This private jet card membership program has the hometown touch
There are over 25 different providers of jet card programs we track in Private Jet Card Comparisons, and each supplier we’ve found has a varied approach to the market, which makes it very interesting for you as a consumer. In some cases the differences are significant. In other cases, they are more nuanced, which means you owe it to yourself to spend a bit of time doing some due diligence, but by selecting a program that fits your needs you are likely to find a happy home.
On Friday Private Jet Card Comparisons was invited to Omaha, Nebraska as part of Jet Linx Aviation’s celebration on gaining management of its 100th aircraft. While the company was founded in 1999, most of its growth has come in the past five years.
The biggest tangible difference in the way Jet Linx approaches the market is by focusing on bases. Jet Linx is first of all a management company, and currently, it has 14 base locations for managed airplanes. It then sells jet cards based on the hours owners won’t be using the aircraft. It doesn’t open a base until it has a critical mass of managed planes. As it is building up its jet card customer base (it has over 200 customers in Omaha and 1,200 altogether), it also charters the aircraft it manages through third party brokers, never direct to the consumer. At each of its bases, Jet Linx operates its own terminal. Each base has its own President. There is a local team of mechanics, pilots and support staff. It is essentially like having your own corporate flight department and hangar, or a private FBO. The only things missing is Jet Linx doesn’t pump fuel and there isn’t transient traffic.
This brings jet card customers a couple benefits: Say you travel five to 20 times a year, based on the size of your home market, you may be using different FBOs and even airports, each time, different faces with different flight crews and airplanes. With Jet Linx it’s a bit like checking into your favorite hotel where they know your name, favorite room, and preferences. In fact, a drinks cart in the lobby of its Omaha lounge has self-serve bottles of spirits and wines not based on a marketing partnership, but the favorite brands of members who are expected to be flying that day.
Each Base President also serves as the sales chief for that market, so your main contact is in your community, not in a sales office hundreds or thousands of miles away. In fact, top management generally greets customers arriving and departing. While Jet Linx has to manage how revenue flights are allocated to owners, they also best try to get jet card customers onto their preferred aircraft. At smaller bases where they have to use third-party providers to fill demand, they use a short list of quality operators, but again, try to match aircraft based on what you like. For pilots, Jet Linx is a nice gig. Because the focus is serving customers in the local markets where it has bases, most missions are to and from the base, so pilots are less likely to be on extended trips away from their families as is the case with fractional providers and floating fleets.
The local touch is backed up by a national operations center in Omaha. The center was moved off airport several years ago to better separate it from the base there and ensure support is provided equally to all of its 14 outlets. Two to three more bases are expected by the end of the year meaning its managed fleet – now second only to Berkshire Hathaway’s Executive Jet Management – will continue to grow.
In the operations center in addition to all of the normal planning activities you would expect, there is a series of 14 television screens each with a camera focused on a particular area of the ramp outside its various bases. This spot is where third party aircraft it is using to fulfill jet card flights pull up. These aircraft are expected to be at the Jet Linx terminal at least one hour before scheduled departure, and the cameras are a way to double check when Jet Linx has to go outside its managed fleet, nothing slips through the cracks.
Jet Linx provides guaranteed availability at contracted rates for its jet card members. Its CEO and President Jamie Walker believes that without guaranteed availability, no matter what a provider calls its program, it’s not a true jet card, but block charter in disguise.
Jet Linx has a hefty 58 Peak Days but no blackouts and a 10% surcharge for Peak Day travel. Peak Day lead time is reasonable 72 hours (some programs have up to 7 days) vs. 48 hours normally (longer than programs that start at 10 hours). Hourly rates range from $3,375 to $9,800. De-icing is not included and you will have to work into your calculations fuel surcharges which are adjusted quarterly. All Jet Linx managed aircraft have AED (Automated External Defibrillators) and flight crew is trained in usage.
Available fleet varies based on managed aircraft at your base. Jet Linx’s bases currently include Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Fort Worth, Houston, Indianapolis, Nashville, Omaha, San Antonio, Scottsdale, St. Louis, Tulsa and its first reach to either coast, Washington D.C. In an extra touch, Jet Linx also washes and details your car while you are traveling and has it ready, air conditioning or heat on when you return.
Perhaps an indicator of the low-key and local way Jet Linx markets itself was the 100th aircraft celebration itself. Walker and his team had not been planning anything, but when an FBO manager pointed out that it was a significant milestone, Walker decided to organize an event timed to the College World Series now taking place in his hometown. The event was mainly focused on its aviation partners and customers, and of course as a special guest, the FBO manager who suggested in the first place. In fact, earlier in the day Walker had to be literally pushed in front of a local TV camera, preferring instead to put his base president in the spotlight.