In this article, we deal with questions and answers to consider before calling a private jet broker or operator
With American, Delta, United, Southwest and other airlines cutting flights, if you can afford it, private aviation should be an important part of your emergency preparedness
Most media coverage so far has been about the increase in inquiries. Brokers are reporting huge jumps in the call volume.
Instead of duplicating this coverage, I wanted to answer questions you might have about how you can use private aviation to prepare for possible relocation or emergency business flights.
This is a fast-moving situation, however, we know in the past, private aviation has been able to provide evacuation flights after commercial airlines stopped flying.
With all airlines drastically reducing schedules, private aviation looks to again play an important role.
At the end of the Q&A, you will find links to other stories you might find of interest.
Q. Should private aviation be part of my COVID-19 Coronavirus preparedness plan?
A. If you can afford it, yes. Keep in mind chartering a private jet is going to run you at least $5,000 per hour. For a large-cabin private jet budget $10,000 to $15,000 per hour. Larger jets also often have two-hour minimums meaning you are billed for two hours of flight time even if you are making a one hour flight. Turboprops like the King Air 350i and Pilatus PC-12 typically seat eight and on an hourly basis are 30% or more less expensive than super-midsize aircraft that also seat eight people. Turboprops are best for flights under 90 minutes.
Q. Some people tell me there are lower rates?
A. For typical private jet charter where you have the entire airplane, assume $5,000 per hour as the baseline. Most pricing you see that’s lower is based on a roundtrip, where you are coming back to the place you started the same or the next day. Chances are that’s not the case if you are trying to relocate from an area being impacted by COVID-19. In other cases, the rates advertised don’t include repositioning fees, the cost of getting the aircraft to you, which you pay for, and other fees. Other cheaper rates might be empty legs, repositioning flights that normally fly without passengers. Some rates you see advertised may just be examples, not available during high-demand periods.
Q. Should I book an empty leg to save money?
Probably not as evacuation or emergency solution. If the customer who is paying the full rate changes their plans, your empty leg could be canceled at the last moment. You could end up at a remote private aviation airport with few options.
Q. Are private jets safer than commercial airline flights regarding COVID-19 Coronavirus?
One analysis shows that flying privately reduces exposure by more than 30 times compared to flying commercially. The analysis is based on the number of people you would be in contact with at less than the recommended six feet of social distancing. Many private jet companies are implementing more stringent cleaning procedures and other processes. Some companies are requesting passengers sign affidavits acknowledging if they have traveled to any high-risk areas in the past 14 days to protect crews and other staff. VistaJet is doing temperature checks for flight and cabin crew twice per day.
Q. How many people can I fit on a private jet?
That depends on the type. Very light jets like a Phenom 100 can fit four to six passengers and fly about two hours without refueling. Large cabin jets like a Gulfstream G450 or Global Express can fit as many as 18 passengers. They can fly six to 12 hours nonstop. Keep in mind configuration varies and a large cabin jet can have as few as 10 seats. If you are chartering a jet, make sure to ask how many passengers it can accommodate. Some private jets have a belted lav, including emergency air supply, allowing that seat to be used. The same goes for jet cards. Make sure the program you are buying can accommodate the number of people in your group. Verify how many passengers can be accommodated. Don’t assume. Different companies have different seat guarantees!
Q. What if I have a larger group?
Most charter brokers can also access larger aircraft, including airliners, even 747s. JSX, which operates 30-seat Embraer 135/145s for scheduled flights is also marketing them for corporate shuttles and even large groups too big for typical private jets.
Q. Should I prepare in advance, as I do for other emergencies, such as hurricanes or even power outages?
Yes. Jet cards enable you to buy now and use later. Most jet cards work a bit like a debit card, so you deposit money know, and funds are drawn down as you fly. If you are looking for a one-off flight in the next 24 to 96 hours, you are probably best off booking a one-off charter. Jet cards, however, can help you prepare for future needs.
Q. What should I look for if I buy now for later?
Look for jet cards or memberships that provide guaranteed availability and fixed-one-way pricing. Guaranteed availability means so long as you book outside the reservation deadline, you are guaranteed to get a plane. Fixed one-way rates mean you are locking in an hourly rate, so you avoid surge prices. Many programs provide a booking deadline between six and 24 hours giving you significant flexibility.
Q. Are there other considerations with jet cards?
Yes. There are quite a few. Verify policies for pets and unaccompanied minors fit your needs as they vary by company. Make sure the service area where guaranteed availability is offered fits your needs. Most programs cover the Continental U.S., but some are regional, and others cover the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada. Some programs also can be used for trans-Atlantic flights.
Q. Anything else to consider when buying a jet card right now for COVID-19 Coronavirus use?
Private Jet Card Comparisons has identified over 65 variables in which subscribers can compare to find the right option. Right now you might not care about amenities such as catering or WiFi. However, with financial markets in disarray, I recommend reviewing the stability of the provider, the option of an escrow account to protect your deposit, or if they have pay-as-you-go options, where you pay a fee to join, but don’t pay for flights until your fly.
Q. Would it be smarter to just wait and charter when and if I need to?
On-demand charter works best if you have a good broker. Since private jet charter brokers aren’t regulated and there is no certification of individual brokers, it’s best to get a referral from a friend who charters regularly. However, waiting until the last minute is not a good idea. Brokers are swamped with callers who are kicking the tires. When push comes to shove their first focus is working with regular customers.
Q. What’s the difference between a jet card and an on-demand charter?
With jet cards, you buy now, and when you are ready to fly can book your flight by phone, email or even text in some cases. It literally takes seconds. With an on-demand charter, you contact the broker when you are ready to book, and the present the best options they can find. This can take up to 24 hours in some cases.
In emergency situations, the need could come up quickly. Many brokers take credit cards, but others require wire transfers, particularly from new customers. Prepaid jet cards mean your travel is already funded.
Also, keep in mind, if your on-demand charter is canceled, while you get your money back, you then need to arrange a replacement flight, and you have to pay the difference if there is a higher price. You may have to also front the new flight costs while waiting for your refund. Most jet cards guarantee a replacement aircraft at no additional cost.
Q. What about jet sharing?
Several providers – Wheels Up, Jet Linx, and XO – offer jet sharing. For people going to and from the same places at the same time, it’s an option. I don’t recommend counting on being able to share a private jet in an emergency situation like this.
Q. What if I buy a jet card for COVID-19 Coronavirus use, then don’t need to use it?
Some programs will refund your unused balance. With others, while the rate is only guaranteed for 12 to 24 months, funds don’t expire. There are also programs starting at just five hours of time and $25,000 that offer fixed one-way rates and guaranteed availability.
Q. Are private aviation companies subject to the same restrictions on commercial airlines?
Yes. For example, private jet flights from specific countries – i.e. – Europe, the UK, Ireland – have to land and clear customs and immigrations at specific airports. However, you do that at the general aviation facilities, avoiding the crowds and congestion pictured at JFK, Chicago-O’Hare, DFW, and other major airports. So far, border ‘closures’ have allowed for citizens and resident aliens to return to the U.S.
Q. Do you have any other advice?
If your need isn’t immediate – in the next 24 to 96 hours, and might change, I recommend buying a jet card so you are ready to relocate yourself or family members if needed. If you have a critical business need, having access to private aviation could be something that builds a lifelong bond with customers who need your services. Focus on the lead time for both booking and cancelations as plans could change. I recommend looking for programs with less than 48 or 24 hours lead time for both bookings or canceling. You want as much flexibility as possible. And, read the fine print!
If you have additional questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will add the answers to this article.
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