Jet cards show their benefits as the local supply of private jets ran low, and on-demand charter customers faced skyrocketing prices
A jet card with fixed one-way rates and guaranteed availability can protect you from surge pricing when there is limited supply or high-demand
With Hurricane Dorian baring down, the local supply of private jets ran low in Florida. In other words, the many private jets available for charter had already headed out with passengers and as you might expect, there weren’t many people who wanted to come back into the path of a major hurricane.
On-demand charter customers were faced with skyrocketing prices, not from gouging but the cost as aircraft had to be ferried in for their flights.
It shows how jet cards can be an important part of your private aviation solutions portfolio, often proven whenever there are natural disasters, be they fires, floods, winter storms, family emergencies that require short-notice booking, or in the case of Dorian, hurricanes.
No available private jets in Florida
One charter broker I was speaking to this weekend said a number of on-demand clients he advised to book flights out of Dorian’s potential path decided to wait, not wanting to expose themselves to cancelation charges if they didn’t have to evacuate.
He says, “At that time, there were still aircraft based in Florida that were available to fly to help people get out of harm’s way. By Friday at noon, it seemed that everything in Florida was depleted, and we were forced to start pulling in aircraft from Georgia, South Carolina, and other places.”
The result, he points out ended up, “Those who waited longer to call us were faced with round trip pricing just to go one-way.”
As you probably know, empty legs are ferry flights to get a private jet from its last revenue mission to its next revenue mission.
In this case, if a private jet is sitting in Atlanta and you want to fly to New York from Palm Beach, and that aircraft is the closest one that fits your request, you have to pay for the flight from Atlanta to pick you up as well as your flight up to the Big Apple.
Paying for repositioning flights
Flight time from ATL to PBI is about 90 minutes so that empty leg is probably going to add around $10,000 to your bill if you are flying on a midsize jet.
Last year, I heard a story about somebody trying to get out before a major winter storm. In that case, in addition to paying for the empty leg, he got hit with two deicing bill – one at the airport he was leaving from, and the other from the airport where the aircraft was originating.
Deicing expense can vary widely and depends on the size of your private jet and local rules and regulations. It can run up to $10,000 per incidence. Some jet cards include deicing in the hourly rate, so a significant benefit if you do a lot of winter weather flying.
A good charter broker is like gold
Now in defense of on-demand charter, on popular routes like between New York and South Florida you can often get good deals. For example, floating fleet operators know after flying one of their aircraft to a very busy airport like Teterboro or Ft. Lauderdale Executive, there’s a good chance they will get another revenue flight either from that airport or an airport in the immediate vicinity. In fact, they may offer attractive pricing because they already have a trip booked in the next day or two from the airport you will be flying into.
A good broker can be like gold, however, there are also quite a few average brokers out there. If you are booking on-demand charters, you are putting a considerable amount of due diligence into either the hands of your broker or you have to do it yourself.
That’s not just figuring out if you are getting a good price, but making sure the aircraft fits your needs, you can live with the variable cancelations policies, whether or not you can bring pets, also policies governing payments, and then most of all the operator you are flying with.
Does the charter meet your criteria for safe operating standards? What about the condition of the aircraft? How much experience do the pilots have? Do they have experience flying in congested metropolitan areas? What about mountain airports or foreign island airports?
Fixed-rate Jet Cards
Fixed-rate jet cards will often provide a discount if you do a qualifying roundtrip – usually at least two billable hours out and back the same day, or two hours of flight time out and back to the same airport on consecutive days.
However, the gold of one-way pricing is you don’t pay for the ferry flights. The ultimate reward of guaranteed availability means that based on a contracted policy, you can be guaranteed that hourly rate as long as you book outside of the deadline.
For non-peak days, that ranges from six to 48 hours with most programs. Many programs also allow you to cancel or change plans up to 24 hours before departure, and in some cases as little as 12 hours.
Each program also has its own standard for sourcing aircraft – in some cases its airplanes they owner or manager – or in the case of brokers – the operators they use. They also have requirements for pilot experience and other criteria on who will fly you.
Finding the right Jet Card
What it means is once you take the time to research and find the options that best meet your needs – there are more than 50 jet card providers and over 200 that have fixed rates and guaranteed availability – when you need to get somewhere, be it a storm or family emergency, you only need to make one call or even in some cases send a text to reserve your flight.
Of course, with natural disasters, there are force majeure provisions, and companies have to operate with safety in mind, so it’s smart not to wait until the last minute.
However, you’re not married to your jet card. Just because you have a jet card doesn’t mean you can’t also use a broker when it’s more advantageous. However, you can think of a fixed rate, guaranteed availability jet card as an insurance policy in addition to being just very convenient.