From policy on pets and unaccompanied minors to costs, extra fees, where you can and cannot fly, and whether or not there are toilets, here are some of the most frequent questions and answers about private jet card and prepaid private jet charter programs.
1. What is a jet card?
A jet card refers to debit card-style programs that enable you to prepay for private jet flights at a fixed hourly rate with guaranteed availability. Some programs include not only jets but turboprops. The term “jet card” can also refer to prepaid private jet charter programs that have similar attributes. Cards are typically sold increments of dollars or hours, for example, 25 hours or $150,000.
2. Who sells jet cards?
There are more than 40 companies that sell private jet cards or prepaid charter programs that offer similar benefits to jet cards. Air Partner, Inc.; Airstream Jets; Clay Lacy Aviation; Concord Private Jet; Delta Private Jets, Inc.; EcoJets; ExpertJet; Flexjet; Jet Aviation Flight Services; Jet Linx Aviation; JetSet Group; JetSuite; Magellan Jets; NetJets; Nicholas Air; Paramount Business Jets; Private Jet Services Group (PJS Group); PrivateFly; Prive Jets; Sentient Jet; Solairus Aviation; Silverhawk Aviation; Star Jets International LLC; StraightLine Private Air; VistaJet; Wheels Up; and XOJET all offer private jet cards or similar products.
3. How much does a jet card cost?
The cost depends on how much you want to fly. While you can find jets cards starting at $25,000, jet cards and programs typically run between $100,000 and $500,000. Air Partner and Delta Private Jets both have $1 million jet cards.
4. Where can I fly with a jet card?
Different companies have different service areas, mainly within Continental North America and in many instances including parts of Mexico or the Caribbean. Other companies offer worldwide service. Even if a company’s jet card service area is North America, it may be able to arrange on-demand charter flights for you on a global basis. Those flights, however, will be at a different hourly rate with different terms. VistaJet is an example of a company offering worldwide programs.
5. What type of aircraft are available with a private jet card?
There are jet card programs that include planes from turboprops to very light jets and long-range, large-cabin jets such as the Bombardier Global Express and Gulfstream 550. Wheels Up has built its program on the Beechcraft King Air 350i, a turboprop seating up to nine passengers and focusing on flights under 500 miles. At the other end of the spectrum, VistaJet and NetJets offer the Bombardier Global 6000 which can fly nearly 7,000 miles, about 13 hours nonstop.
6. Who owns the planes I am flying with a private jet card?
Who owns the planes varies widely. NetJets, Flexjet and Nicholas Air, for example, tap into fractional fleets they manage and operate on behalf of fractional shareowners. XOJET, Wheels Up and Vistajet own their own aircraft. Delta Private Jets and Jet Linx manage and operate jets on behalf of individual owners who enable them to use those planes as part of their jet card programs. Companies like Sentient Jet, Magellan Jets and Private Jet Services (PJS) Group are brokers. They neither own nor operate planes but go out into the market of to source jets for your flights. Each business model has its advantages depending on your needs.
7. Are there safety standards for private jet card flights?
Yes. In the U.S., only planes that are Part 135 or Part 91 certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can be used for private flights that are sold as part of jet card programs. Jet card sellers also use third-party safety auditors such as ARG/US, IS-BAO and Wyvern to evaluate the operators of private jets they source. Some brokers have their own in-house standards, safety evaluations and safety directors to evaluate jets they source. Card sellers also have minimum standards for the pilots that fly flights for their programs, which varies by company.
8. Are there extra taxes and fees when I buy a jet card?
Yes. Some jet card sellers don’t include Federal Excise Tax (FET), landing fees, and fuel surcharges as part of their base pricing while others do. For example, Sentient Jet, Air Partner, Solairus and Private Jet Services (PJS) Group include the 7.5% FET in their hourly pricing.
9. Can I get my money back if I buy a jet card?
Some jet card providers will provide refunds, others will let you roll over your funds to a new program while others do not give refunds. PrivateFly, Star Jets and XOJET will all allow you to withdraw your funds. Nicholas Air allows refunds with its Century Card.
10. Will my jet card expire?
Some cards and programs expire from 12 to 36 months while others don’t have an expiration. Air Partner, Clay Lacy, JetSuite, Nicholas Air, Private Jet Services (PJS) Group, PrivateFly, Sentient Jet, Star Jets, Wheels Up and XOJET say their programs don’t have an expiration date.
11. Do I get billed for taxi time when I buy a jet card?
Most jet card programs bill you for taxi time, typically 12 minutes per segment. If your hourly rate is $6,000, that means paying $720. Clay Lacy doesn’t bill for taxi time and Jet Linx only bills 6 minutes per segment.
12. What will I be charged for a 45-minute flight?
Programs vary. Some have minimum charges of 1-1.5 hours per flight. Other programs have a minimum number of hours per day you will be charged when you fly. For Delta Private Jets, Sentient Jet and VistaJet it varies by size of aircraft. If you fly a lot of short flights, you will want to compare this aspect of the different programs.
13. Are there peak period or destination surcharges and blackouts when I buy a jet card?
Most programs have peak period surcharges that can range as high as 40%. In some travel outside the contiguous 48 U.S. States and travel to the Caribbean are charged at international rates. Programs typically will provide a list of peak days and blackout days if they have any. It can vary widely. Delta Private Jets and Flexjet have only 10 peak days while Air Partner has 54 peak days and Jet Linx 58 days. With Wheels Up peak days vary based on program. JetSuite and Clay Lacy have no blackout or peak days in their programs. If you plan to do a lot of flying during holidays and high demand periods, you will want to factor this into your decision.
14. What’s the lead time for making flight reservations with a jet card?
Lead time to make a reservation varies, but is typically between four and 24 hours or longer, between 24 hours and 7 days during peak periods. Providers will generally try to accommodate you even if you are within the window. If you expect a lot of short-notice travel, make sure to pay attention to the minimum lead-time for reservations.
15. Can I upgrade or downgrade the size of aircraft with my jet card?
Most programs allow you to upgrade or downgrade the size of your plane, so if you need a longer-range plane or need more space, you get upgrade. If you are traveling alone on a short flight, you can downgrade. There are sometimes additional fees for upgrading or downgrading, so if you expect to be doing a lot of either, it pays to pay attention to these fees and policies.
16. What are the policies if I need to cancel a trip with my jet card?
Policies on cancellation vary widely. For example, Wheels Up requires 12 hours notice while some programs require 7 days notice.
17. Can I choose the FBO I want with my private jet card?
Most programs will let you choose the FBO you want to use, however, some will charge additional fees if you select a non-preferred Fixed Based Operator. For example, JetSuite charges $500 for using a non-preferred FBO.
18. What type of catering is included with my private jet card?
Most providers offer basic catering of sodas, water and snacks, but not all. Some will provide sandwiches, while a few provide full catering. Beyond what is provided as part of the program, all will cater to your specific demands on a pay basis.
19. Will there be WiFi on the private jet?
Not all private jets have WiFi, although some providers do guarantee it on their fleets as part of their jet card programs. Magellan Jets offers a jet card that guarantees WiFi. JetSuite, VistaJet, Wheels Up and XOJET (on its owned fleet) have WiFi. Private Jet Services (PJS) Group and Air Partner say it will custom quote programs guaranteeing WiFi. Sentient recently introduced its first guaranteed WiFi jet card.
20. Can I send unaccompanied minors with my private jet card?
Most jet card companies will transport unaccompanied minors, but the age requirement varies and in some cases, you will need to pay additional fees to have a flight attendant accompany the minor. For example, the minimum age with XOJET is 13 years and with Wheels Up 16 years old.
21. Can I take pets with my private jet card?
The answer is cats, dogs and caged pets are generally allowed, but some providers will charge cleaning fees.
22. Do private jet card providers have 24/7 customer service?
The good news is all 18 companies we found that sell private jet cards and prepaid private jet charter programs offer 24/7 customer support.
23. What happens if my private jet flight is canceled for non-weather related reasons?
Programs mainly will get a replacement aircraft at no additional costs to the customer. Magellan Jets promises you updates every 10 minutes.
24. Do all private jets have toilets?
Some smaller private jets don’t have fully enclosed lavatories. If you are looking at programs with Light and Very Light Jets, you will want to specify if you require a fully enclosed toilet.
25. What type of luxury partnerships do private jet cards have?
Sentient Jet, XOJET, NetJets and Wheels Up each have extensive luxury partnerships. For example, WheelsUp offers customers benefits at Ermenegildo Zegna while Sentient Jet customers get the VIP treatment at Brioni. WheelsUp customers get benefits from jeweler Kwiat and residence club Inspirato. Sentient Jet gives members a catalog with free and discounted stays at luxury hotels. NetJets lists Mandarin Oriental, The Leading Hotels of the World, Canyon Ranch and Wynn Las Vegas as partners with exclusive offers for its customers.
26. If I buy a private jet card, can I get VIP access to events like the Super Bowl, All-Star Game, Kentucky Derby, The Masters and other sporting events?
The answer is it depends, however, NetJets, Wheels Up, Sentient Jet, Flexjet and XOJET are active at these type of events with parties and hospitality. San Francisco-based XOJET has a special arrangement with the Golden State Warriors giving customers VIP access to games and special events. WheelsUp lists the Boston Red Sox as a partner. Sentient Jet is the official private jet card of the Breeder’s Cup World Championship that gives card members VIP seating and access to the Paddock and Winner’s Circle.
27. What are the advantages of buying a jet card over on-demand charter?
When you buy a jet card or prepaid private jet charter program often you are locking in a fixed hourly rate and you are guaranteeing availability. You also know up front extra fees and source of aircraft you will be flying. For the most part, you are not charged extra for one-way flights, and sometimes you will get upgraded to a larger aircraft. You also know the standards for sourcing aircraft and pilots, so you don’t have to review planes and pilots each time as you would have to with charter. Since you have prepaid, you also don’t have to worry about transferring funds on short notice.
28. Who buys private jets cards?
Surprisingly many private jet card users also own their own jets. For many people, having access to a private jet is like having access to a car. While it might not make sense to own two jets, a jet card can provide private jet access to family or company associates while somebody else is using the owned jet. This is called supplemental lift in industry lingo. Others buy jet cards in lieu of fractional ownership as they don’t want to make the three-to-five year commitment of fractional ownership. Jet card and prepaid jet program users typically need 25 to 500 hours of private jet travel per year, although some programs report customers buying over 1,000 hours per year. In some cases, companies and individuals buy jet cards because they prefer it over owning an entire plane, knowing they don’t have to worry about flight crews, maintenance and having a back-up if there is a mechanical delay.
29. What is the range of hourly rates with private jet cards?
Hourly rates vary widely by size of jet and program. For example, for JetSuite’s $400,000 SuiteKey membership a four-seat Embraer Phenom 100 is $3,250 per hour. Large, ultra-long range jets such as a Global Express can cost as much as $18,000 per hour.
30. What type of insurance do private jet companies provide?
Liability and risk coverage by private jet card sellers varies widely and sometimes depends on the size of the plane. For example, Flexjet, Wheels Up and XOJET carry $300 million of insurance. VistaJet carries $500 million.
If you want a program-by-program comparison of more than 100 products from more than 25 companies covering 65 points of differentiation, we have organized it all into easy-to-read and compare spreadsheets.