The one thing I’ve found about jet cards is while there are some similarities and many differences in terms of service areas, program features, rules and regulations, fees and so forth, one of the biggest differentiators is the company selling the jet card. The sellers range from boutique brokers with under 10 employees to subsidiaries of publicly traded companies such Delta Private Jets, Jet Aviation (General Dynamics) or NetJets (Berkshire Hathaway). Most, however, are privately held. Air Partner is rare in that it is publicly traded (in the U.K.) so its financial health is in full view, something we like. The flip side is there is no escrow option.
Founded in 1961, Air Partner is not focused just on jet cards, something it believes is a key selling point. It is a diversified aviation company with business lines that include large aircraft group charters, freight shipping of time critical and hazardous materials, safety consulting, crisis and emergency planning, more traditional on-demand charter and jet cards. The company is based at Gatwick Airport outside London with its U.S. headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale.
Recently Air Partner was cited as “#1 most flexible jet card membership program” by Conklin & de Decker, an aviation consultancy, however, the survey only looked at five jet card programs, so fairly limited.
“Conklin & de Decker selected 12 characteristics to compare each of the five private jet membership programs in the study and determined Air Partner’s JetCard to be the most flexible in the U.S.,” said David Wyndham, president of Conklin & de Decker in a press release “We thoroughly researched each company and are impressed with just how far private jet memberships have come in such a short period of time. The standard in the private aviation space continues to grow and the future remains bright for an industry built on luxury and convenience.”
While the Conklin & de Decker research is limited both in the number of companies it looks at and areas of differentiation it covers (Private Jet Card Comparisons’ subscribers get access to comparisons of 65 variables by 27 providers), a win is a win, and Conklin is well known in the industry.
In reviewing Air Partner’s two jet card program offerings with U.S. president David McCown, the best way to describe them is as a conversation starter. True to the Conklin award, flexibility is a hallmark of the Air Partner approach, which McCown says reflects the company’s history of “bespoke” charter, especially for special needs groups that require extra layers of security. In other words, McCown says with only a couple hundred jet card customers and the product not being the main focus for Air Partner, there is no pressure to grow numbers, but there is an opportunity to put together cards that are customized and provide a “win-win.”
There are two programs – JetCard and JetCard Sterling, with the first featuring aircraft manufactured the year 2000 or after and the latter year 1994 and newer. Both programs are offered at 10 hours with JetCard at $53,000 and Sterling at $47,000.
There are guaranteed one-way and roundtrip rates. As examples, the JetCard Light Jet hourly rate is $5,300 one-way or $4,240 roundtrip. A Light Jet on the Sterling jet card is $4,700 and $3,760 per hour, respectively. The roundtrip discounts work out to 20% savings. Taxi time is 12 minutes per segment, the industry norm.
The above pricing includes FET (7.5%), there is no CPI escalator, no fuel surcharges, you have multiple same-time aircraft access, no expiration dates, the ability to refill at any time, and no fees for upgrades or downgrades since you aren’t buying a jet size delineated card. With no expirations and unlimited refills, McCown says you won’t be caught with orphan hours.
Air Partner is a broker card, and its standards for sourcing aircraft include an internal Quality Management System focused. This system, in addition to national safety expectations from the European and American Civil Aviation Authorities, systematically promotes (when available) operators that suit at least one of the following: Wyvern Wingman or Registered, ARG/US Platinum or Gold Plus rating, IS-BAO certification, IOSA certification.
If you expect to fly within Europe and to select CIS cities and within the Middle East (see map below), Air Partner offers jet card members guaranteed rates and availability which we think is a strong selling point. For most programs, if you are flying in these areas you are looking at on-demand charter pricing. Another strength is that you can use jet card funds for on-demand charter, which theoretically would allow you to shop the Air Partner guaranteed rates against itself.
In terms of lead-time for reservations (12 hours non-peak, 96 hours peak) Air Partner is at the top end of the league. It’s 5% peak day surcharge is again top end of the league (some surcharges go as high as 40%). Two places the program falls short is the number of peak days, which at 54 days, is among the highest with high teens to mid-20s being more typical and the 1.5 hour minimum flight time charged, which does include taxi time. It’s also worth noting Air Partner doesn’t guarantee fully enclosed lav for Light Jets.
Regarding WiFi, it is not guaranteed, however, McCown says Air Partner will work with customers to create a program that meets their needs, which he says extends to the segment minimums. There is no minimum age for unaccompanied minors with of course appropriate paperwork.