September 16, 2006 in Business

Evacuate in style, for a price

Matt Sedensky Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Brian Rems, a company official at HelpJet Services, stands in West Palm Beach, Fla., outside one of the jets that will be used to fly people away from the path of hurricanes. The new service guarantees its members a spot on a chartered jet out of the hurricane zone.
(Full-size photo)

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – There are the hurricane evacuation images everyone has come to conjure – stranded victims, snaking traffic and helicopters dispatched to rooftops. And then there is HelpJet.

The new service from West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Galaxy Aviation guarantees its well-heeled members a seat on a chartered jet out of the hurricane zone, reserves five-star hotel rooms and limousine transfers and rolls out a red carpet – literally.

“We call it evacuation in style,” said Brian Rems, who came up with the HelpJet concept.

HelpJet – which charges adults a $500 annual membership fee – subcontracts flights on 30-passenger Dornier 328 turboprop planes. The service updates members as a storm nears and flights typically can continue running until the day it hits. Flights go to Atlanta, Charlotte and Nashville and HelpJet arranges accommodations, other transportation and anything else the member may request.

The flights – cost about $1,850 to $1,950 a person roundtrip and small pets can be brought aboard free. HelpJet certainly isn’t the first to capitalize on the threat of hurricanes.

Atlanta-based Boyken International, which represents major developers, introduced a program this year guaranteeing priority construction service to get a business back up and running fast. In New Orleans, Drew Harrington started a company called Hurricane Guy, which will board up a house, empty the refrigerator and otherwise ready customers for an evacuation. And another new West Palm Beach company, Power to Go, guarantees generator-produced electricity and fuel for businesses that must keep running after a storm.

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