Lead Time for reservations and cancellations, hourly rate, and even availability to get a private jet can vary on Peak Days
A common way private jet companies get new customers is a referral. Some provide incentives, but most of the time it’s more birds of a feather flock together. Whether you already have your own aircraft and are looking for supplemental lift, fly the company jet on business but need a personal solution, are looking for a business travel solution or just want a better option than flying commercially to your vacation home, Jet Cards are many times the perfect solution.
That said, your friend’s private aviation membership program may not be right for you. Think of it this way. Your friend has a house in Maine, a 60-minute flight away. The card program that’s best for him might not work for you if your vacation house is in Barbados. In fact, Barbados might not even be in that provider’s service area. Another example could be that your friend uses his jet card for business whereas you want it to go to your place in Vail and to get away for the holidays, which brings us to Peak Days.
If you ever try to redeem airline miles around holidays, you know it can be difficult. The good news with jet card programs is if you have guaranteed availability you will be assured you can get a plane. However, I think from there you should look at Peak Days almost as a separate program because the terms you are flying under can be dramatically different. It is why I say, again and again, take 10 minutes to map out in as much detail as possible your expected flying, including specific dates, and the more specific you can get the better.
Below I have broken out the places you will see variances in program rules between Peak and Non-Peak:
How many Peak Days do Jet Card programs have?
From analyzing over 100 card programs, the number of Peak Days ranges from under 10 days to 58 days. That’s a difference of nearly seven weeks. In other words, a Peak Day in one program isn’t in the other, so if you have mapped out the dates you will be flying it will make it easier to tell if you how many trips you will be flying under the less generous Peak Day policies. One benefit of subscribing to Private Jet Card Comparisons is our easy-to-use comparison spreadsheets where we list out not only how many Peak Days but also the specific dates for the various programs.
Is there a difference in my Hourly Rate during Peak Days?
If you have a program that uses Dynamic Pricing, then you will be paying market rate which during high demand periods are generally higher. Those providers who sell Dynamic Pricing will say the flip side is you might get a better deal if you can move your flying by a couple days. If you don’t have flexibility, Guaranteed Hourly Rate is probably going to be a better option. Dynamic Pricing is also less likely to be favorable on low travel routes where there are more likely to be ferry expenses before or after your flight. In terms of programs with Guaranteed Hourly Rates, most programs have surcharges, and they typically range from 5% to 40%, so again it’s a wide range and one of the reasons you really need to take a look at the fine print. In Flexjet’s program, the Peak Day surcharge is 10% on the Phenom 300 but 40% on its Challenger 300s. Why? During those On Peak Days, the Challenger fleet is being stretched by the company’s fractional owners.
Are there Blackout Dates?
Be careful in that programs without Guaranteed Availability will often claim No Blackout Dates. The flip side is that if they don’t have an aircraft available, your are essentially blacked out. These programs may fit the bill if you can plan several months in advance. Either way, Blackout Dates are rare in Jet Card programs although some programs do have them, so check and make sure there is not a conflict with dates you will need to travel.
Is the Lead Time for Reservations different during Peak Days?
For programs with Guaranteed Availability, the answer is a resounding yes. While the booking window during Non-Peak days typically ranges from under 10 hours to 24 hours, if you are flying on Peak Days for your program, you will find Lead Time ranges from 24 hours up to seven days. Programs without Guaranteed Availability may market lower lead times for making reservations, but again, they might not be able to get you an aircraft.
Does my Cancellation Deadline change for Peak Days?
Again, the answer is yes. It’s also another winning point of difference for most Jet Card programs. Whereas with the on-demand charter, you will often find you have to pay upon making your reservation and face cancellation charges of 100% right away, or at least 50%, Jet Cards have considerably more flexibility allowing you to cancel anywhere from 12 hours to seven days in advance of your planned flight. Expect a longer window to cancel international flights during Peak Days, according to our analysis from 24 hours to 15 days.
What does this mean in terms of selecting a Jet Card provider?
Generally speaking, if you can find a program where a minimal amount of your flying falls on Peak Days, you will be getting generally more favorable terms. That said, depending on how far you plan in advance, how likely you are to change plans and how flexible you are, you might be able to make flying on Peak Days work without a hitch. You may also find that one Jet Card program does not fit all of your needs. I would estimate around 50% of Jet Card members have multiple solutions, which could be multiple cards or mixing on-demand charter for specific trips and Jet Card flying for others. The bottom line, however, is it’s better to do research before you buy and make sure the program you are wiring your money to is the one that best fits your needs.