Will any light jet do, or would it be better to have a specific type such as the Embraer Phenom 300?

While there are many variables that separate the over 300 jet cards in the Private Jet Card Comparisons database – over 65 in fact, one difference means a lot to some people and nothing to others.

However, for both types of buyers, choosing the wrong type of program can make for a less than enjoyable experience despite the provider’s overall merits. Figuring it out before you sign can both save you money and make sure the program fits your mission needs.

There are essentially two ways that available aircraft are structured for fixed-rate (and usually guaranteed availability) programs by jet card providers.

One is by cabin-class or size. When buying into a cabin class you are assured of getting an aircraft in that class or larger if you are lucky enough be upgraded based on operational needs.

The other is by specific aircraft make or type, for example, you are buying into an Embraer Phenom 300. So while the provider may let you fly in other types, you know when you want a Phenom 300, you’re going to get a Phenom 300 and not some other type of light jet.

Cabin Size Jet Cards

When choosing a program by cabin category, you might get a different type on various trips. For example, a Super Midsize category might provide you a Challenger 300 on one flight, a Citation X on the next and a Gulfstream 2000 on the third.

Many fliers genuinely enjoy the variety. It’s a good way to see if there is a particular make you really like. With current tax benefits in the U.S. and the value of many used aircraft, you may end up wanting to buy your favorite or in the future commit to a program that guarantees that type every time.

Programs that sell by cabin size will guarantee a minimum number of seats even if sometimes you might get an aircraft with more seats. For example, you often find Citation Excels with eight seats, although some only have seven.

If you have eight people flying in your party, you would need to upgrade and pay for a super-midsize category, which would guarantee eight seats.  Some programs allow you to do this based on a published rate card while others charge an interchange fee, which is a premium.

If most of your trips are in a single cabin category, you probably don’t need to spend much time thinking about interchange rates. However, if your program requires you buy into a specific cabin category, ask to make sure you can upgrade or downgrade with guaranteed availability – not all programs provide this, and it’s the same when you buy a specific airplane type as well.

Also, read the fine print! On peak days, some programs reduce the number of guaranteed seats, typically when you get to super-midsize and large-cabin aircraft.

As you read on, keep in mind that the performance of aircraft in a size category varies wildly depending on how many passengers, luggage, weather conditions and of specifically the aircraft type your provider is proffering for your trip.

For example, a full Citation CJ3 has a range of about 1,500 miles while a Phenom 300 can fly around 2,000 miles nonstop. A Beechcraft Hawker 400XP is probably closer to 1,300 miles.  All three are light jets.

Based on where you are flying and with how many people, you may end up needing a larger cabin category not for seating capacity but for range. It can make a big difference in how much you end up paying versus what you had budgeted.

It’s one of the reasons I always recommend to map out as many trips you anticipate before buy and how many people will be flying. It makes it markedly easier to figure out which programs would be the best fit.

Providers marked with an asterisk * offer options for older and new jets within each category. A bonus feature for subscribers of Private Jet Comparisons is the ability to compare the range, standard seating capacity, luggage space, plus cabin size and height of over 150 aircraft types in an easy to sort excel spreadsheet.

Typical Private Aircraft Cabin Class Categories from Jet Card Providers and Number of Seats Guaranteed:

  • Ultra Long Range Private Jet – (Typically 12 seats guaranteed)
  • Large Cabin Jet, sometimes referred to as a Heavy jet (10 seats)
  • Super Midsize Jet (8 seats)
  • Midsize Jet (7 seats)
  • Light Jet (6 seats)
  • Very Light Jet (4 seats)
  • Turboprop (6-8 seats)

Jet Card Provider – Cabin Categories Offered

As you will see, not all providers who sell by category offer all of the above-mentioned classes. While it’s typical to have Light Jet, Midsize, Super Midsize and Large Jets, only a few providers offer turboprops, ultra-long-range or very light jets as a category.

Able American Jets – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Air Charter Service – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Air Partner* – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Airstream Jets – Very Light Jet, Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Concord Private Jet – Turboprop, Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

DashJet – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Delta Private Jets – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Dreamline Aviation – Turboprop, Light Jet, Midsize Jet

Executive Jet Management – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

ExpertJet – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Jet Aviation Flight Services  – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Jet Linx Aviation – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Jetlogic – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Jet the World – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet, Ultra Long Range

JetSet Group – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Jets.com – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Luxury Aircraft Solutions – Turboprop, Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Outlier Jets *- Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Priester Aviation – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Private Jet Services Group (PJS Group)* – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

PrivateFly (combined with Skyjet) – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Prive Jets – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Quantum Jets – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

In addition to offering four cabin categories, Sentient Jet offers the option of older or new private jets in its jet card program.

Sentient Jet * – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Solairus Aviation – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet   

Starflight Aviation – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Vault Jet – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Velocity Jets – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Jet Cards by Aircraft Type

The other way jet cards are marketed is aircraft is by specific type, so you can select a particular type of plane that suits your needs, for example, a Phenom 300, Challenger 350, Falcon 2000 and so on.

If there is a particular type of aircraft that is well suited to your specific missions, this could be the way to go. As an example, the extended range of the Phenom 300 virtually guarantees you the ability to fly six people at least 1,700 miles, something that many light jets couldn’t do. Therefore, if your regular route is between New York and Denver – 1,626 miles – with fixe or six passengers, you may want to lock in a specific aircraft type that can fly nonstop.

Choosing a program with specific aircraft types, particularly if they are sourced from a fleet provider that owns its aircraft, generally means you can count on a specific configuration. Still, different providers have different configurations, so you may see a Phenom 100 offered at four seats or five seats while a Pilatus PC-12 could be a six or eight-seat configuration. Also, some providers count the lavatory seat, so make sure you ask before signing. In other words, don’t assume!

Note, card providers sometimes have to go off-fleet during peak periods – so again, check and see how many seats are guaranteed for both peak and non-peak days.

Popular Aircraft Types offered in Jet Card Programs:

  • Phenom 100
  • Phenom 300
  • Citation Excel/XLS
Challenger 350
The Bombardier Challenger 300 and 350 series are popular super-midsize jets.
  • Challenger 300/350
  • Falcon 2000
  • King Air series
  • Pilatus PC 12

Jet Card Provider – Aircraft Types Offered

Airshare (formerly Executive AirShare) – Phenom 100, Phenom 300

Clay Lacy – Over 25 types including Phenom 300, Learjet 75, Challenger 604, Gulfstream G450 and Global 6000

Flexjet – Phenom 300, Challenger 350

Fly Aeolus – Cirrus SR22

GlobeAir – Citation Mustang

GrandView Aviation – Phenom 300

Hopscotch Air – Cirrus SR22

International Jet Aviation Services – Learjet 35, Learjet 55

JetSuite Phenom 100
JetSuite offers the Phenom 100, pictured, and the Phenom 300 in its Suite Key jet card program.

JetSuite – Phenom 100, Phenom 300

Netjets (including Marquis Jet) – Citation Excel/XLS, Gulfstream GIVSP, Challenger 350, Citation X (Cross Country Card)

Nicholas Air – Pilatus PC-12, Phenom 100, Phenom 300, Citation CJ3, Citation Latitude, Challenger 300

Northern Jet Management – Learjet 40XR

ONEFlight International – Over 50 types from the Pilatus PC-12 and King Air to Phenom 100, Phenom 300, Citation X, Falcon 2000, Global Express and Gulfstream G650

Silverhawk Aviation – King Air 90A, Citation Excel, Citation II/V/Ultra

Tradewind Aviation – Pilatus PC-12

VistaJet – Challenger 350, Challenger 605, Challenger 850, Global 5000 and Global 6000

Jet Card Providers offering both Cabin Size and Aircraft Type options

Several jet card providers also provide a mix of options, including both cabin categories and specific aircraft. Below is an overview of providers segment by those that sell Cabin Category, the ones that offer specific Aircraft Types and those that offer a combination.

Jet Card Provider – Aircraft Types Offered – Cabin Categories Offers

Dassault Falcon 2000
Dumont Aviation and its jet card broker arm offer a dedicated program on its fleet of 10-seat Falcon 2000s.

Dumont Aviation – Falcon 2000 – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Magellan Jets – Phenom 300 – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet, Helicopters, and several multi-aircraft type cards, for example, a Falcon 2000 membership uses the Falcon 2000, Challenger 604/605, and Legacy 500/600/650

ProspAir Jet Charter – Falcon 2000 – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet

Star Jets International – Hawker 400XP, Hawker 800XP, Challenger 601/604, Gulfstream GIV – Light Jet, Midsize Jet, Super Midsize, Large Jet, Ultra Long Range

Wheels Up
Wheels Up features both the King Air 350i and Citation Excel/XLS from its fleet and an off-fleet light jet program which is based on cabin class. There are no interchange fees.

Wheels Up – King Air 350i and Citation Excel/XLS – Light Jet

XO (formerly XOJET and JetSmarter) – Challenger 300 and Citation X – Light Jet, Midsize Jet

Final Thoughts

While being able to select a specific type of aircraft that you know fits your missions makes sense, keep in mind there may be fewer options to upgrade to a larger or smaller aircraft at fixed rates, or those upgrades or downgrades may not be guaranteed, depending on the provider.

Also, choosing a specific make can in sometimes be more expensive. For example, if you are flying with six or fewer people on flights under 1,000 miles, while the Phenom 300 is a very popular light jet, you will be paying more per hour than most cabin category light jet cards.

At the same time, if you travel with four or fewer people on flights under 750 miles, you may find that a very light jet such as the Phenom 100 is more cost-effective than light jet cabin programs or even turboprops.

Going back the other way, for hops under 300 miles if you fly with seven or eight people, a King Air 350 will accommodate your group and save you a bunch of money compared to a super-midsize cabin to fit your party.

If you spend the time to think about the places you will be flying and how many people will be traveling on those flights, particularly if it varies, you will more easily begin to narrow down the options.

Subscribers to Private Jet Card Comparisons have personal assistance via our VIP Jet Card Decider service. Here is more information.

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