Whether booking a private jet charter is a regular part of your week or something new to you, you’ve likely heard of private jet cards. Nowadays, there are several options to choose from, each designed to cater to clients’ different needs.
With so many options available, picking the best private jet card program can be a daunting process. To make the task easier, keep the following things in mind before purchasing a private jet card:
1. Company Profile
Jet card providers can include boutique vendors to multi-brand conglomerates that offer worldwide services. When you choose a smaller organization, you will likely deal with the owner directly. You can also expect to get a more personalized experience.
Larger organizations, on the other hand, have more destinations, resources, and personnel. They also have more options when it comes to aircraft type. As a general rule of thumb, choose a company that has your best interest in mind.
Do you prefer privacy over personalized experience when you fly? Will you be flying for pleasure or business? Do your research and ask the right questions. Having a clear idea of what you prefer can help narrow down your search.
2. Competitive Pricing vs. Fixed Rates
Most private jet program providers have guaranteed hourly rates for their trips. However, dynamic pricing is also starting to become popular. While other clients prefer fixed hourly rates, some opt for dynamic market pricing hoping the market will work in their favor.
Those who go for fixed pricing are protected from high costs brought about by market volatility and reduced demand. Dynamic pricing can be a gamble as you will not be able to predict when hourly rates will rise or drop.
3. Pilot quality, Safety, and Training
In aviation, safety is of prime importance. However, safety standards can vary from one company to another.
Several companies pride themselves on recurrent pilot training, the number of flight hours their pilots have accumulated, and their safety standards and certifications. It is also important to note that not all companies offer more than government-imposed minimums.
4. Aircraft Size and Type
Some programs offer only one size and type of jet for a specific price bracket. Other jet card programs give clients access to all sizes of planes for the same price.
To determine the type of aircraft you need, you have to anticipate your travel needs. Also, since travel plans can sometimes change when least expected, it is ideal to work with private jet providers that cater to needs that arise unexpectedly.
5. Extra Charges
In some instances, even if you choose a fixed rate, you will pay for other extra charges like taxes, fuel surcharges, catering, Wi-Fi access, and other hidden fees. Every company has a different policy for charges, so reading the fine print is recommended.
In general, expect that you will not be paying for flight time alone. Most private jet programs also have daily flight time minimums. That means even if your flight only lasted for 45 minutes, you will have to pay for the daily segment minimum of 60 minutes.
6. Guaranteed Availability
The guarantee of a private jet waiting in any location at any time is an enticing idea. However, not all jet cards offer guaranteed availability, so it is often seen as an offer that is too great to pass upon.
However, there can be caveats to such offers, such as the aircraft size or type. It is ideal to carefully examine guaranteed programs before signing on the dotted line to know what you are getting and if it’s according to your liking.
7. Partnerships with Lifestyle Brands
Private jet cards and lifestyle brands sometimes partner together to provide free merchandise or discounts to clients.
Partnerships with hotels and resorts, jewelers, clothing brands, and wine and spirit distributors are something some clients find appealing.
8. Cancellations and Reservations
As expected, reservations and cancellations can vary from one provider to another. For instance, while some private jet card programs allow flight reservations six hours in advance, others must be notified at least 72 hours ahead of the scheduled flight.
The same principle can apply to cancellations. Business clients often prefer a flexible cancellation policy. To cater to this need, some jet card providers make arrangements for less than 5 hours.
9. Aircraft Sourcing
Not all private jet companies own all of their aircraft. Some providers source aircraft from operators so clients won’t fly in the same airplane. Other companies, on the other hand, manage their fleets. This means clients travel on the same planes and the same crew.
Also, when companies source their aircraft, they have less control over the operation’s mechanics and logistics. For others, this can mean their safety is not entirely assured. While this can translate to lower prices, it might also be at the expense of personal safety.
10. Choice of FBO Locations and Service Areas
Some private jet companies are national, while others can be regional or global. For those who do business along the eastern seaboard, a regional program is deemed more apt.
However, an impulsive leisure trip to the west coast might have surcharges. Companies have different approaches to this. For instance, while others impose additional costs, some won’t charge extra to fly outside the service area.
11. One-Way Rates
Another thing many clients like about private jet cards is they don’t have to spend on repositioning flights to get the aircraft to them or someplace else after the trip.
While many jet cards offer one-way rates, it is essential to check if there are no ferry fees as it is not universal.
12. Refunds and Expiration
While some programs have funds that never expire, other providers limit their jet card’s validity between 12 and 24 months.
Also, while others are non-refundable, some providers might refund unused deposits. You need to check if you can rollover any remaining funds into a new jet card or refill the new jet card at the contracted rate.
13. Memberships and Initiation Fees
Some programs charge annual or monthly membership fees as well as initiation fees. This means the more you fly, the more you can amortize the costs over the number of hours you have spent flying.
However, if you want to compare prices, divide the fees by the number of hours you expect to fly. For example, if you fly for 15 hours and you are paying $15, 000 in fees, you should tack at least an extra $1,000 onto the hourly rate published.
If you intend to fly on turboprops or very light jets, you need to keep in mind that some don’t have toilets, just potties with a curtain.
However, some programs have aircraft with fully enclosed lavatories. While seemingly trivial, this is something others look into depending on the length of the flight and who they are flying with.
Conclusion: Buying a private jet card
While there are no denying jet cards make flying easy, comparing them can require some work. It is recommended that as you start your research process, you factor in all the key factors like the number of people you expect on the trip, the flexibility to avoid peak dates, Wi-Fi availability, and other variables.
As long as you have all the bases covered, you can take a holistic view and pick the program that will best suit your needs and budget.
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Melissa Hull is the Content Marketing Strategist for Aviation Charters, a West Trenton, New Jersey-based private aviation company that provides on-demand aircraft charter, aircraft management, and aircraft acquisition services. Aside from her passion for writing, she loves to travel and read espionage books.