Jet cards are currently the most popular way to book an air charter. Here we compare prices and strategies, along with easy to implement alternatives.
The Rise in Private Jet Cards
Flying on a private jet used to require a multi-year commitment, even if you only wanted a jet for a single flight. In opposition to fractional jet ownership schemes, jet cards reduced the prepaid commitment to as low as USD 100,000. Rather than own a share in a jet people could suddenly prepay for a set number of flying hours on a jet. 25 hours is the most common but some programs go as low as five flying hours.
Fast forward ten years to today and private jet cards dominate the air charter market. There are over 50 providers and more than 300 programs to choose from. New models have emerged as well. Jet Linx and Wheels Up offer a zero hours private jet card. You pay a membership fee (USD 17,500 and 50,000 respectively) then pay by the hour once you start flying.
Forbes bring up a very important point in their article comparing jet card pricing.
“Compared to on-demand charter, which entails getting quotes from multiple brokers and then taking the time to compare offers, [with jet cards] you should be able to book your jet card flight with one call, an email, in some cases online or even a text.”
Gathering and comparing quotes takes time,when a private jet flight can be booked quickly and efficiently online. That’s why private jet cards are currently so dominant in the air charter industry. So what are the options and what is the best strategy when looking for a jet card?
How Much is a Private Jet Card?
Private jet cards range from USD 110,000 to 200,000 for 25 hours of flying time on a light jet. Prices vary by provider and also on the size of the aircraft. Pricing is not always transparent and there are extra fees to look out for, such as fuel surcharges and FET.
These are the key factors in determining the price of a private jet card.
Size of the Aircraft
The first step in thinking about a jet card is the size of jet you will need. A 25 hour program for a very light jet won’t allow you to fly on an aircraft that has more than eight seats. However, it would be a waste of money to purchase 25 hours on a Gulfstream G450, when you only require a heavy jet for one or two flights.
Larger aircraft are naturally more expensive. The price of a private jet card for light jets is typically USD 110,000 to 200,000. Mid-sized jets start from USD 177,500. Heavy aircraft with more seats and a greater range are rarely available for less than USD 350,000 for 25 hours. Some jet card programs allow holders to pay a surcharge to upscale for a particular flight. Most allow this but add an interchange fee of up to 20%, as well as the price of up-scaling.
Number of Flying Hours
This is an obvious element of private jet card pricing. A ten-hour jet card should be half the price of a 20-hour jet card. Well, that’s not the case but the number of flying hours does dramatically dictate the total price. 25 hours has been the standard entry point for most providers and this requires a six figure prepaid commitment. OneFlight International now offers a five-hour card and many providers have dipped down to 15 hours. Do note that the price per flying hour is usually higher when you commit to less hours.
How long does 25 flying hours last? How much is a private jet card when you only use 17 hours? This all depends on the operator. Most jet cards have a 12-month period. Some programs allow members to carry their hours forward after the 12 months, usually with a small fee attached. Others do not, meaning the hours are lost (or you fly somewhere unnecessarily just to use them up). It’s important to ask this question when comparing jet cards.
What is Included and What is Extra?
Jet cards partially developed out of a need for transparency in the air charter industry. They promised something unambiguous, especially in comparison to using a private jet broker. That hasn’t materialized, as anyone in the air charter industry can testify. There is no industry standard or guideline on what must be included in a jet card. Now there are up to 15 variables that will impact the final price. Comparing all these variables is essential before committing to a program.
- Federal Excise Tax – A recent study showed that only 82 of 311 programs include the 7.5% tax in their quoted rates.
- Fuel Fees – Some programs add the fuel costs as an extra and fuel costs are a hefty proportion of the flight cost.
- Fuel Surcharges – Another form of fuel fee that can add over 10% onto the hourly flying rate.
- Taxi Time – Ten minutes of taxi time on a USD 6,000 hourly rate adds another thousand bucks to the flight. Some providers include this, many charge it as an additional.
- Peak Date Surcharges – You can fly anytime but on a popular date (like Thanksgiving) the flight will cost up to 40% more. Some programs have over 100 of these hot dates and it’s important to know whether you can avoid these.
- Minimum Flight Charges – The majority of programs have a 60-minute segment minimum, so you pay for one hour, even for a 20-minute flight. 120 minutes is the standard daily minimum, so that single 20-minute flight becomes terrible value. To counter this charge it’s essential to map out where you will be flying before comparing jet card prices.
- Initiation Fees – These can be up to USD 20,000 on top of the jet card price.
- Annual Membership Fees – Also up to USD 20,000 and these can be a stinger when wanting to roll flight hours into a new year.
- Interchange Fees – Expect to pay 10 – 20% extra when wanting to upscale or downscale the aircraft; that’s in addition to the aircraft’s different price per hour.
- Rate Locks vs CPI Escalators – For some programs the price per flying hour increases quarterly, based on CPI. All increase annually.
- Deicing – Expect to pay up to USD 10,000 each time your chartered aircraft needs deicing; a handful of providers include this fee as standard.
- FBO Surcharges – Landing fees shouldn’t be extra when using the provider’s preferred airport FBO; costs add up when using your choice of FBO.
- Repositioning Fees – Most jet cards have a specific service area. All one-way flights within this service area are covered. Flights outside this area attract repositioning fees and one-way surcharges.
- Catering – Some include it, most do not.
- International Surcharge – Flying outside the USA usually means a repositioning fee as well as a destination surcharge.
Comparing Private Jet Card Prices
Have you planned out 12 months of private jet travel? Are you clear about where you will fly and the size of aircraft that’s required? Do you have a spreadsheet ready to compare programs and prices, especially the surcharges? And do you have over USD 100,000 ready to invest? Wait! Wasn’t a private jet card supposed to be easy?
Anyone with the time to compare over 300 jet card programs probably doesn’t need to benefit from the number one luxury of an air charter: saving time. Yet such a large financial investment does need thorough research. You don’t want to be like one of the millions of people who jump into an annual gym membership with all the best intentions, only to visit three times in a year. Get it wrong with private jet card pricing and there is an enormous unused expense.
In a nutshell:
- Fractional jet ownership – something that requires an even greater initial investment and even more precise understanding of where and when you will fly.
- Private jet brokers – an option that lacks transparency and has become somewhat dated after jet cards.
- On-demand air charter – just book flights as you need them with no upfront costs, using a pay as you fly model.
Almost everyone will benefit from the pay as you fly model. There is no financial commitment and complete flexibility about where and when to fly. This is a big contrast to private jet card pricing and offers the best short and long-term value. You charter aircraft based on the needs of each individual flight, using locally based operators to reduce and remove repositioning fees, regardless of where you are.
“Compared to on-demand charter, which entails getting quotes from multiple brokers and then taking the time to compare offers...”
That has all changed with Airvel, the world’s leading booking engine for air charters. Through a single search engine you receive instant quotes from multiple operators and airlines. On a single screen you can compare all the options, including price, aircraft, flight duration and amenities.
“you should be able to book your jet card flight with one call, an email, in some cases online or even a text.”
Well, that is Airvel as well. After comparing flights you complete the booking online through a secure payment gateway. It’s also possible to book an air charter over the phone or email with an Airvel concierge. A text message isn’t possible just yet but you can text a 24-7 concierge with all your flight needs. You will then receive an email with different aircraft and prices side by side.
The Next Generation of Private Jet Charter
At Airvel we believe anyone can fly on a private jet. We have removed the barriers presented by jet cards and membership schemes and provide transparency for on-demand charter. We encourage you to use the search facility to plan the private jet flights you need over the coming months, then to compare the results with private jet card pricing.
With Airvel there is no need for a strategy. People who are new to air charter find Airvel a good way to test the water and discover whether private jet flights are worthwhile for them. Those who previously used private jet cards switch to Airvel because it’s easier and cheaper. Long-term air charter customers use Airvel for the flexibility and price benefits.
Try it out at www.airvel.com.