If you refuse to buy jet cards because you think you will be paying a higher rate than on-demand charter, the Empyrean Capped Rate Account from Air Charter Service could be worth a look. If you always buy jet cards because you want to lock in a fixed hourly one-way rate with guaranteed availability, but feel like you are paying more than you need for some trips, the Empyrean Capped Rate Account from Air Charter Service could be worth a look. If you would prefer the convenience of a jet card to gathering quotes from multiple brokers for each trip, the Empyrean Capped Rate Account from Air Charter Service could be worth a look. In other words, the Air Charter Service Empyrean Capped Rate Account is attempting to appeal to a very wide market of private aviation users, not necessarily an easy task.
While the program hasn’t been officially announced, it has been in the test stages since this spring, and you can expect a rollout in the next several months. It replaces a more traditional fixed-rate jet card and is in addition to the Empyrean Market Account, which is purely based on dynamic pricing.
If you aren’t familiar with Air Charter Service, it was founded in 1990 and claims over 23,000 charters per year, however, its genesis was freight, and much of what it does is outside of your typical private jet charters. “If you can fly it, we can find an airplane to ship it,” Christian Lee-Fatt, jet card program director – the Americas, tells Private Jet Card Comparisons. That means everything from cars and horses to a newly launched document delivery service. The company doesn’t operate aircraft – it’s a broker and has over 400 employees worldwide, about half here in the U.S. It only has a couple hundred jet card members, something Lee-Fatt says the company wants to double over the next 12 months. Plans call for opening sales offices in Atlanta, Charlotte, San Francisco, Dallas and Boston by February. The company already has branches located in New York City, Long Island, Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and Toronto.
The Empyrean Capped Rate Account starts at 25 hours although you can buy 50, 100 or more hours if you need. There are five categories – light, midsize, super midsize, heavy and global, and each has a maximum hourly rate. U.S. capped hourly prices, including 7.5% Federal Excise Tax and taxi time, are $5,700; $7,350; $8,900; $12,750 and $16,250. The cap is rate protected for 12 months and lead time for reservations is 72 hours. The goal, says Lee-Fatt, is for every 25 hours, the actual prices you pay will generate an average of three extra flight hours versus the cap.
However, that’s just the starting point. Each customer gets a dedicated account manager, and the idea with all the offices is to have local contacts whenever possible. Once you begin a dialogue, Air Charter Service will customize a card to your specs with a maximum hourly rate. While the standard program shows the U.S. footprint as being 225 nautical miles from the continental coastline, it isn’t necessarily relevant. If you have 10 trips from New York to your house in Palm Beach then six more trips to Europe, Air Charter Service will design a card with capped rates based on those needs, so Europe without ferry fees.
Some of you may take the view that business aviation providers are all safe and simply want the lowest price. Other people want specific ARGUS, Wyvern or IS-BAO ratings. You may need WiFi, or not care. Maybe you want to bring your five dogs on each of your trips, narrowing down the aircraft that can be sourced. You lay out what you want and need, and within three business days, Air Charter Service will come back with the program that includes an hourly rate cap based on your parameters. If you want a 24-hour call-out, the cap would go up versus if you will accept seven days.
In terms of roundtrip discounts, Lee-Fatt says they can be up to 50%. He says for a trip from New York to London where you are leaving on a Friday and come back on the following Monday, chances are there’s a good deal to be had, and you will get the savings. So for each trip, ACS is trying to beat your capped rate with dynamic pricing based on your individualized requirements.
To book, you text, email or call your account manager. You get one quote back, but again, its based on your parameters. The program is non-refundable and while there is no escrow account option, there is a trust account which Lee-Fatt would protect you in case of a bankruptcy. There are also capped hourly rates for Europe, and you can also upgrade or downgrade aircraft size based on your mission needs.
In full disclosure, I was tipped off to the program by a subscriber, who had been part of the test, and said it was working quite well. It’s often hard to compare pricing head to head when you start to factor in that how programs are actually used varies by the member. The proof will obviously be in the capped rate that is generated for you based on your specific flying needs, however, the rates in the base program are certainly comparable to standard fixed pricing. You can compare the Empyrean jet cards with over 250 programs from over 40 providers by subscribing to Private Jet Card Comparisons.