As I’ve written before, figuring out your true hourly rate isn’t necessarily straightforward. You need to factor in whether your quote includes the 7.5% Federal Excise Tax (FET), fuel surcharges, membership fees, CPI escalators, how much time is charged for taxing per segment, daily and segment minimums and even whether or not de-icing is included. Depending on when you are flying, you also need to look at peak day surcharges. Then you need to figure out which of your trips if any will qualify for roundtrip discounts. If you have a CFO, it’s probably a good project to involved his department. Excel spreadsheets are your best friend, which is one reason we have put in the more than 10,000 points of data we’ve captured into spreadsheets located on Google you can download into Excel as a subscriber (example below).
That said, there is the old saying, “Quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.” I was reminded of that in talking with one subscriber who was looking for a new solution after his provider has whiffed on a couple of flights, including stranding him in Los Angeles overnight. While the provider comped the flights, his point was not getting delayed was the reason he was shelling out good money to fly privately.
One of the more than 65 variables tracked by Private Jet Card Comparisons is the service recovery policy for each provider and program, and while it is text instead of numbers, it’s something worth reviewing.
I also encourage subscribers to take a look at the company they are buying from. The number of jet card sellers and programs has more than doubled in the past decade, a period that has not been kind for private aviation. The demand for jet cards is being driven because they provide the closest experience to full or fractional aircraft ownership without the expense and long-term commitment. That said, you are buying into a company that offers programs. Get to know who you are buying from. Providers range from subsidiaries of global public companies to small brokers with less than 10 people. That doesn’t make one better than the other, but it’s hard to tell from the pretty websites. Private Jet Card Comparisons provides data on when the company was founded, who owns it, how many employees it has, and even who the CEO is.
You will also want to think about the standards each provider has for sourcing aircraft and flight crews. Some providers own their fleets or are part of fractional fleets, others sell jet cards on fleets of planes they manage for owners while others are brokers who source planes from operators. There are several third-party safety ratings such as IS-BAO, Wyvern, and ARGUS while some providers have significant internal standards for sourcing they believe are even more stringent. Private Jet Card Comparisons even compares minimum experience required by providers for your pilots, something I think is worth a look.
You’ll also find programs vary in terms of being able to guarantee WiFi or if you are on Light Jets, enclosed toilets. Services areas vary as well, so a program your friend uses to fly to his house in Maine may not be right to get to your place in Barbados. There are also variances in terms of minimum age to send unaccompanied minors as well as pet policies, which might be important to you. On subscriber who was looking for a new program told me in his rush, he had just seen an ad, talked to the salesperson and signed on before doing a thorough evaluation. The problem wasn’t the provider, it was that he assumed there would no problem sending his 12-year-old twins alone since they had flown commercially unaccompanied.
Another area to look into is if your program will allow you to upgrade or downgrade your plane, if there are extra charges and whether or not you can do so on peak days. I talk to many subscribers who sometimes fly alone and other flights have seven or eight people. For families and corporate users, you also want to take a look at whether or not you can access multiple aircraft at the same time with a single membership, and again if that facility is offered during peak periods.
Lead time for making reservations as well as cancellation policies both during regular and peak period and also for international flights might impact which provider or program best matches your needs. The advance notice needed for booking your flight ranges from four hours to seven days across the more than 100 programs in our database.
When you are up in the air, what happens if you have a medical emergency. We’ve added that as a point of comparison in the 2018 edition of Private Jet Card Comparisons. What type of emergency services are offered, and on a more pleasant topic, are there any lifestyle perks being offered. While you might not care, of the programs we’ve looked at a number of them have some pretty nice offers of free nights at luxury hotels and significant discounts with jewelers, high-end tailors and so forth.
Another variable, which will matter to some of you, but not others is FBO choice. This can be important if you are meeting somebody at an airport for a meeting. FBOs can be located at opposite ends of the field, and you might lose a half own by the time somebody can shuttle you where you need to be.
Other elements to look at is how much insurance is provided; if your deposits are refundable; if there is a provision for escrow accounts; if your hourly rates are guaranteed; as well as if you funds expire and refill policy.
Just as you probably don’t choose the restaurants you dine at by first asking for the prices on the menu, choosing right private jet card program requires looking at more than the hourly rate.