There are multiple ways jet card companies source aircraft. Here’s your guide to the differences and how they matter

Where does your jet card get the airplanes that will fly you?

There are over 50 companies that offer jet cards and while some buyers care only about price, as in the lowest hourly rate, at least at the beginning of their search, I find most subscribers end up taking a more holistic view. For one reason, just looking at the hourly rate can be misleading. Some jet cards quote rates inclusive of the 7.5% Federal Excise Tax while others aren’t. Some programs also have surcharges for fuel, CPI escalators, extra fees for using busy airports, and many have varying peak-day surcharges. If you fly out of your primary service area, your fixed rate may no longer apply, and you may have to pay ferry fees and extra charges, so while some programs have global service areas, others are regional or national. 

In addition to trying to make apples to apple hourly rate comparisons, fleet sourcing becomes a focus. Many jet card programs sell by jet size category while others offer specific aircraft types, and some offer combinations.

Here are the ways jet card providers source their fleets:

– Jet Card Brokers

Sentient Jet pricing

Jet card providers who are brokers don’t own or manage aircraft. Instead, they go out to charter operators who vary from having just a single aircraft to companies that manage hundreds. While there are over 7,000 aircraft in the U.S. legally available for private charters (Part 135), some brokers have what is often referred to as closed fleets. What it means is that they have a specific group of charter operators and aircraft they use. Generally, the criteria for being part of a broker’s closed fleet refers to those operators and aircraft having met the safety criteria of that broker.

Jet card brokers providers include: Air Charter Service, Air Partner, Airstream Jets, Concord Private Jet, DashJet, ExpertJet, Jet Algo, Jetlogic, Jet the World, Jets.com, JetSet Group, Jettly, LunaJets, Luxury Aircraft Solutions, Magellan Jets, ONEFlight International, Outlier Jets, Paramount Business Jets, Private Jet Services (PJS) Group, PrivateFly, Prive Jets, ProspAir Jet Charter, Quantam Jets, Sentient Jet, Skyjet, Solairus Aviation, Star Jets International, StraightLine Private Air, Unity Jets, Vault Jet, Velocity Jets, XOJET.

– Managed Fleet Jet Cards

Delta Private Jets pricing

Many charter operators don’t own their aircraft but manage them on behalf of individual owners and companies that don’t want to have their own flight department or might want aircraft based in a remote location. Some of the owners of these aircraft make them available for charter when they aren’t being used. The management companies often sell those open hours in the form of jet cards.

Management companies selling jet cards include: Clay Lacy Aviation, Delta Private Jets, Dreamline Aviation, Dumont Group, Executive Jet Management, Jet Aviation, Jet Linx Aviation, Northern Jet Management, Silverhawk Aviation, and Solairus Aviation.

– Fractional jet card providers

NetJets compared to Flexjet fractional jet cards

Companies that sell fractional shares to owners, a bit like a timeshare, often also sell jet cards to use time on unsold shares and extra capacity. NetJets, the world’s largest private aviation fleet operator, mainly through fractional shares, still says about 20% of its flying is for jet card customers. Fractional providers typically offer the ability to buy into specific aircraft types and often have the aircraft of the same type similarly configured so you will get a more standard experience. When using aircraft from a managed fleet or sourced by broker jet cards, you will find different cabin designs, including variations between club seats and couches.

Fractional fleet operators that offer jet cards include: Airshare, Flexjet, Fly Aeolus (in Europe only), NetJets, and Northern Jet Management

– Owned fleet jet card providers

Wheels Up, JetSuite, VistaJet, XOJET, Nicholas Air jet card pricing

There are some companies that own their aircraft and sell jet cards. Again, they often sell on the basis of a more standardized experience, and in some cases the fact that they have newer aircraft, typically between five and 10 years old.

Owned fleet operators that offer jet cards include: Dumont Group, Globe Air (in Europe only) Grandview Aviation, JetSuite, Nicholas Air, Silverhawk Aviation, VistaJet, Wheels Up and XOJET.

Final Thoughts

One thing you may have noticed is some companies are on multiple lists. For example, XOJET sells jet cards on its owned fleet of Bombardier Challenger 300 and Cessna Citation X aircraft, however, it also acts as a broker in sourcing jet cards for its light jet and midsize jet card membership programs. While there are reasons to care about the fleet source, some because you want a specific aircraft type, there are brokers that do have aircraft specific jet card options as well.

Unless you have strong views about configuration and the design scheme of your aircraft interior, I believe looking at the safety standards and pilot qualifications used by each provider is probably more critical. And then of course, what’s the program’s service area? Do the various policies for traveling fit your flying needs? Remember that on peak days, many programs not only charge more money but can ask you to change your flight times by +/- 3 hours, so you might be better off choosing a program that has fewer peak days. If you plan to use your jet card to fly minor children, you will find age restrictions vary significantly. It’s similar to pet policies. In other words, while understanding how the jet card providers you are considering source their aircraft is important, it shouldn’t necessarily be the driving factor in making a selection.

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