Jet Card Programs vs Private Jet Charter
When faced with a need for a private aircraft, you will find many options to choose from, and each has it’s own advantages and disadvantages. The three major options are: fractional ownership, jet card services, and air charter. Other methods of buying private jet flight time do exist, but generally will fall under one of the previous three categories for the sake of simplicity.
First, let us discuss fractional ownership, which requires an upfront payment of at least 1/16th of the aircraft’s valued price and will allow you to have a percentage of hours on the aircraft. Now for some parties interested in owning a private jet, fractional ownership is a cost effective solution if your travel schedule is predictable.
Though most fractional ownership providers claim that their service is like owning an aircraft with no need to worry about upkeep or management, these companies charge a “monthly management fee” and require “at least 4 hours notice before a domestic departure”, this added with a heavy entry fee and a limited fleet of aircraft make fractional ownership not for everyone, mainly frequent private travelers with a set daily or weekly route can opt for such type of charter. For more information about what fractional ownership of a private jet entails, please consult our Fractional Ownership vs. Private Jet charter analysis.
Jet Card Programs
Jet card companies will sell you a set amount of hours on aircraft they own and operate. Traditionally, these are sold in 25, 50, and 100 hour increments. The selling point is that by purchasing a larger amount of hours, you can save in hourly costs by paying a flat hourly rate and avoid unexpected charges. This is far from the truth sometimes, not only can jet card programs be more expensive per hour, but they also break the most important rule of “no unexpected charges” which of course, seemed too good to be true.
There are peak hour charges, late charges, non-preferred FBO charges, inactivity charges and many more. Once handing over your initial payment (which on average is $35,000 to $500,000) the jet card company reserves the right to subtract “credit” (your hard earned dollars) for any expenses it deems “outstanding”. It doesn’t stop there, that very same jet card provider essentially turns your nonrefundable payment into credits. The jet card provider reserves the right to change pricing once or multiple times a year, add more unexpected charges, as well as refuse to serve you, canceling your account and keeping your initial payment in full.
Similar to fractional ownership, notice is needed up to 120 hours before departure depending on the jet card provider during peak periods. Not only does your jet card provider need five days notice at times, but can simply choose to not guarantee availability during peak periods. Very conveniently, these jet card programs never publicly declare what qualifies as a “peak period”
A very important detail is that by choosing a reputable jet card or fractional ownership company, it is highly unlikely that you will have your credits or money taken from you. Though legally able to do so, no reputable private jet sharing company would engage in unfavorable activities of this sort.
Both fractional ownership and jet cards can have the advantage of near-ownership of an aircraft. Both allow you to schedule flights without the need to approve and and pay for each individual trip as private plane charter does. Jet card programs and fractional ownership means trusting a single provider, and building a long term relationship with the private jet service provider. Though unknown to most, traditional air charter can offer the very same advantages with a simple membership system.
Private Jet Charters
Private charter allows you to fly with as little as 30 minutes notice on the exact aircraft of your choosing. Some customers may be more comfortable in a Challenger 604 or a Gulfstream G550, while fractional ownership and jet card programs can only guarantee an aircraft of “similar class” or “lesser class”. The most important advantage of charter is choice: the choice of your preferred FBO, preferred aircraft, airports, in-cabin amenities, and catering.
Though this comes at a cost; private air charter requires a separate contract for each flight. Since each flight is billed separately, each flight requires a separate payment. This is of course facilitated by electronic signatures and online payment methods. Traditional air charter works on a first come first serve basis, meaning if your aircraft of choice is not available, it may be much more expensive to relocate the same aircraft model from a nearby airport, adding to flight charges. All in all, private jet charter may require an extra step of involvement from the customer, but offers unbeatable pricing with no downpayment, no shady contracts, and minimal prior notice to book an aircraft.