Coronavirus Emergency Planning: Should you buy a Jet Card now?

By Doug Gollan, February 28, 2020

Jet cards that offer fixed rates and guaranteed availability can be handy in a crisis

– With airlines already reducing flights, access to private aviation could be critical to both your business and family

During natural disasters, particularly before and after hurricanes, we’ve seen again and again how access to private jets can literally be a lifesaver.

However, if private jet access can be a lifeboat, like when the Titanic hit an iceberg and sunk, when everyone needs a private jet at the same time, capacity isn’t always there.

Research from Coresight shows if the Coronavirus outbreak worsens in the U.S., over 70% of respondents will avoid public transportation.

There are a number of key reasons to consider buying a jet card or adding hours as part of a company or family emergency plan:

  • Ensure your team can make it to service clients and get to remote facilities
  • Reduce the potential exposure of transiting busy airport terminals and commercial airliners
  • Allow senior executives to attend important meetings without interruption if airlines change schedules due to lower demand
  • Ensure your family can evacuate an area that could soon be subject to quarantines or closings of local services
  • Ensure you will be able to easily evacuate family pets, elderly and the very young with as much ease as possible

Buying a jet card as part of a crisis plan may bring considerations beyond what you would normally evaluate. So below are some key factors you should review and why they are important.

Fixed One-Way Rates

Not all jet cards are equal. Some use dynamic pricing, which means you pay market rates. In a crisis, you can assume if the demand for private jets increases exponentially, so will the price.

A Jet Card can be a key part of your company or family emergency preparedness plan

Leading up to hurricanes, on-demand charter prices can double or more as people look to get out of harm’s way.

In terms of an emergency preparedness plan, make sure you look for ones that offer fixed one-way rates.

That means you know in advance how much you will pay on an hourly basis. It also means you aren’t paying for repositioning flights.

Guaranteed Availability

The biggest benefit of jet cards is with those that feature guaranteed availability. That means when you call, they will have an aircraft for you. That’s as long as you call outside the booking window.

Jet Card Call-Out

The lead time for making reservations with guaranteed availability requires you to book your flight in advance. This is often referred to as call-out.

Call-outs for non-peak periods vary from as little as six hours to 72 hours. In this case, you will want to focus on those that have the shortest lead time.

Pets Policy

Not all jet cards guarantee you can bring pets. If you have pets, make sure to verify pets policy.

Jet Card Service Area

Fixed-rate, guaranteed availability jet cards have specific service areas where those benefits apply. If you are buying for company use or extended family, make sure the places those people are located and where they will be flying are in that primary service area. Don’t assume because your current solution works for where you fly, it works everywhere.

Roundtrip Discounts

If you plan to use the jet card for business travel, there is a possibility to reduce overnights at hotels. Many jet card providers offer roundtrip discounts for same-day trips with savings as much as 40% over published rates.

Private Jet Size

While you may normally be able to use light jets for your travel, needing to move people at the last minute, you may find yourself needing more seats. Find out the largest aircraft in your provider’s program, and how many seats are guaranteed.

For example, even with light jets, on a Phenom 300, seating can vary from six to nine passengers based on configuration. Large cabin guarantees can range from 9 to 12 passengers based on provider.

Expiration of Funds and Refundability

Typically fixed rates are only guaranteed for 12 to 24 months without a price increase. If you are buying a jet card for an emergency plan, focus on your needs for this year.

Find out if your deposit is refundable? If not, make sure your funds don’t expire within the period you would end up using them.

Company Stability

Clearly, with the stock market in freefall, you want to make sure the company you are wiring money to has stability.

For example, during the financial crisis, NetJets posted a loss of more than $700 million. Because of the backing from Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway, it was able to march on and provide service uninterrupted.

Beyond the financial power of a jet card provider’s parent or investors, look for programs that have an escrow account option.

Another option to mitigate risk is pay-as-you-go programs that offer guaranteed availability and fixed-rates. In those cases, you pay a joining fee, typically under $20,000. You then pay with each flight via a credit card on file. In other words, you can lock in the benefits without spending six figures up front.

Should You or Shouldn’t You?

If your business needs are reliant on the airlines, buying a jet card now is probably a good insurance policy. Do keep in mind that government restrictions and edicts can impact private aviation as well.

However, airlines often cut back on schedules when there is a drop in demand. They are already cutting flights to Asia. If you need to get to places that aren’t already well-served, a jet card probably makes sense.

If you have a young family or elderly relatives, being able to arrange flights on short notice makes having a jet card in the top draw smart preparedness.

Even just for vacation trips, now might be the time to buy a jet card. You avoid passenger terminals and airplanes with hundreds of people.

Paid subscribers to Private Jet Card Comparisons can quickly compare programs to find the ones that best fit their emergency preparedness needs.

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