The custom jet card is here. Air Charter Services, DashJet, and Prive Jets have all launched programs that enable you to tailor a jet card to your specific needs
As the number of jet card programs and providers continues to expand because they cards bridge the gap between on-demand charter and full or fractional ownership, the category continues to see healthy innovation. This year three providers – Air Charter Service, DashJet and Prive Jets – have each launched customized jet cards both providing guaranteed availability and fixed one-way rates based on your travel specs.
First, if you are asking, why is the number of jet cards and programs is growing, the answer is pretty straightforward. Compared to on-demand charter where you typically shop brokers and then need to spend time comparing quotes and details of each offer, including who the operator is and specific terms which vary, jet cards enable you to book with one call or even online. At the same time, jet cards don’t have the long-term commitment of full and fractional ownership. You don’t have to worry about residual values. You buy the number of hours you need. You use them. Then you either renew if you need to continue flying and you are happy with your provider, or you buy from somebody else. In other words, card providers – who sell in increments that range from five to 100 hours, are heavily incented to keep you happy.
Brokers will argue they can beat the fixed-rates of jet cards, which sometimes is true. Most jet cards don’t have ferry fees, so depending on where you are flying to or from and when that has an impact. Also, buyers of jet cards like the fact that they know what they are going to pay on a per hour basis ahead of time. At the same time, for a segment of fliers, off-the-shelf jet cards don’t always fit. As jet cards enter their third decade, this year has seen three players launch custom jet cards.
In the case of Air Charter Service, DashJet and Prive Jets, their custom card offerings are in addition to your traditional jet cards sold in increments of 25 hours. I think it’s a fantastic idea, but a bit hard to evaluate since each program, its rules and restrictions vary based on what you want. If your needs don’t fit into most of the off-the-shelf programs, with flights to Europe, Hawaii, Asia or other places that aren’t typically in the primary service area, or if you have a lot of short legs and roundtrips, a custom card could be a good solution. The same goes if you are based in a place that’s outside the typical primary service areas for most U.S. programs, for example, the Caribbean or Bermuda.
Having talked at some length with each of the three providers, my biggest takeaway is since they are all brokers sourcing aircraft for you and building your program based on what you tell them you want, it’s imperative for you to have a firm idea on what you want and what you will accept.
These Factors Impact Jet Card Pricing
Here are some of the items I would think about that will impact their cost to source aircraft and your fixed rate:
– What is the minimum time you can take for your call-out, or lead time for making reservations? The more notice you can give, the easier to source the aircraft cost effectively. If you travel from Miami to Budapest the first week of every month and can give them your dates at least 30 days in advance you will get a better deal than if you want 24 or 48 hours lead time to book.
– What are the standards you want for your aircraft and pilot experience? If you want IS-BAO Stage 3, Argus Platinum, Wyvern Wingman operators with 10,000 hours from your PIC, that limits the selection and increases the price. It’s the same thing if you specify you only want aircraft under 10 years old, or Wifi is mandatory. The more must-haves you give, the higher your fixed rate. I’m not saying you shouldn’t insist on the standards you want, just that the more discretion you give the providers, the more inventory they can tap, and the better the rate they can provide you.
– When you want to travel will also impact what they can offer. If you want to fly on peak days for private aviation, they will need to build that into their rates. Chances are the reason you are looking for a custom solution is the off the shelf programs don’t fit enough of your flights. The more flexible you can be on your dates, perhaps even allowing them to suggest alternates by a day either way, the better the fixed rate you are likely to achieve.
The custom cards don’t necessarily have to be for international flights. For example, DashJet created a card for one customer who didn’t like that he was being charged different amounts for the same flights east and westbound, mainly due to the wind. But this customer wanted to know that each leg of his roundtrips between Chicago and Scottsdale would be the same. So, that’s the nice thing about these custom programs. While he could have achieved the same thing with Airstream Jets which calculates its prices based on mileage, DashJet was able to give him what he wanted.
And by the way, customization can include catering, flight attendants, travel with pets, most anything you want. In terms of buying, a custom jet card, don’t forget to do your homework. If you are depositing a large amount of money, strongly consider asking for an escrow account or to break up payments. Since these custom programs are new, ask to speak to other custom clients – or at least other clients – to get some firsthand feedback from their experiences. If the custom card programs deliver, they may well be a game changer. In the meantime, if you are having trouble finding a fixed-rate, guaranteed availability jet card that fits your needs, I would definitely ask for a proposal for a custom card. With three providers, it also provides an opportunity to compare.