The Private Jet Traveler Report 2018 seeks to explain the various private aviation options available to wealthy consumers from full and fractional ownership to Jet Cards, on-demand charter and commercial first class.
Researcher Wealth-X and VistaJet, which offers a high-end Jet Card membership program, earlier this week released The Private Jet Traveler Report 2018, a global perspective on who flies privately and how. Since the research was based in part on the VistaJet clientele, I am not sure it represents the entire industry (VistaJet’s sweet spot is long-hauls and 3+ hour trips on SuperMid and Large Jets). However, it does provide some interesting insights into why folks fly privately, none of which may be a surprise to you as a regular user of private jet services, but does dispel a few champagne and caviar myths.
Presented to the general business and travel media in New York yesterday, the researchers and VistaJet deserve credit for putting a thoughtful spotlight on private aviation. Wealth-X identified five key factors that influence how UHNWs ($30 million + net worth) fly, including maximizing time, control, perceptions of safety, mitigating risk and perceived value. As VistaJet offers a solution that fills the gap between full and fractional ownership on one side and on-demand charter on the other, the report also seeks to show how Jet Cards or membership as VistaJet refers to its offer, fit in.
While using private aviation to save time is obvious, Wealth-X also looks into the total experience comparing full ownership to fractional ownership, membership, on-demand charter and even commercial first class flights. It does a good job of highlighting the benefits of both fractional ownership and Jet Cards over on-demand charter, pointing to both the time spent on the process of securing your aircraft and knowing the details are being looked after from catering to ensuring you have an aircraft that meets your needs.
In terms of control, the report ranks membership slightly ahead of fractional ownership and far ahead of on-demand charter, noting with the latter there is no guaranteed availability (something fractional ownership and many Jet Cards provide), plus onboard service and amenities, as well as extra charges, vary with each trip. At the same time, I would probably put fractional ownership slightly ahead here, typically with shorter lead-time for reservations and cancellations. Of course, you are also buying a share of an aircraft, so you are paying significantly more up front. In terms of “feeling known and understood,” obviously owning your own jet would be the best solution.
Wealth-X ranks both fractional ownership and membership programs ahead of both ownership and on-demand charter, which may be true with the former only if you are an owner that doesn’t care about the perception of safety, meaning that you are OK with flight crew and attendants that don’t look sharp or worn interiors. Top end management companies provide owners high-quality turnkey solutions for crewing your jet, adhering to safety regulations and recommendations and making sure you fly safely. Of course, as the owner, you have to make final decisions on how many times a year you want to send your pilots for training and cover that cost. So from that perspective fractional and Jet Card offers (depending on their own standards, which you need to look at – it is part of what we compare for Private Jet Card Comparisons subscribers) do it for you without worry. The report notes, “On-demand charter is more of a lottery can be more of a variable when it comes to a felling of safety, as it can be highly variable from one provider to the next.” That’s something I would agree with.
Again, Wealth-X ranks both fractional ownership and Jet Cards above full ownership and on-demand charter, and this is a place I would agree. Owners of private jets can be identified via their tail number of their jets or jets registered to their company. Even shell companies are reasonably easy to track down and plane spotters around the world have connected even some of the best-protected tail numbers with their owners. If you are visiting a high-risk destination or need to make an incognito trip, using fractional ownership and Jet Card programs can provide an extra layer of privacy, even within your own company.
Wealth-X rates commercial first-class travel as being tops with perceived value, but in my estimation that can vary quite a bit. Going between New York and London where a roundtrip first class ticket is $15,000 compared to $125,000 or more to fly privately, in absolute price, there is no comparison. However, there are many missions where the value of private travel is being able to fly nonstop and save lots of time, as well as hold meetings en route with your team. If you are based in Duluth, Minnesota and in the process of buying a company in Basel, Switzerland, you would be in for three flights and about 15 hours of travel compared to eight on on private jet.
Flying within the U.S. where most nonstop flights are either between coasts or as spokes to hubs, again private travel enables you to get to two or three locations in a single day while working with your team, whereas visiting a single location might be a three-day trip using commercial flights. While the report views Perceived Value as equal between on-demand charter and membership programs, I’m not sure. In terms of mission pricing, which option is lower varies, however, with on-demand charter there is little in terms of recovery guarantees and assurance when there is a mechanical or a problem with the flight crew. When you have to be at a meeting and a $50 million deal is on the line, I would put the value of full and fractional ownership as well as membership and Jet Cards streets ahead of an on-demand charter or commercial flights.
All of the above said, VistaJet and Wealth-X deserve credit for doing a nice job of looking at the varying options to flying privately. Most of all, the report, distributed to the consumer media, goes a long way to dispelling those Rich Kids of Instagram and TMZ images often used to portray private aviation.