When shopping for a private jet card, many people focus on hourly rate, as in which program has the lowest price, and while the quoted rate is important, that’s really just the starting point. Does the quoted hourly rate include the 7.5% Federal Excise Tax? Is there a CPI escalator? Are there fuel surcharges? Is de-icing included? What about catering? Are there cleaning charges for bringing pets? Are there roundtrip discounts? They can save you as much 40%. Another place jet card shoppers often forget to compare is Peak Days, where there are big variances between the programs, both in terms of lead time to make your reservations, cancellation policies and surcharges, which can rise as high as 40%. Over a year, you can easily spend $30,000 to $50,000 more than you need to by not doing the research before you buy. One consultant who used to sell fractional shares said he was always surprised how many buyers didn’t take the time to look at all of the variables.
The answer is it depends on your travel needs. With the holidays upon us, let’s look at Peak Days which are designed to cover high demand periods when the inventory of planes is under pressure. In terms of jet card membership programs with guaranteed availability, the number of designated peak days in the over 100 programs we’ve analyzed varies from a low of eight days to as many as 58 days. It’s a big spread, and one reason smart buyers map out their expected travel plans before they buy. The spreadsheets available for Private Jet Card Comparisons subscribers include not only the number of peak days but also the specific peak days included in each program making it easy for you to figure out how many of your flights will be during those periods.
Peak days typically mean a longer lead-time to reserve your private flights. Whereas programs with Guaranteed Availability require between eight and 24 hours on reservations during Non-Peak Days, during Peak Days it varies from a low of 24 hours to as much as seven days. While regular cancellation requirements range from four to 96 hours, for peak days certain programs require you to cancel at least 96 hours prior to your flight. Some programs don’t permit Peak Day cancellations so you need to make sure you really want to go, and for others, you will be subject to fees for repositioning planes and crew. Cancellations of flights international flights during these high demand periods with some program require an even longer lead-time.
When it comes to hourly rates, some programs don’t have surcharges while others can range as high as 40%, although 5-15% is typical. Still, the difference can add up. For eight hours of peak flying at an $8,000 hourly rate, a 5% surcharge means $3,200 in extra expense whereas at 15% it would be $9,600.
Keep in mind that reservations and cancellations lead-time and surcharges for programs without guaranteed availability vary as well, and while in some cases they are more favorable than programs that guaranteed availability, you may not get a plane, so there is a risk, and you might end up paying a premium for on-demand charter.
So where to start? Look at the actual peak days for the programs and match them against your projected flying. The more detailed you can be the better. It will save you money and guide you to programs where you can have the most favorable rates and least restrictive policies for the majority of your flights. From there, you can figure out how many of your flights it will be impacted and decided about how flexible you want to be. After that, you can figure out the programs that will fit your needs the best. The subscription to Private Jet Card Comparisons is only $250 and you can download the spreadsheets covering over 100 programs saving you time and money.