Making The Case For Jet Cards...Or Not?

By Doug Gollan, December 8, 2017

82% of personal assistants find booking private aviation flights on short notice is a major challenge


A new survey of personal assistants by on-demand charter broker Victor revealed 82% of survey respondents found that finding flights on tight turnarounds is a major challenge they face when coordinating private jet travel. To me, at first reading, the findings weren’t surprising:  booking on-demand charters require vetting both jets, operators, and prices each trip, handling payments, which can be complicated in some companies, and often submitting passenger information, catering and so forth. It also means in the event of disruptions, you are at the mercy of your broker to figure out replacements and minimize extra expense. 


There are some excellent brokers, but private jet charter not being regulated, there is no test or qualification so there are highly incompetent ones as well. I like to say jet cards are the closest thing to the fractional or full ownership experience without the long-term commitment and expenses. Most card programs have detailed service recovery policies – so you know where you stand. You can get programs to fulfill whatever your needs are – whether its guaranteed availability, rates, specific aircraft types, WiFi, roundtrip discounts and so forth. Some card programs cover de-icing, something that can range in the thousands of dollars per time, so if you do a lot of winter flying, the right jet card program can mitigate significant potential extra costs you will run into with charter.


The surprise when I read through the study was that it came from an on-demand broker because as I read the results, they seemed to support the benefits of jet cards more than on-demand charter, so I was happy that Victor CEO Clive Jackson took the time to add his perspective to my interpretations.


Findings from the survey can be found below:


  • More than four in five (82%) personal assistants said a major challenge they face when booking travel is finding something at the last minute. Various jet card programs have guaranteed availability with as few as eight hours notice. Jackson says there is a lot of last minute flying arranged inside of eight hours, although the survey says lead time is typically 12 days. His valid point is your jet card won’t be of much help inside of the call-out window, and in some cases he is correct. That said, pretty much all jet card providers will try to get you an airplane on your normal terms, they just aren’t guaranteeing it. Cards also save you the need to review contracts and handle payments so I still think if there is a short window need jet cards are still the way to go in my opinion.


  • Personal assistants spend an average of 8.17 hours per week booking all travel arrangements, in other words nearly a full workday. PAs would rather spend less time doing so. I’ve spent time comparing charter jets looking at jet profiles and viewing pictures of interiors, when they were renovated, researching the operator, etc., and yes it is time-consuming. When you buy into a jet card program, you are buying into that provider’s standards for sourcing, so you don’t have to spend time comparing. Jackson says Victor will filter the planes the customers want basing on preferences and history, which is good broker practice, however, I still find most charter consumers never call just one broker, so it’s always the game of “Can I get the same plane at a better price from one of my other ‘go-to’ brokers.”  You have to do your homework to find the right jet card program – that’s what this site is all about. To do a half-way decent job of researching jet card programs would have previously taken a solid 30 to 50 hours. With the spreadsheets we’ve put together, most people should be able to find the programs that match their needs in under an hour. From there, having a jet card will save you time over on-demand charter every trip.


  • Amenities (82%) and ease of booking (82%) are more important than price (74%) when it comes to respondents choosing a flight for their boss. The typical broker argument is the flawed broad brush that jet cards are more expensive than charter, so I thought it relevant that according to PAs price isn’t the most important factor, as certainly, when it comes to amenities and ease of booking, those are solid jet card advantages. Jackson believes the on-demand model offers consumers more choice which is true. The over 100 jet card programs Private Jet Card Comparisons tracks are each different and have their own rules, advantages and constraints, so the idea is to find the one that fits your needs and then enjoy the benefits.


  • 86% of respondents said that booking private jet charter travel is more important than their other responsibilities. Bosses don’t like when bad things happen during their travels like the plane not being there. Private aviation is often used to get to important meetings or make a tight schedule fit. Of readers who email me, I find jet card buyers many times have done so after having poor experiences with brokers. Jackson’s retort is that is why he started Victor – as a high-quality broker and he does a good job looking after its customers. What’s true is with a jet card, if you are not happy with the service you won’t renew or with a broker you won’t use them again.


  • Over two thirds (68%) said booking travel as a personal assistant can be complicated while 40% of respondents indicated that the booking process is time-consuming. Both are reasons consumers choose jet cards over on-demand charter, although the caveat is you have to do your research before buying into a program as each jet card program has rules and fees that vary widely.


I always tell subscribers who contact me buying a jet card doesn’t mean on-demand charter won’t be better for certain missions. My recommendation is to lay out your expected travel plans as thoroughly as possible. That will enable you to find the jet card programs that best fit your needs, but even then the nature of missions can vary so widely – one week a trip to Paris, Texas, the next week to Paris, France, don’t expect a single jet card to be the right solution for 100% of your flying. At the same time, once you’ve created that framework for your travel, jet cards are a better solution in most cases than just playing the charter market on a trip by trip basis.


Why would Victor publish a survey that supports a product they currently aren’t selling?


My guess is that it was meant as one of those typical PR initiatives using some interesting research – which it was – to get its name out there.


With appreciation for Clive’s time, what’s my final judgment on the survey?


I do think the survey underscores why the market of jet card providers has more than doubled in the past decade:  Cards are the closest thing you cant get to full or fractional ownership experience for regular private aviation fliers. On-demand charter will always be better for certain trips and is probably the right way to go for those folks flying a couple times a year. And by the way, as previously reported, Victor will be launching a jet card type product in the U.S in 2018.



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