset Management, as an analyst at Goldman Sachs in the U.S. Equities Sales division and as an M.B.A. summer intern at the Robin Hood Foundation.”
AOPA caught up with Fisher to find out more about her company, her passion for business, and her passion for improving aviation.
How did you first become interested in aviation?
I’ve always loved airplanes and airports—I used to tell my father that my dream was to live at Westchester Airport. While that may not have become a reality, my other dream of learning to fly did!
I started taking flying lessons at Danny Waizman Flight School, out at Republic Airport, in 2012. I completed my private pilot knowledge test and initial solo flights in 2014, and I plan to complete my certification in the near future using soundproofing equipment and acoustic technology (I have very sensitive ears!).
How did you come up with the Flyjets concept?
I came up with the idea for Flyjets in 2012, during my Introduction to Venturing course at Columbia Business School with Professor Bob Dorf (co-author of “The Startup Owner’s Manual”), who has been both a mentor and great friend ever since. What I initially called “[Unnamed Jet Project]” officially became Flyjets during my second semester in the entrepreneurship program, and my third semester, at Columbia, during the “Launching New Ventures” course.
Can you explain the concept?
The primary goal of Flyjets is to connect flyers and aircraft providers, and to effectively enable access to aviation in a transparent—and very green—way. Flyjets is the first completely open charter and commercial aviation marketplace for both business-to-consumer and business-to-business transactions; Flyjets memberships and usage of the application are free. The Flyjets application utilizes proprietary aircraft data, dynamic location sourcing, distance and time to automate non-scheduled flights anywhere in the world.
The Flyjets system utilizes the benefits of automation and technology-enabled network effects to guarantee the lowest point-to-point charter rates available and enable travelers to take full advantage of “empty leg” discounts.
“Empty legs,” or, as we have coined them, “charter flights,” are flights that need to move in specific directions with or without passengers, and are therefore often priced at significant discounts. For instance, when a charter aircraft is booked for a round-trip flight, the airplane does not stay at the destination airport; rather, it flies to and from its "home base" location after passengers are dropped off. Thus, a "two leg" trip is often, in reality, a "four leg" trip, with the risk of two empty legs priced into the initial charter price. With the goal of splitting the “four legs” between two sets of flyers, Flyjets seeks to simultaneously enable cost savings and increase aircraft utilization.
How do you feel this new concept is moving the needle in the aviation industry?
First and foremost, I’m hoping that Flyjets’ (Fly I Corp.) benefit corporation structure will help to set a formal standard of doing well by doing good within the aviation industry—an industry that already, irrespective of official corporate structures, does a tremendous amount of good.
With a focus on information technology and establishing a true marketplace structure, Flyjets is primarily focused on improving accessibility to and transparency within the aviation industry. By integrating charter and commercial booking mechanisms into one platform we hope to effectively: increase and improve the insight and information provided to industry participants—with respect to flight options, aircraft and route alternatives, supply and demand dynamics, and pricing specifics—and introduce both new and existing opportunities to new and existing flyers and aircraft providers.
Lastly, as for The Fly Foundation, our goal is to have a significant impact on the future of aviation education. A minimum of five percent of Flyjets’ revenue from each flight booked is directed to The Fly Foundation, which is currently in the process of attaining 501(c)(3) status. With all these new flying cars coming to life…we will definitely need a full troop of pilots!
I’m hoping that the gift of flight will have a hugely positive impact on all those involved in the program in the future, just as it did for me. The flight instructors I’ve worked with taught invaluable lessons in leadership, life, consistently giving 170 percent, and persistence.
You also created The Fly Foundation. Can you please share more about it?
The Fly Foundation, which works side by side along with Fly I Corp. (a New York State benefit corporation), was developed to extend Flyjets’ core mission of doing well by doing good, and delivering material positive benefits to business, society, and the environment.
The key goals of the foundation are five-fold:
What is your ultimate goal within the aviation industry?
Ultimately, Flyjets intends to streamline and facilitate the process of flying, owning, operating, storing, and maintaining aircraft—and to pave the way for the future of flight.
As for shorter term goals, Flyjets maintains three primary objectives:
What do you feel your biggest hurdle has been?
There have been so many hurdles it would be impossible to pick one. Importantly, I learned to fail first, primarily for the following two reasons:
I set out to start an aviation company in 2012 with very little flight (piloting) experience—I quickly learned my first flight instructor’s favorite lesson of “fly first—the rest, later.” Understanding that flight education would be instrumental to Flyjets’ success, I spent time during and after business school taking lessons, focusing on passing my private pilot exam and completing my first solo flight.
I attempted to start an aviation technology company with very little computer science education. Coding is very tough to learn without being able to give 1,000 percent, and in 2017 I enrolled in the full-time Web Development Immersive course at General Assembly. The program provided a tremendous experience and I was able to gain the knowledge I needed to truly execute on the Flyjets concept and set out building our system.
Afterward, in 2018, I took what had at that point been a five-and-a-half year attempt at Flyjets and started from a clean slate by incorporating both Fly I Corp. (doing business as Flyjets) and The Fly Foundation. I took what I had learned—all that had transpired between my Columbia course in 2012 and that time—and set out to re-build the initial Flyjets framework and concept. Fast forward almost three years, and I think our team has done a pretty exceptional job at that!