If you are looking to buy a jet card, chances are you start by comparing price, usually hourly rate. However, all hourly rates are not created equal. If you are shopping for a U.S. program, some jet card providers include the 7.5% Federal Excise Tax in the rates on their website and promotional literature while others don’t. It’s just one example of why it makes sense to make a detailed comparison.
In terms of the Federal Excise Tax, if you are flying between U.S. states including Alaska and Hawaii as well as to or from destinations within 220 miles of the U.S. coast your jet card provider is required by the U.S. government to collect the FET, so you will need to make sure you have that in your calculations.
However, that’s just the start. Some programs charge membership fees or monthly dues. The more hours you are flying, the less expensive these charges are on an hourly basis. For example, a $10,000 membership fee divided by 20 hours of flying adds in effect $500 to your hourly rate while if you are flying 50 hours, that same $10,000 adds just $200. What it means is when you are evaluating a program that has annual or monthly dues and membership fees, remember to amortize that cost across the hours you expect to fly.
Peak day surcharges (and the number of days in a program) also varies significantly. Some programs don’t have any surcharge but others have up to 40% and while some programs don’t have any peak days, some have more than 50. Usually, you can avoid peak days – around the holidays – by shifting your flights by a day or two. If you can’t make sure you add the peak day surcharge to your calculations. At an $8,000 hourly rate, if you are doing most of your flying on peak days, a 15% surcharge means you are really paying $9,200. Across just 20 hours of peak day flying that means an extra $24,000 in expense you might not have anticipated. It also means the program you thought was less expensive also ends up costing you more.
Another jet card pricing factor that will impact your costs is daily and segment minimums. These are the minimum hours you will be charged for your flight or per day. When comparing programs it can have a big impact. One program with a $6,000 hourly rate and a 60 minute segment and daily minimum means you will be charged $6,000 for your 60 minute flight (excepting other charges we discuss in this article) whereas a program with a 120 daily minimum and a $4,500 hourly rate will charge you $9,000 for that single 60 minute flight.
Some of the other surcharges that can impact what you are paying for your private flights include international surcharges, high-density airport surcharges, taxi time, consumer price index (CPI) escalators, rate locks, de-icing, catering, Wi-fi, and interchange fees for upgrading or downgrading the size of your aircraft.
Sometimes you can pay less than the hourly rate in the marketing brochure. Yes, that’s right. Based on your flying you can qualify roundtrip discounts of up to 40% although some programs don’t give any roundtrip discounts. Again, a program that at first blush might seem more expensive could actually cost you less in the end. Other discounts including for long-flights – typically at least four hours, hub discounts and advance booking discounts. In addition to being able to compare over 250 programs by 65 variables, including all of the fees and discounts mentioned in this article, paid subscribers to Private Jet Card Comparisons can use our VIP Jet Card Decider service enlisting our personal help in identifying the programs that best fit your needs. You also get a free copy of Jet Card Pricing: 19 Factors That Impact The Cost Of Your Private Jet Flights.
Of course a major factor is the size of your aircraft, however, all of the above shows how many variables going into figuring out what it will really cost. Jet cards are a convenient way to fly privately without the hassles of on-demand charter or the long-term commitment of full and fractional ownership, but it’s key to do some homework before you buy.