The number of jet card providers has more than doubled in the past decade, however, they’re not for everyone
Over 70% of subscribers to Private Jet Card Comparisons have more than one private aviation solution, with over 40% combining jet cards and on-demand charter. In other words, a jet card can be a valuable tool in your aviation portfolio, not necessarily the only one.
Who shouldn’t buy a jet card?
That said, jet cards are not for everyone, so let’s take a look at private aviation users who might do well without using jet cards.
1. You like to do it yourself
One of the key benefits of jet cards is once you find a program that fits your needs from the more than 300 out there, it’s easy – one call, a text or tapping keys on your app and your flight is booked. Based on the program, you know the standards for aircraft and pilots.
However, there are some people who believe they can get similar aircraft from operators of the same quality at a lower price. By using multiple brokers, searching online, and then spending the time to do due diligence on each operator, the answer is you probably can.
Remember, we’re not talking about a lower price from an operator with lower standards and less experienced pilots. However, if you can and like to spend hours researching and negotiating, you can probably beat jet card pricing about half of the time, according to research I’ve done.
2. You do same day roundtrips
While many jet cards give discounts for qualifying roundtrips, some as much as 40%, if you are doing same day roundtrips, you can probably get an operator at your home airport to beat most jet card pricing.
That said the risk is if there is a mechanical or your pilot is sick, will the local operator be able to get you where you were supposed to go? Will they cover any added expense? If you are flying in winter weather, some jet cards cover deicing, locals charters pretty much don’t. So you might find the money you pay after deicing or a re-quote eats up savings from previous trips.
3. You fly between airports with high activity of private jets
While fixed based operators have to get their planes and crews back to base, floating fleets don’t have a home, well, they float. In other words, they don’t necessarily have to be repositioned. If you fly from Teterboro to South Florida Sundays during the winter, you may be able to get one-way rates that beat jet cards.
After all, Sunday night and Monday morning in the winter are when there is high demand from snowbirds heading back north to the office after a weekend in the sun. Chances are the private jet that flies you down to Florida will soon be on its way someplace else with another paying customer.
4. You travel during low demand periods, you can book in advance and you’re flexible
If you can move your flights away from peak days, perhaps flying the morning of Thanksgiving or during other slower periods, you can book and commit a month or more in advance, and you won’t need to change your plans at the risk of a 100% cancellation fee, you can probably lock in attractive rates.
This gives the operator revenue and allows them to book other trips around yours, so it can be cost-effective, depending on your trip. Remember, you may end up paying to ferry the aircraft before or after your flight. Again, your risk is if the operator can’t deliver on departure day, your savings can turn into a loss by having to book another aircraft at the last minute.
5. Any plane will do
There are over 2,000 operators in the U.S. that meet minimum government standards that are Part 135. They’re not created equal. Some jet cards sell on fleets they operate and have achieved high third-party safety ratings, and have similar standards when they have to go off the fleet.
Broker programs too have similar standards for the aircraft they use as well, considerably more stringent than the Part 135 minimums. Some people have the perspective that it’s more dangerous to drive to the airport, and they will go with the lowest price. If you are one of those folks, jet cards may not be right for you. You could well get lower prices.
Jet Card Final Thoughts
The three biggest reasons subscribers say they buy jet cards is safety, price, and flexibility. Knowing what you will pay when you have to book that flight tomorrow and knowing what type of aircraft and flight crew will fly you, is valuable to many, not all.
There are reasons you might just go the charter route. If you are flying over 100 hours per year and you think you will be doing it for the next three to five years, fractional or full aircraft ownership might be a good option. About 20% of jet card users also either own or have fractional ownership of an aircraft.
I always tell readers it’s absolutely true that they may be able to beat jet card rates on some of their flights. What they also need to consider is how much of the savings they give back for the trips where the on-demand charter is more costly, and how much time they want to spend on each trip.
While jet cards can be an exclusive solution, buying a jet card doesn’t commit you to use it on every trip. Which leads to my advice on buying a jet card. Don’t overcommit on hours so you feel you need to use them. Give yourself the flexibility to charter when it makes sense.