A softening private jet charter market is drawing more operators and brokers to launch and expand jet card and membership offerings.
It’s a significant change from the second half of 2021 when pundits predicted the jet card’s end.
They certainly had good reason to take that view.
Between July 2021, when Velocity Jets stopped taking new members in its jet card program, and last summer, when Vista Global’s XO dropped its fixed-rate Elite Access program, some 30 providers who offered fixed-rate jet cards with guaranteed availability either stopped their programs entirely, halted taking new members or withdrew specific categories from their programs.
The list included some of the biggest names, including NetJets, Sentient Jet, Jet Linx, Flexjet, Executive Jet Management, Jet Aviation, Airshare, Priester, Solairus, and Jets.com.
In February 2020, before the pandemic, we tracked 58 membership and jet card program providers in our database.
Three years and a pandemic later, that number is up to 75 providers.
In fact, the number of providers offering fixed or capped hourly rates is also up.
|Feb. 2020||Feb. 2023||Change|
|Active Membership/Jet Card Programs*||58||75||+ 17|
|Programs with Fixed/Capped Rates||52||57||+ 5|
|Programs with Fixed/Capped Rates and Guaranteed Availability||44||42||(2)|
|Memberships/Jet Card Programs On Hiatus||0||7||+ 7|
|Active Operator/Hybrid Jet Card/Membership Programs||28||44||+ 16|
Today 57 providers offer guaranteed rates, five more than in 2020 before Covid.
One big change is that more programs offer fixed/capped rates but don’t offer guaranteed availability.
Before the pandemic, 85% of providers (44 of 52) that offered fixed/capped rates paired it with guaranteed availability.
That put them in a bind when the cost of sourcing airplanes spiked, and availability became scarce.
Currently, only 74% of providers offering fixed/capped rates provide them on a guaranteed availability basis.
In other words, over a quarter (26%) will allow you to lock in a fixed/capped rate, but on an as-available basis.
That means when you call, you have to be flexible.
The idea that programs have to have fixed/capped hourly rates has also changed.
Only six of the 58 programs we tracked at the beginning of 2020 offered only dynamic pricing.
Dynamic pricing means each trip is priced based on market rates when you call and where you are going. Positioning flights have to be factored into the quote. It’s the same as calling a broker for each trip.
There are benefits.
The dynamic pricing programs offer the convenience of having funds on account.
That saves on credit card and wire charges. They often come with discounts from retail rates; some have preferred cancelation terms and even price protection for recovery flights.
Depending on your flexibility and where you are flying, dynamic pricing can beat fixed jet card rates.
Out of the providers in our database, 18 of the 75 with active programs only offer dynamic pricing. That’s triple February 2020.
Driving the increase in card programs are operators.
The percentage of active programs offered by a provider owning a Part 135 operator increased from 48% (28 of 58) to 59% (44 of 75).
Still, there are seven companies that had card programs or membership before the pandemic that has yet to restart either a dynamic pricing program or bring back fixed-rate memberships.
For operators, who had more demand than they could handle, much of it at rates higher than their fixed-rate cards, the idea of locking in customers who deposit $250,000 again seems like a good idea.
Brokers, too, are now thinking again about fixed-rate products.
The driving force is, of course, customers.
Flyers want fixed-rate programs by a 12-to-1 margin over dynamic pricing, according to the 2022/23 edition of The Jet Card Report by Private Jet Card Comparisons.
Last week, Manifest, a travel club and broker, became the latest company to launch a jet card membership.
With demand ebbing and prices stabilizing, at least a half dozen brokers and operators I know of are considering introducing fixed-rate programs.
Expect more changes ahead.
As we reported in our Q4 2022 pricing update, peak days, callouts, and daily minimums are also retreating, although not back to pre-Covid levels.
So far this year, in addition to our top-to-bottom annual update, we’ve done 27 more updates through the end of last week.