Air Partner, which offers jet cards both in the U.S. and Europe, has launched two new private jet membership programs in Europe. One is targeted at new to private aviation flyers. The other, which debuted earlier this year, is designed to counter private jet leader NetJets.
Air Partner’s moves come as jet card competition in Europe steps up. In August, PrivateFly launched the first fixed-rate, guaranteed availability, deposit jet card in Europe for Directional Aviation. It’s a wholly-owned unit of Directional’s OneSky Flight. Sister company Flexjet, second behind NetJets in selling fractional shares, is expected to launch a European fractional and lease program next year.
Thomas Flohr, the founder and chairman of Vista Global Holding, has said he will bring his XO brand to Europe, complementing VistaJet and its focus on long haul flights. The Challenger 350 is the smallest private jet in its Bombardier Global heavy version of a jet card program. XO offers light and midsize jets in the U.S.
For Air Partner, JetCard 5 debuted last week. It enables first-time customers to buy into Air Partner’s fixed-rate, guaranteed availability jet card program by purchasing only five hours. It’s available except for large cabin and long-haul jets and can only be purchased once. You have to make your first flight within six months.
The low-entry hurdle specifically targets first-timers looking for private aviation solutions to avoid COVID-19 exposure or because reduced airline schedules make flying commercially more difficult. It’s designed to show off the benefits of jet cards compared to on-demand charter.
The other new product was launched this spring but is now coming center stage. The Hybrid Card guarantees Legacy 450, Legacy 500, Citation Latitude, or Challenger 350. All aircraft have a cabin height of six feet.
Chris Thomas, senior director with Air Partner, who led the development of both offers, tells Private Jet Card Comparisons, “The Hybrid card was built to compete directly against (NetJets’) Citation Latitude and Challenger 350. We have seen great success so far from Individuals choosing our Hybrid card over a NetJets’ card.”
The Hybrid card offers a fixed hourly rate of 9,200 euros, and you get one of the four types listed. Thomas points out there are no peak days and no peak day surcharge for Air Partner in Europe. There is only a seven-seat guarantee, however, due to the Latitude.
Thomas ticks off what he sees as key benefits of the Air Partner offering compared to NetJets. He points to no expiry date for hours and no CPI escalators. The starting point is just 10 hours across its entire product line. He also notes maintaining their contracted rate, and members-only need to keep a balance of hours, allowing them to “keep their money in their bank account.” Members also get guaranteed upgrades and downgrade at published rates, so no interchange fee. Air Partner allows JetCard customers to use their funds to pay for on-demand flights outside of the fixed-rate service area.
The small print policy details are making a big difference in the current environment. “For me, with too many unknowns in the market in terms of not knowing how many hours one will be allowed to fly per year due to COVID, Brexit, and more, I personally would want to be in a fully flex contract that doesn’t hold me to expiry dates or doesn’t pressure oneself into using X amount of hours a year as for many their hands will be tied in terms of their usage,” he says.
The publicly-traded company has been racking up impressive profit numbers so far this year, largely driven by strong cargo and repatriation charter flights, but more recently jet card sales.
During the first six months of its financial year, which ended in August, pre-tax earnings jumped by 250%. Gross profit increased from £10.5m (61%) to £27.7m. Jet card sales also increase by 50%.
Thomas says, “We are always developing our products, and yes, it would be fair to say we have a couple of things in the pipeline.”