While jet cards, memberships, and fractional ownership are ideal for many flyers, the old-fashioned private jet charter broker also serves a critical market.
Even as the number of jet card and membership providers grows, I always tell subscribers a good private jet charter broker is like gold. Of course, the trick is finding a good one and also understanding where a good broker delivers the most value.
In terms of on-demand brokers, I am speaking specifically about those who use dynamic pricing.
That means pricing each trip request out on a request-by-request basis.
It also means if you sit on the quotes for too long, the aircraft being quoted may no longer be valid.
You will likely pay extra for deicing, WiFi, and catering; something with fixed-rate jet cards some include in the price.
If the original provider cancels, you may have to pay more on the requote unless you are spending enough with your broker that they cover the difference to engender loyalty.
However, a good broker can deliver things that are hard to find in jet card programs, even if it takes a bit of time going back and forth.
Here are some reasons to use a broker:
Very few jet cards allow you to select a specific aircraft type, instead offering categories, for example, light jets and midsize jets. The obligation is only to supply a jet in that category.
Even with programs that offer specific types, there can be multiple configurations in the fleet. That can mean the difference between six and eight seats on a Phenom 300 or club seats instead of a divan on a Challenger 300.
Some people don’t want specific aircraft types because of cabin dimensions, range, or baggage capacity. A broker can eliminate aircraft types that don’t work for you from their search.
If you want a specific manufacture date, for example, less than five or seven years old, a broker can filter their search by your criteria.
Like age, brokers can ensure the aircraft you fly has been refreshed recently if that’s important to you.
Most jet cards, at the end of the day, only specify they will provide an aircraft operated under Part 135. If you have specific requirements, particularly Argus Platinum, Wyvern Wingman, or IS-BAO Stage 3, a broker can eliminate providers that don’t meet those levels.
Private aviation is a long-tail industry. There are over 600 charter operators in the U.S. offering jets and close to 2,000 when you included turboprops. Perhaps you had a poor experience with an operator in the past. Your broker will exclude any operators you don’t want to fly with from their search.
Jet cards tend to work best for one-way flights. If you are doing multiple legs on the same day or over several days and returning to the airport of origin, a broker can often help you save a significant amount of money. The key is that the legs can be flown with the same aircraft and flight crew.
Getting a jet on four or five hours’ notice or early the next morning when you are calling late the night before is often best served by a good broker, particularly if you have specific requirements, such as high-speed WiFi and so forth.
Often when you book flights on-demand, the agreement doesn’t allow you to change or cancel after booking. While this isn’t a rule, it’s something that’s not uncommon if you are booking one-way flights.
Good brokers know how to shop. They know which operators are most flexible on pricing, and they know smaller operators who may not necessarily update their inventory in online directories like Avinode or FlyEasy. They can also help steer you away from offers that are too good to be true with good reason.
While many card programs allow you to switch categories by the trip, brokers can get down to specifics. For example, if you have large and oversize luggage but don’t need a large cabin or super-midsize jet, a broker will find a Pilatus PC-24 or PC-12.
Good brokers are regular producers for the operators they use. That gives them clout when something goes wrong. They also operate with their cell phones instead of just sending email requests. They know available aircraft aren’t always listed.
A good broker can help you understand which aircraft types best fit your needs. When something goes wrong, they can advocate for you with the operator. They will educate you about the expensive nuances of private aviation before you find out about them the expensive way. That’s everything from WiFi and deicing charges to cancelations and recovery flight recovery costs.
Most on-demand brokers will allow you to keep money on account. That way, you don’t have wire and credit card fees. You also don’t have to worry about transferring money at the last minute.
They will even set up an escrow account if you wish. If you have a letter of credit and are a heavy user, they may even do post-flight billing
While fractional ownership is a five-year commitment. Jet cards are typically 25 hours – although some are refundable, your commitment to a broker starts and stops with each trip request.
For fractional and whole aircraft owners who need a supplemental lift, on-demand brokers can support your needs without committing to a program.
There’s the caricature of having three brokers on speed dial, making them compete, grinding them for the last $500.
A good broker is doing more than just finding your aircraft.
They are monitoring your trip. They are auditing the flight crew and tracking the repositioning flight to make sure there aren’t delays. Each trip means liaising with the FBO to ensure the catering has been loaded and ground transportation is there for your arrival.
Many times you are talking to them on their cellphone. It’s a tool many have two of. When I am with brokers, it’s a stream of calls, helping clients and sorting through the bumps of each trip.
It’s not an easy job!
Do you have your tax accountant or lawyer bid on each job against other professionals?
Brokers certainly know which customers quote 10 times and book once versus those who are loyal.
Naturally, with a finite amount of time, the best customers are going to, in most cases, get the most attention.
Generally speaking, you can use our QUICK COMPARE FLIGHT PRICING tool. It gives you a good range of what your flight would cost with a fixed-rate jet card.
Unfortunately, brokers don’t have to go through any training or certification.
It’s like a spa where the quality of your treatment is based on your therapist that day. The brokerage you choose is only as good as the broker who is serving you.
I always say the best way to find a good broker is from a friend who charters frequently. They’ve seen the good, bad, and ugly.
Most brokers don’t have big funds to advertise, so they rely on referrals.
Many jet card brokers also work with clients on-demand if your needs don’t fit their programs. If you aren’t ready to join a program, they can still quote your flights.
While you may end up with a combination of solutions – full ownership, jet cards, fractional ownership, and on-demand brokers, the key thing to remember is that each solution has its positives and negatives.
By using the poorly named JET CARD DECIDER form, we actually can help you figure out which solutions are best for you. Hint: It’s not always jet cards!
Our GUIDE TO CHARTER BROKERS includes those that have attained the highest level of Argus or Wyvern broker status, or we know from our jet card database.
Both can be found in the PAID SUBSCRIBERS AREA.
Still, recommendations from friends who have found a broker they believe in are the best place to start, in my opinion.