JetSuite is repositioning itself as a premium light jet experience, including guaranteed availability, fixed hourly rates and now helicopter transfers via Blade and integrated, full luxury travel agency services through a partnership with Embark Beyond
Editor’s Note: Updated on September 16, 2019
Entering its second decade, JetSuite’s is repositioning itself to offer a premium light jet experience, including guaranteed availability, fixed hourly rates and now helicopter transfers via Blade and integrated, full luxury travel agency services for its SuiteKey members and on-demand charter customers through a partnership with Embark Beyond.
The Dallas-based all Embraer private jet operator’s SuiteKey jet cards are priced at $100,000 (Executive Level), $250,000 (Chairman Level) and $500,000 (Founder Level) offering aircraft under 10 years old and WiFi across the fleet.
History and Ownership
Privately held JetSuite is moving into its second decade with a new direction. After carving a niche by focusing on full aircraft charters of light jets and limited frills with its now all Embraer fleet of Phenom 100s and 300s, the IS-BAO Stage 2 operator has teased new and larger private jets are on the way.
Along the way founder and CEO Alex Wilcox (a co-founder of JetBlue and disciple of Richard Branson from a stint at Virgin Atlantic Airways) has attracted multiple investments from JetBlue and more recently Qatar Airways, the latter already a major player in business aviation via its Qatar Executive division.
At the same time, Wilcox has been an innovator in the semiprivate market. Back in 2016, he launched JetSuiteX using refurbished Embraer E135s from American Eagle acquired via the manufacturer. Reconfigured with just 30 seats, JetSuiteX offers scheduled by the seat flights in the Western U.S.
JetSuiteX (now JSX) offers fares in the range of business-level coach tariffs on the big airlines, but by using private aviation facilities instead of commercial airline terminals you cut total travel time in half.
I wrote when it was launched in a decade or two with measured expansion, it could sneak up on the industry, much as Southwest Airlines did, particularly as the large airlines work hard to destroy the loyalty part of their loyalty programs. JetSuiteX already is up to six and seven flights a day in some key markets.
Of course, your interest if you are reading this is probably more about jet cards and full aircraft private jet solutions. To that end, over the past two years, Wilcox beefed up his executive suite with business aviation experience by recruiting Stephanie Chung, a former Flexjet executive as president and Thomas Fry, who help launched VistaJet in the U.S. to oversee marketing.
The company also moved its headquarters from Orange County, California to Dallas to take advantage of the local aviation talent and a business-friendly base as it expands. In terms of its SuiteKey jet card program, last year saw major changes, which we will cover in this article.
While it may be changing imminently, right now JetSuite owns and operates a floating fleet of WiFi-enabled Phenom 100s and 300s, plus a single Legacy 650 under management, although the latter is not in the SuiteKey program.
In other words, the sweet spot for JetSuite is folks looking for a light and very light jet solution, and particularly those that have an affinity for the Phenom 300, the best selling light jet for the past six years.
Last fall, JetSuite unveiled an initiative to offer a premium light jet experience via upgraded catering and partnerships, including giving top tier members free helicopter transfers with Blade.
Last week it launched JetSuite Experiences, a partnership with Embark Beyond, a hybrid travel agency and concierge service that can handle everything from once in a lifetime experiences to VIP access and routine business travel hotel reservations.
While other private jet companies have travel partnerships, the alliance with Embark promises its customers a one-stop solution for anything they need – except private jet flights, of course. However, put together, JetSuite customers now get a turnkey travel solution of private jets, helicopters with Blade and anything they need for wherever they happen to be going via Embark.
The Jet Cards
JetSuite offers jet cards around either the Phenom 100 or Phenom 300 (you buy into a type) at deposits of $100,000, $250,000 and $500,000 and then there are interchange rates to switch. The larger the deposit, the lower the rate, so at the top level,
on the Phenom 100 you are paying $4,425 per hour, plus 7.5% Federal Excise Tax (JetSuite is phasing down its Phenom 100 fleet and focusing on the Phenom 300). On the Phenom 300, you get down to $6,195. It should be noted that the Phenom 100 fixed hourly rate is limited to Washington, Montana, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico whereas the Phenom 300 is a national program. Fixed rates apply to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean with flat dollar surcharges. The Phenom 100 is still in the fleet as SuiteKey members run through their balances, but it’s not open for renewals or new jet card customers. You can still charter the Phenom 100 on-demand.
The re-launch of SuiteKey last fall is a dramatic change from the previous fixed rates which where route-by-route, with over five million variations.
New as well is guaranteed availability – at a 48-hour window (120 hours on peak days) – something over 90% of Private Jet Card Comparisons’ subscribers who use our VIP Jet Card Decider want, so in other words, something that should help jet card sales.
Higher tier members also get dedicated customer service managers, and according to Chung, her team – from pilots to account client services, want to better understand why you fly, with the goal of being able to create a more holistic and satisfying experience.
JetSuite is IS-BAO Stage 2 and Argus Platinum. It requires for all pilots at least 1,500 hours of total flight time to be considered with typically at least 3,000 total flight hours, including 500 hours as Pilot-in-Command (PIC). Off-fleet JetSuite always requires two pilots (not required by the FAA on certain VLJs), including 3,000 total hours for the PIC and 1,500 as PIC. Second Office requires at least 1,000 total hours, including 500-hour hours as PIC.
JetSuite SuiteKey Key Selling Points
– High-quality, standardized, owned fleet of light and very light jets under 10 years old
– Industry best 60-minute daily and segment minimums, including taxi time (along with NetJets, Sentient Jet, Flexjet, Nicholas Air, Wheels Up).
-Because of the above, the Phenom 100 provides high-value for small groups (4 or less) while the Phenom 300 gives a capacity of up to 7 people for those short flights, meaning favorable pricing against a midsize aircraft that might be required on other programs.
-With range around 2,000 miles, the Phenom 300 gives light jet pricing and the ability to fly to places nonstop that would typically require a midsize or even super-midsize aircraft.
– WiFi on-fleet
– Pets welcome
– Financial backing of JetBlue and Qatar Airways
– Deicing included on Phenom 300s
– Minimal 5% peak day surcharge
– Only 11 to 19 days depending on SuiteKey level (lowest of any owned/fractional fleet operator)
– 24 hours lead time to cancel on peak and non-peak days
– 15% roundtrip discount is favorable to other key Phenom 300 operators such as NetJets (which only offers the aircraft via shares and leases), Flexjet and Nicholas Air
– Regular and peak day cancellation window of 24 hours
– Fully enclosed lavs on its light jets
– Premium catering included
– Fleet is limited to light and very light jets, except for a managed Legacy 650
The Phenom 100 program is limited to West Coast states, and price doesn’t include deicing
– Minimum age for unaccompanied minors is 18 with exceptions, so check if you are planning to let your kids fly alone, be it to camp or wherever
– There’s no escrow account, however, the backing of JetBlue and Qatar Airways, and a 10-year track record suggest stability
– 48-hour lead-time for guaranteed reservations could be an issue for some of you
– 24 months to use your deposit is more generous than some, but still not as generous as programs where deposits never expire
– Rate lock varies from 12 to 18 months, based on deposit, fairly standard
– Multiple aircraft based on availability
JetSuite goes into its next 10 years with the expectation it will be adding larger cabin aircraft. It has said as much. With the current fleet 10 years old or younger, it offers quality light and very light jet option.
Having guaranteed enclosed lavs and knowing you can bring your pets makes it both family and business-friendly. Not having fully enclosed lav jets I find is often an issue for anyone using jet cards for business or even taking along friends.
The taxi time inclusive 60-minute minimums make it a good option if you make short hops. Deicing inclusive on the Phenom 300 is a good feature if you do winter weather flying, and at the Founder Level, it has very attractive pricing, which might speak to its ideal customer – somebody flying lots of short to medium stage flights, with a concentration of segments under 60 minutes.
JetSuite finished with a top ranking in three different categories of Business Jet Traveler’s 2018 reader survey of jet card providers, the most of any company. It’s also one of the 10 most purchased programs by subscribers of Private Jet Card Comparisons (despite only adding guaranteed availability last Fall).
Add to that the fact that the Phenom 300 remains a light jet of choice, and if you are traveling up to seven people (the 300’s capacity) within its range (nearly 2,000 miles with a full payload, according to Conklin & deDecker), it’s likely JetSuite will be in your consideration set.
Compare JetSuite’s SuiteKey program against more than 250 jet card programs by subscribing to Private Jet Card Comparisons.