The over 100 jet card programs we compare on this website vary widely from sourcing standards for pilots and airplanes to rates, fees and surcharges, service areas and so forth. In fact, we track 65 points of differentiation and in 2018 are adding a few more.
When people ask what’s the best jet card, it’s a bit like asking what’s the best hotel? Well, in which city? Why are you going? Business? Romance? A family vacation? Maybe a company incentive or board meeting? Do you want to be seen or in the middle of a scene? What services and amenities do you care about? Is price an critical factor or just a consideration? The goal of Private Jet Card Comparisons is to help you choose the program or programs that are right for you. It’s not a one size fits all market.
Of course, before choosing a jet card program, the question often asked is, should I choose a jet card program at all or should I just charter from an on-demand broker when I need it?
Most card programs are based on at least 25 hours of flying, however, more and more the entry level for jet cards is coming down. There are several 10-hour programs and I’ve seen $25,000 promotional programs which mean you are talking about four or five hours of flying, which could mean a single trip.
If you talk to charter brokers, the knock on jet cards is they are “expensive charter.” In some cases it’s true. For example, jet cards that have guaranteed hourly rates have to bake into that rate the cost of the positioning flights before or after your trip. On the other hand, with the on-demand charter market, you have to pay for ferry fees so a good charter broker is trying to find available jets where there are no ferry fees, saving you money.
The are a couple ways to minimize ferry fees, first being to find a jet that is based where you are leaving from and make sure your trip is scheduled tightly enough the jet can wait for you and bring you back. That generally means the same day or next day, although you end up paying for crew overnights, meals, and other expenses, which is again included in virtually all jet card pricing.
The second way is for your broker to tap into floating fleets, which are essentially private jets without a base. Their operators generally charge one-way rates, meaning no ferry fees, although the actual operator has to factor in things such as getting pilots and flight attendants to and from their trips. Broker jet cards source these fleets as well.
Assume you are going from Atlanta to San Diego. A good broker might find a jet in Atlanta that has to be in Los Angeles for a subsequent revenue trip. They’ll book you on that plane and only have to pay a ferry fee from San Diego to Los Angeles. They’ll look for something similar to get you home. Good brokers are truly master artists.
That said, the private aviation industry in the U.S. is fragmented with over 2,400 operators of private aircraft offering up some 7,500 planes that are approved by the Federal Aviation Administration to be sold for charter, either on-demand or via jet card programs.
In the National Football League, the expression is “on any given Sunday,” simply meaning any team can beat any team. So when brokers say they can beat jet card pricing, the answer is yes, but obviously, during high demand periods, it’s harder. For that reason, we used tonight’s Floyd Mayweather versus Conor McGregor fight in Las Vegas to see if brokers could beat jet card pricing. Reports are that several hundred jets will be going in and out of Las Vegas, so not the same demand as Super Bowl with over 1,000 jets or major holidays. We also figured flying in Saturday afternoon and returning Sunday would mean brokers could offer roundtrip pricing, and since our test market was flying to and from New York, where there is a large supply of private jets, it would give brokers plenty of opportunities to source aircraft that wouldn’t have ferry fees. In other words, it was a good opportunity for brokers to show they can beat jet cards in terms of price.
We didn’t look at every jet card provider tracked by Private Jet Card Comparisons. Seeing that we weren’t sure we were going, we only reviewed those jet card sellers that had booking lead times of 12 hours or less to give us maximum flexibility. That doesn’t mean if you call your jet card company inside the call out window they won’t get you a jet. It just means if your contract stipulates guaranteed availability at a specific rate, that’s the time frame you need to adhere to if you want to be assured you will get a plane at the specified rate.
We used our spreadsheets to identify those companies. Not every jet card seller includes the Federal Excise Tax of 7.5% in their quoted hourly rates, but the spreadsheets for Private Jet Card Comparisons subscribers show this, enabling us to add it in where needed. Some jet card companies offer round trip discounts, so we applied those, again from our charts. Some jet card sellers have fuel surcharges. We skipped those companies mainly to save time and the fact that we already had found eight jet card sellers that met our criteria. The jet card sellers we compared were Air Partner, Concord Private Jet, JetSet Group, Delta Private Jets, PJS Private Jets Services Group, Prive Jets, Sentient Jet and Wholesale Jet Club.
In our proposed trip, we only had four people going, so we assumed we had a jet card for a Mid-size jet. Mid-size jets typically seat six to eight people. Except for fractional jet card sellers and a couple jet card brokers, most jet cards are by category, not specific aircraft type.
To get the competition started, we contacted two brokers requesting a jet for four people. At 11:30 am yesterday (Friday) we filled in the form at Flyvictor.com and by 3 pm we had three quotes back. We also checked Stratajet.com, an online broker that claims to have instantly confirmed availability, however, it turns out that is not the case inside of 48 hours in the U.S. It does still spit out prices right away, so at least we had quotes in front of us.
To figure out the actual costs for our jet card flights, we checked FlightAware.com to get actual flying times for private jets Teterboro to Las Vegas and back to Teterboro from Thursday and Friday. We then took those times and rounded up to the next 10-minute increment and added in taxi time, which is charged by the providers we used at 12 minutes per leg.
The six lowest prices and eight of the 10 lowest prices were from jet card providers. In fact, the six highest prices were from the on-demand brokers, and with StrataJet there was a leap of more than $20,000 from its lowest to next lowest quote.
There are other reasons why choosing a jet card makes sense, and there are some other arguments for on-demand charter as well. However, in our test jet cards were the clear winner. The lowest jet card price was $47,369 versus $60,101 for charter. In other words, in our Mayweather vs. McGergor battle on-demand charter was more than 25% more expensive than jet cards. That said, this entire exercise proves a good point: Even if you buy a jet card, there is no reason you can’t price out individual trips against the on-demand charter market, using whichever solution works best for that trip.