From traditional deposit jet cards to pay-as-you-go and custom cards, fixed rate programs for Mexico and connecting the Middle East and Europe, Prive Jets is providing a host of interesting options

 

History and Ownership

 

Prive Jets was founded in 2007 in South Florida by its three owners, each serve in executive roles. Every jet card provider I’ve come across are generally a fleet operator or management company that saw the benefits of offering a jet card solution, or in the case of brokers, companies that had worked in charters for road shows and live entertainment, even cargo charters, or often a broker who cut his or her teeth at another jet card seller and then ventured out on their own. Most have aviation backgrounds, although I’ve also met several who came from marketing, financial services, and other non-related fields. Prive Jets is the first that I’ve run across that is an outgrowth of a travel agency, in this case, Miami-based Forest Travel, a member of the Virtuoso luxury network.

 

Forest had an in-house private charter department to help handle its clientele, which includes a large base of luxury travelers from Latin America and the Middle East. As the private charters kept growing in a post-9-11 world, it was decided that there was a stand-alone opportunity and Prive Jets was born. The experience doing travel arrangements for high-net-worth clients means that Prive can cover your complete travel needs from hotels in London or Chicago to safaris in Africa. Among the two companies’ clients is the owner of a Four Seasons hotel and a number of royals from the Middle East, says Andres Arboleda, one of the co-founders and COO. That said, Prive Jets didn’t launch its first jet card until 2017 having been solely focused on arranging on-demand charter.

 

Overview

 

Arboleda who has spent his entire 18-year career in private aviation says offering jet cards was a natural evolution. He says Prive Jets does about three to four Boeing Business Jet charters a month so it regularly has clients with deposits of over $1 million.

 

Prive caught my attention because a friend who is a CEO of $20 billion multinational I know flies with them, and when I ran into him at a conference earlier this year, he was singing their praises. While there is no shortage of jet card brokers since it’s a relatively easy business to get into, Prive Jets has an interesting approach to the jet cards it has launched so far and several it is now rolling out.

 

While Arboleda says fractional cards are an attempt by those fractional share providers to expand their market reach, their pricing is based on the fleets they operate and are selling time on. The less aircraft available – he says Prive Jets uses about 1,500 in the U.S., all year 2000 or newer – the higher the price. At the same time, he says well-known jet card brokers put the onus on aircraft operators beyond safety and cabin interiors to support their branding with lots of odds and ends which add costs. He says he wants Prive Jets to be a quality oriented, value solution.

 

The Jet Cards

 

Prive Jets has two types of jet cards – Its Hourly Jet Card and its Membership Card. Both are split by your standard four categories – light, midsize, super midsize and heavy, and all jets are the year 2000 or newer. The hourly rates are the same – so from light to heavy based on buying 25 hours, per hour rates are $4,815, $6,265, $8,907, and $12,565, not including 7.5% FET.

 

The Hourly Jet Card is prepaid. The Membership card is pay-as-you-go with a membership fee ranging from $9,705 for light cards up to $25,326 for the heavy card. There is no escrow account, so if that’s a concern, then there is the membership option. The Membership is a premium that ranges from about $500 to $1,000 per hour. There are lower rates if you buy 50, 75 or 100 hours.

 

Service area is the continental 48 states. Travel to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Mexico, and the Caribbean carries a 10% surcharge. You get guaranteed availability with an eight-hour call-out 8 hours. Flights that take place before 10AM need to be reserved before 6PM of the day before. On 30 peak days here’s a 15% surcharge. There’s also a 15% roundtrip discount. Regular cancellation notice is 72 hours going to one week on peak days. You can access multiple aircraft at the same time making it a good program for families and companies. You can also upgrade or downgrade category size by simply paying the applicable rate, so no interchange fees.

 

You have 15 months from purchase to make reservations and 18 months to use your hours. Deicing is extra. Your rates are locked for the duration. There are no fuel surcharges and no CPI escalators. Minimum segment charge is 60 minutes across all categories and 120 minutes per day. What it means is that the program is more attractive for super-midsize and heavy jets than light and midsize where there are quite a few programs that are 60 and 60. There are the standard 12 minutes of taxi time. Wifi can be arranged for a surcharge on a trip-by-trip basis. A flight attendant is provided on heavy jets. The minimum age for unaccompanied minors is 15 years old.

 

The company says its ability to provide attractive hourly rates means the higher daily minimums on light jets and midsize compared to others. It’s not the first time I’ve heard that. But here’s where Prive takes a different approach. Arboleda says Prive has rolled out a Custom Card on a soft launch basis. He says instead of trying to stuff customers into one of its fixed programs, the company will create a guaranteed availability, fixed rate program. It joins Air Charter Service and Dash Jet each of which has launched similar cards in the past six months, so perhaps a trend.

 

The custom card is particularly focused on customers who are doing roundtrips, which mean higher savings, and can be customized for whatever you want. If you fly a lot of short legs, Prive will come up with something for you, however, you might pay a premium, but you get what most jet card buyers want – the ability to fly with one call and know in advance how much they will be paying.

 

Prive Jets has also rolled out a Mexico jet card for domestic travelers and trips beginning and ending in Mexico. It is also launching a Middle East – Europe jet card – also with guaranteed availability and fixed rates. To the best of our knowledge, it will join VistaJet as the only other card program that doesn’t have ferry fees on those routings.

 

Of the above, Arboleda says, “We don’t launch new jet cards to see what’s going to happen. We launch jet card when customers tell us they want them.” In other words, he believes both will be a success as they are fulfilling the jet card wishes of current on-demand charter clients. He says he is also working on a New York to South Florida jet card.

 

Safety

 

With the current pilot shortage, safety is becoming more of a talking point these days. For Prive, it requires the Pilot in Charge to have 3,000 hrs flight time and 1,500 hours in-type with an ATP certificate. It uses Argus Gold and Wyvern Registered as a starting point, however, the Year 2000 or later filter in the U.S. is a positive as is the fact its light jets all have fully enclosed lavs which means you won’t be seeing any old-timers. According to Arboleda the U.S. operators it uses total about 1,500 aircraft (out over 7,000 that are Part 135 qualified). He says it also doesn’t necessarily use the entire fleets of operators, but specific tail numbers and pilots. He believes this type of granular approach means they are delivering a quality product.

 

Key Selling Points

 

– Pay as you go option

– 8-hour lead-time for non-peak reservations is best in class for fixed rate programs

– Guaranteed availability

– Fixed one-way rates

– 15% roundtrip discount

– Rates are locked for entire 18-month flying validity

– No CPI escalator

– Custom card options mean Prive Jets is worth a call, even if the off-the-shelf programs don’t precisely fit your needs

– Access to luxury travel agency services and value added

– Guaranteed pets

 

Shortcomings

 

– No escrow account option

– Deposit program is non-refundable

– The membership fee for pay-as-you-go option adds $500 to $1,000 per hour

– 120 minute daily minimums on light and midsize cards could be a problem for some people

 

Toss-Ups

 

– 15 months to make reservations; 18 months to use your hours means you should buy only the hours you need

– Deicing is extra

– Wifi is extra

 

Final Thoughts

 

Prive Jets is a preferred private aviation partner of the Virtuoso Network of travel agencies, so we like that there was due diligence by a third party. Virtuoso agencies cater to affluent and high net worth clients, so its advisors can’t afford to deal with providers who don’t deliver. We always prefer escrow accounts dealing with smaller private companies, but the Membership Card provides an acceptable alternative. We also like the niche cards for Mexico and connecting the Middle East and Europe. Of particular interest is the Custom Card. If I was shopping for a jet card, that alone would put Prive on my list of companies I would reach out to.

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