With Guaranteed Availability and Fixed One-Way Rates, Jet Cards show their value against On-Demand Charter

 

You’re not from Philadelphia or New England. You don’t want to go Minneapolis to watch the Super Bowl. You want to get away from the cold to catch some sun. Or maybe you want to hit the slopes for the weekend. On-Demand Charter brokers like to call Jet Cards overpriced charter, and without doubt, you can sometimes get lower prices from shopping the charter market compared to your Jet Card. With the upcoming Super Bowl, we did a Private Jet Card Comparisons big battle pitting Jet Cards against On-Demand Charter. 

 

To price the charter, we used online broker Stratajet which claims real-time pricing and availability for at least some of its results. We searched the following routes:

 

  • Iowa City to Naples, Florida
  • New York to Miami
  • San Jose to Aspen
  • Knoxville to Jackson Hole
  • Pittsburgh to Scottsdale

 

We searched to leave at noon on Friday, February 2 and return at 8 am on Monday, February 5. In terms of searching, we looked for the lowest price and also the lowest price for aircraft delivered in year 2000 or later. We specified six passengers.

 

While Super Bowl is considered a high demand period for private jets, the good news is of the more than 250 programs analyzed by Private Jet Card Comparisons, less than half consider our proposed travel dates as peak. With Jet Card programs, Peak Days generally mean surcharges and longer lead times for reservations. In this case, for the Jet Card programs we looked at, normal terms apply.

 

That meant while we were trying to plan in advance, more than 10 days before our proposed travel dates, Jet Cards with Guaranteed Availability typically only require 10 to 24 hours advance notice. Even better, you can cancel in similar windows without penalty. This was a quick difference with the quotes from StrataJet. Some included 100% penalty anytime after payment (below) and the most generous terms were 50% under seven days and 100% under 24 hours.

Cancellation Terms

We also found restrictions on being able to take golf clubs, pets and skis on almost all offerings. On several of the Light Jet options provided by StrataJet there were no toilets as well (See below). Many Jet Card programs guarantee and enclosed lav on Light Jets. Perhaps we could have worked it out on the phone, but after spending over an hour searching, it underscored why many users like Jet Cards. Once you have bought into a program, you can arrange your flights with one call or even tapping an App on your Smartphone.

Pets toilets

Out of the Jet Card providers who did not have the Feb 2 to 5 period as a peak period, we picked three randomly to compare against the quotes we were receiving from StrataJet. The first and most striking difference was that on two requests – Iowa City to Naples, Florida, and Pittsburgh to Scottsdale, we were told there were no aircraft available. This outlines the benefit of Guaranteed Availability and Guaranteed, Fixed One-Way Rates that many card programs provide. It also underscores that if you are not in a major metro market, if you want to make sure you are going to get where you want when you want, Jet Cards are going to be a preferred solution.

Route – Leave Noon Friday, Feb 2 – return 8 am Monday, Feb 5 Flight Time in Minutes Flight Time in Minutes R/T Price StrataJetEffective Hourly Rate including FET Jet Card A Jet Card B Jet Card C Category StrataJet Aircraft Toilet Pets, Skis, Golf Clubs Cancellation Terms Notes
Iowa City – Naples Not Available NA Yes Yes Yes NA NA NA NA NA Does not include catering
New York – Miami 167 157 $28,552 $5,287 $5,093 $5,250 $4,300 Light 1989 Learjet 35A No toilet No pets, skis or golf clubs 50% Less than 7 days; 100% less than 24 hours Does not include catering
New York – Miami 166 157 $38,456 $7,144 $6,879 $6,650 $5,400 Mid 1980 Hawker 700A Yes, enclosed No pets, skis or golf clubs 50% Less than 7 days; 100% less than 24 hours Does not include catering
San Jose – Aspen 131 149 $23,580 $5,053 $5,692 $5,250 $4,300 Light 2002 Citation Encore No golf clubs, skis Udefined Does not include catering
Knoxville – Jackson Hole 241 195 $30,568 $4,207 $5,093 $5,250 $4,300 Light 1989 Learjet 35A No toilet No pets, skis or golf clubs 50% Less than 7 days; 100% less than 24 hours Does not include catering
Knoxville – Jackson Hole 203 207 $39,077 $5,719 $6,879 $6,650 $5,400 Mid 1992 Hawker 800 Yes, enclosed No golf clubs, skis 100% charge after booking Does not include catering
Knoxville – Jackson Hole 240 195 $43,036 $5,936 $7,658 $6,650 $5,400 Mid 2000 Hawker 800B Yes, enclosed No golf clubs, skis 50% Less than 7 days; 100% less than 24 hours Does not include catering
Knoxville – Jackson Hole 232 202 $65,255 $9,021 $9,971 $8,450 $7,950 Super-Mid 2004 Gulfstream 200 Yes, enclosed All OK 100% charge after booking Does not include catering
Pittsburgh – Scottsdale Not Available Yes Yes Yes NA NA NA NA NA Does not include catering

Overall, in 17 of 36 examples, Jet Cards actually had a lower hourly rate than the broker pricing we received. Moreover, StrataJet says if for whatever reason the flight doesn’t go be it mechanical or flight crew you get a refund. While that sounds good, it means you will be eating a last-minute requote where prices are likely to be even higher. Another benefit of Jet Cards is the Service Recovery policies, which vary, and is something we recommend you compare before you buy.

 

In our analysis, we didn’t add in taxi time charged by Jet Card companies nor catering, not included in the charter quotes, but included in the Jet Card programs we used for this analysis. We also didn’t consider inclusion of de-icing, which some card programs include, but is always going to be an extra price with charter.

 

The other element we didn’t consider is who owns and operates the charter jets and how do they source pilots. While you are 10 times more likely to drown in your bathtub than perish in a privation aviation accident, safety and flight crew experience are something subscribers consistently outline as being important in their decision-making. The spreadsheets available to subscribers of Private Jet Card Comparisons contain by program sourcing standards for both aircraft and flight crew, including third-party ratings, internal standards and processes, plus required flight hours for both PIC (Pilot-in-Command) and FO (First Officer), including hours in aircraft type. In other words, with Jet Cards, once you choose a program that fits your needs, you don’t have to scrutinize numerous options each trip.

 

Last year we compared Jet Card pricing to On-Demand Charter rates for a last-minute trip to see the McGregor vs. Mayweather fight in Las Vegas, and Jet Cards won hands down. During the hurricanes, many Jet Card users were able to take advantage of fixed rates and guaranteed availability to get out of harm’s way and help evacuate friends and family members.

 

The last point that is interesting when shopping for charter jets is that in looking at sites like StrataJet, there are a few lower priced aircraft that tend to be pre-2000, then there is usually a significant jump in price and a corresponding lack of availability for new jets or much, much higher pricing if you want to snag them. So bottom line, is On-Demand Charter cheaper than Jet Cards?  Sometimes, in this case about 50% of options, but also with more hassles and less surety.

About the Author Doug Gollan

I am Founder and Editor of Private Jet Card Comparisons, the only independent buyer's guide to jet card membership programs, and DG Amazing Experiences, a weekly luxury travel e-newsletter for private jet owners. I am also a contributor to Forbes.com