Flying outside your Service Area may bring different pricing, including Ferry Fees and other charges that can blow a big hole in your budget
One of the surprises I hadn’t considered when I started researching private jet card programs for Forbes was Service Area. I sort of assumed that if you secured a card with a guaranteed hourly rate for one-way flying, that rate would be valid to fly to most places. In other words, in reading through the marketing materials and seeing that the provider would fly you worldwide, the thinking was the one-way hourly prices in the same brochure would apply. The answer is they are really two different things, and in fact in the soon to be released 2018 edition of Private Jet Card Comparisons we honed in on the subject a bit more to specify both Service Area and Service Area with Guaranteed Hourly Rate although it already covered in the current edition. If you subscribe now, you get access to both.
Some Jet Card programs these days operate purely on Dynamic Pricing, so each trip they will quote you a market price based on the charter operators they work with, their own fleets in some instance or a combination of the two. Even the more traditional programs with Guaranteed Hourly Rates have charter desks, so again, they will happily give you a market-driven charter quote. XOJET, JetSuite and Wheels Up which have their own fleets have been growing their charter brokerage business selling flights on third-party aircraft. Sentient Jet sister company Skyjet sells on-demand charter.
However, in buying into a card program you really have to separate the two. Below I have broken down the Service Area subject to what I consider the core chunks you will want to focus on. As always, the more you can map out on the back of an envelope where you will be flying, the better off you will be in figuring out which card programs will best match your needs.
What is the Service Area applicable for my Guaranteed Hourly Rate
Most programs cover the Continental U.S., however, some programs are regional. Two of XOJET’s new programs have service areas that are east of the Mississippi and east of the Rockies. If your flying is going to include Canada, the Caribbean or Mexico, take a look at the specifics airports you anticipate flying to. We have seen programs that are both airport specific as to what’s included and those that provide guaranteed rate service based on the number of nautical miles from the U.S. coastline. What it means is the program your friend uses to go Bermuda might now give you guaranteed hourly rate flying to Barbados.
You will also find a few programs such as Air Partner, NetJets and VistaJet that have guaranteed rates applicable to Europe or even on a worldwide basis. Air Partner offers three zones with guaranteed rates covering North America and the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East.
Can my program fly me outside the Service Area?
The answer is for most programs, yes. For Wheels Up, which is focused on their fleet of King Air 350i and Citation XL/XLS, their brokerage program enables them to secure any type of aircraft for you to fly wherever you want beyond the missions their fleet is capable of. It is just they will quote you a charter rate. That’s pretty much the same with most programs, and it means you will be likely subject to Ferry Fees.
VistaJet, which is focused more on long-haul flying eliminated Ferry Fees worldwide last year, but Ferry Fees can be an expensive part of flying outside your Service Area. Ferry Fees are the cost of bringing the airplane and crew back to base or its next revenue flight after dropping you off or out from the base to pick you and your party up. The extra cost of paying for these empty flights can really blow a hole in your budget so if you have a house in Puerto Vallarta, make sure Puerto Vallarta is part of the service area where your one-way pricing applies. You may also have to pay for crew costs for overnights and so forth, probably not big money, but something you would have saved with another program.
Are there destinations subject to surcharges within my Service Area?
Well, it varies, but we have seen a number of programs with one-way guaranteed rates that have surcharges, typically 5% to 10% on flights within the Service Area to Mexico or Caribbean, for international flying or some other specification. In these cases you won’t have to worry about Ferry Fees, but you will pay some extra money.
How can I find the best Jet Card?
An industry consultant who previously sold fractional ownership shares and jet cards told me one reason he started his advisory business was he saw so many customers who were so antsy to get a private aviation solution they didn’t take the time to do proper research. What it meant was while his programs were all good, great service, planes, support and so forth, the terms and conditions weren’t a fit for everyone. The tale of the tape is usually when you get your first monthly invoice and wonder why you were charged $50,000 for a flight in your mind you thought would be around $30,000.
The way we have designed the spreadsheets you have access to as a Private Jet Card Comparisons’ subscriber (example above) is you can download them, and play around with them, deleting columns that don’t matter to you (for example, minimum age to send unaccompanied minors or WiFi guarantees) and then focus on what matters to you.
To compile data on over 100 programs for one would be practically not possible since much of what we provide you is not on the websites or marketing brochures. The companies provide it to us because they value transparency and truly want customers who value what they offer. By the way, we don’t accept advertising from the jet companies. Subscriptions are our sole revenue source, making us a truly independent buyer’s guide.
At the same time, if you just went to five or 10 provider websites and requested information, you or your PA would then have to take them and collate it into some type of charts, with much of the information we provide still missing. I estimate Private Jet Card Comparisons boils at least 30 hours of research into where, if you spend 10 minutes mapping out your expected flying, where to, how many people, specific dates so you can navigate Peak Days, in less than an hour you will be able to hone in on the programs that make the most sense for you. Most of all you will come away I believe more educated before you start your talks with the various companies.