When you are buying a private jet card, how important are guaranteed availability and guaranteed hourly rate? How useful is it when you are trying to get out ahead of a hurricane? It turns out, they are both very good things. With Hurricane Irma bearing down on Florida, we checked in with a few of the companies covered by Private Jet Card Comparisons’ head-to-head comparison spreadsheets.
Of the 55 companies (with over 250 programs) not all include guaranteed availability. By all accounts, the exodus from Florida is creating demand beyond what most operators have seen. Making it more complex, the demand is not like Thanksgiving or Christmas when many travelers plan in advance.
Leading up to the Mayweather versus McGregor fight we priced out jet cards against on-demand charter. Many charter brokers insist that it’s smarter to plan on a trip by trip basis instead of prepaying for a jet card. Generally, their argument is based on getting lower prices by going the on-demand route. In terms of fight night in Vegas, jet cards won hands down with lower prices. That doesn’t include some of the other benefits of jet cards, such as standards for sourcing aircraft and pilots, generally speaking, no ferry fees within the service area and so forth.
We figured somewhere in those contracts, jet card companies probably had wiggle room to say, sorry, we can’t guarantee availability in the case of Irma. However, we were pleasantly surprised that all the companies we reached out to and responded (within about one hour) tonight said, yes, they are honoring guaranteed availability and pricing for their jet card customers.
“We have been flying hundreds of people including doing relief for some of the other big card programs,” said Greg Raiff, Chief Executive Officer of Private Jet Services, which sells jet cards but also runs sports team, live event and political campaign charters.
Kenny Dichter, CEO of Wheels Up said his program continues to offer its eligible program members guaranteed availability. The company has its own fleet of King Air 350i and Citation XL/XLS. He said the company also chartered a 68 seat executive Boeing 737 to accommodate members who wanted a shared option.
“As long as it is deemed safe and we follow full government protocols and directives (there is guaranteed availability). This is an unprecedented event and we are working around the clock. So far we have been able to handle all of our daily requested flying,” said Andrew Collins, CEO of Sentient Jet.
From VistaJet, Ron Silverman, its US President told Private Jet Card Comparisons, “As long as it’s safe, we stand by our guaranteed availability.” He added there has been a “Tremendous increase in flying.”
Peter Maestrales, CEO of Airstream Jets, added, “We are going round the clock. I have not seen demand this extreme since we had the volcano in Iceland. As for our jet card program, unless an airport is closed, or fuel services dry (up) we are moving our customers under our normal terms. There has never been a trip I did not cover, so I’m not planning to start now when our clients need us the most.”
The window may be closing. Steve Orfali, CEO of Jetset Group, Inc. said, “The delays are crazy. One plane has been on the runway waiting to depart for six hours. I also hear they may run out of fuel down there, so basically if you’re not booked or out by tonight or tomorrow, there isn’t much more we can do. Many operators won’t go in there because of the delays.” Jetset is a broker, so they go to operators to source airplanes.
Bradley Stewart, CEO of XOJET, which owns a fleet of Citation X and Challenger 300 aircraft and also serves as a broker, said it is honoring guaranteed availability for its programs that include it. He added that as of tomorrow at Noon (Friday) the company is ceasing South Florida operations “due to safety and lack of basic services at several airports (and) FBOs.” Stewart noted planes are waiting four to six hours to get fuel. “Our main goal is to get as many people out of harm’s way as quick and as safely as possible,” he noted.
XOJET offers both guaranteed and dynamic pricing in its programs, and Stewart noted, “Pricing out of South Florida is currently reflective of very high and hyper cyclical demand patterns. Demand is very high. Supply is very limited. Repositioning percentage of flights) is very high given assets are being moved empty into the region and other assets are being ferried from other regions to handle clients.” He said to plan on $30,000 one-way from South Florida to the Northeast.
Of course, finding a jet isn’t a given. We checked in with Stratajet, the online broker which we used for some of our pricing in the McGregor versus Mayweather fight. When looking for any Miami airports to New York at Noon on Friday we found no options (image above). Typically Stratajet spits out 30 to 50 or more airplanes. We checked from Los Angeles to New York to make sure the site was functioning and yes it is.
While I’m not sure that infrequent disasters are reason alone to buy a jet card with guaranteed availability and pricing, Hurricane Irma gives solace that jet card sellers seem to stand behind their promises and in fact guaranteed availability and pricing is a tangible, meaningful benefit.