Before shopping for a jet card ask yourself these questions

Writing out your specific needs will help you find the best jet card membership for your flying

Understandably, you just want to fly. What’s more, reaching out to multiple jet card providers is a time consuming process. And as soon as you request the information, chances are you will start to get telesales and email follow-up calls. At the same time, lead generation sites sell your data to jet card companies meaning you get unsolicited calls. Whether or not you subscribe to Private Jet Card Comparisons, make sure you spend a bit of time to write down your private flying needs.

Our VIP Jet Card Decider form serves as a virtual RFP when talking to providers. But before you start to request information from providers, I suggest you answer these questions about your flying needs as they will help guide you to programs that best fit your needs.

What places do you want to fly and are your dates flexible?

Jet cards with fixed rates typically have a what’s called a Primary Service Area (PSA), and in fact, programs from the same provider can have different PSAs, one being the entire Continental U.S., another being east of the Mississippi as an example. One program might include Puerto Rico while another will reach down to Aruba.

Peak day surcharges

In terms of flexibility, fixed rate programs have different terms on peak days with longer lead times to make your reservations or cancel and surcharges. By writing down your specific trips and must travel dates, you can work to avoid peak days policies where surcharges can range as high as 40%.

Daily and segment minimums

Knowing in advance as many of the places you plan to fly helps avoid segment and daily minimums, the minimum amount of time you will be charged. If your program has a 120-minute daily minimum and you make one flight that takes 100 minutes, you will be charged for the full two hours. Most programs also charge 12 minutes of taxi time per segment, so having to make a fuel stop not only adds flight hours but the extra taxi time.

Roundtrip discounts

Another variable related to where you are flying and when is deicing – some programs include it – others don’t – while many programs offer roundtrip discounts, which can range up to 40%. Typically it means starting and returning to the same airport the same day or the next day with at least two hours of billable flight time per day. Sometimes it even allows multiple stops on consecutive days so long as you have two billable hours of flight time per day.

I strongly recommend taking an excel spreadsheet or even a sheet of paper listing out as much of your travel schedule as you know. It will also help you figure out how many program hours you need, knowing the more hours you commit to, typically you can achieve a lower rate.

Do you have lots of oversize luggage, send underage kids on their own or travel with pets?

Private jets are smaller than aircraft the airlines use excepting some of the regional jets, so there is less baggage space and oversize luggage like pieces of art may not fit through the cabin or baggage hold doors. There also may be limits on how many golf clubs or skis can fit.

If you have these special needs, you may need a specific aircraft type or larger category aircraft than just the number of passengers or flight duration would require.

Traveling with pets

In terms of pets, some jet owners don’t want pets, which means even though their aircraft is available for charter and in the pool for some jet card providers, Fido isn’t welcome. Make sure to discuss any pet travel needs with your provider before you sign. Will they guarantee a pet-friendly aircraft at your contracted rate?

And if you are planning to use your jet card to shuttle the kids to camp or other places, make sure you check out the minimum age for unaccompanied minors which varies widely.

Do you need Wifi?

With the prevalence of WiFi on commercial flights, you might be surprised that guaranteed WiFi on private jets is not a given. If you need to stay connected, make sure you tell your salesperson up front, and find out if there are any extra costs.

Are you picky about having a specific type of aircraft?

Many jet card programs sell by size category – so they are contracted to provide you an aircraft in that category, or they source aircraft from managed jets, which means that the cabin interiors and configurations will vary based on how the owner of that jet has designed his or her airplane.

If you want the same type of interior each time, you will want to focus on companies that operate fractional share programs or own their aircraft. If most of your flights are under 500 miles, you may want to consider turboprops.

Turboprops

In addition to lower rates, turboprops such as the King Air 350i or Pilatus PC-12 can seat eight or nine people, comparable in capacity to s super-midsize jet ,which could run twice as much. Again, if you know where you might be flying, turboprops sometimes allow you to fly into a smaller, closer airport not accessible to jets.

If you are open to saving money, some programs also offer lower rates for older aircraft, which if refurbished, will be hard to tell the difference with newer jets.

Will you need more than one aircraft at the same time?

Some programs allow multiple same-time aircraft users, others don’t or restrict it to non-peak days. If you are buying a program for multiple family members or a business where several executives will be flying to separate places at the same time, this could be an important factor in choosing the right program.

Recommendations from friends

Your friend’s jet card program may work well for him or her, but may not be a fit for you. By spending 15 minutes to analyze your needs before you start to shop, you can save money by getting a program that is right for you. Extra taxi time from fuel stops, daily minimums, flights outside your PSA and peak day surcharges can run up tens of thousands of dollars in extra charges negating that low hourly rate that caught your eye.

There are lots of benefits to jet cards versus on-demand charter or even fractional ownership, which is probably why the number of programs and providers continues to increase.

By answering these questions ahead of time, you will be able to make sure the providers you speak with have a program that fits the majority of your needs. And keep in mind you may still have a few flights that make more sense to charter.

Keep your options open

Buying a jet card doesn’t mean that you can’t use other solutions when they make more sense. Many jet-card users switch between charter and commercial flights or use cards to supplement hours they have via fractional share programs or even full ownership when their planes are in the shop or they need more than one or a different type.

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
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