Traveling on peak days can sometimes seem like a different jet card program.
You took the time to compare several jet card programs. You compared safety standards for sourcing aircraft and required pilot experience. You made sure the Primary Service Area (PSA) matched your flying needs. You compared rates and even factored in membership fees, taxi time and fuel surcharges. You think you found the best program. You sent in your deposit, and then you booked your first flight and bam. You picked a peak day and wow are you surprised.
There are several variables you will find during Peak Days, including lead-time for reservations and cancellations. You will also find surcharges and the ability to move your preferred departure time, and finally, yes, the number of peak days.
Often referred to as call-out, the lead-time for booking a jet card flight with fixed rates and guaranteed availability on non-peak days ranges from six to 72 hours. For cancellations, it ranges from four to 168 hours, although most programs are between 24 and 72 hours. During peak days you are much more likely to find lead time for reservations of at least 120 hours for both booking and cancellations although a number of programs have less.
What it means is if you go to call a day or two before your flight, or within the number call-out window, your program may not guarantee it can get you an aircraft or may not honor your contracted fixed rate.
While some programs have no Peak Day surcharges – just longer lead times for reservations and cancellations, there are surcharges as high as 40%. That said, surcharges are typically in the 5-to-20% range. Of course, if it turns out most of your flying is going to be on Peak Days, a 10% surcharge on a $7,000 hourly rate multiplied over 25 hours is an extra $17,500.
The number of Peak Days among the over 300 programs in the Private Jet Card Comparisons database ranges from 0 to 56, so when looking at a program it’s important to first find out how many days the program. The other negative of flying on Peak Days is the fine print in some programs allows your provider to move your flight by up to four hours in either direction, so an eight-hour window.
If you are planning to meet friends for dinner or you need to get back to the office or the kids are headed back to school, moving your preferred departure time can be an unwanted inconvenience, negating one of the reasons you prefer private jet travel to fly the airlines.
My advice is to first look at how many Peak Days the programs you are considering have, and then figure out if you can avoid them or if you are flexible to move to other dates. In many cases choosing a program where you can avoid flying on these popular days will be the right choice. After that, it comes down to thinking about how much notice you need to book or cancel your flights. In fact, I’ve seen programs where there is a 100% cancellation penalty.
After that, you need to calculate how much more flying on Peak Days will cost you. I think the key takeaway is if there is a chance you will have multiple flights on high-demand days, make sure to include a comparison of those terms when making a final decision. You may find a program with fewer Peak Days or lower surcharges that wasn’t at the top of your list all of a sudden becomes one of your best choices.
As a reminder, paid subscribers of Private Jet Card Comparisons can compare the number of peak days, surcharges, as well as lead time for reservations and cancellations both within and outside Primary Service Area.
1. Buyer’s Tip #1 Know the company behind your program
2. Buyer’s Tip #2 Fixed rates or dynamic pricing
3. Buyer’s Tip #3 Do I need guaranteed availability