If it’s Tuesday there must be another jet card program, however, DashJet is bringing some interesting twists to its offerings

 

History and Ownership

DashJet was launched earlier this year in Ankeny, Iowa as a broker jet card but with some common ownership to Exec 1 Aviation, which operates three Beechjet 400As and a Hawker 400XP, offers maintenance, flight instruction, and various aviation services. Privately held DashJet’s CEO Frank Maher comes from the world of advertising, where he previously served as group president and COO of The Integer Group and before that senior vice president at FCB Global working with clients such as Starbucks and Michellin. Earlier in his career, he was the brand manager for Dr.Pepper Snapple Group.

Overview

Perhaps because of Maher’s advertising and marketing background, DashJet’s program is very consumer focused. What do I mean? First, there were fixed-rate, guaranteed availability jet cards, then came pay-as-you-go programs, still with fixed rates and guaranteed availability, now there are dynamic pricing jet cards, some with fixed mark-ups, and more recently fixed-rate, guaranteed availability with a ceiling. For the latter, the aim is providing lower pricing per trip than your contracted fixed rate.

 

DashJet offers yet a new evolutionary take on jet cards. In addition to your typical fixed-rate, guaranteed availability cards, DashJet will customize a card for you. It’s similar to what Air Charter Service is offering but seems to go further in that they will even create a trip-based card, an interesting look for those of you who have one set trip you are doing multiple times per year.

 

The Jet Cards

DashJet has five jet cards, starting with your traditional four categories – light ($5,300 per hour, including 7.5% Federal Excise Tax), midsize ($7,500 per hour), super midsize ($9,500) and heavy jets ($12,000), starting at 25 hours. That said, the company will offer a 10-hour card for starters and customizes hours based on your needs. “Your flight, designed for you is not just our tagline, but the cornerstone of our client designed approach. We all now live in a consumer first commerce model. Gone are the days that brands and retailers call the shots. Consumers now demand that brands flex to their wants and desires versus being dictated or forced into choices that aren’t a reflection of their specific wants and needs,” says Maher

 

While DashJet uses the Exec 1 Aviation fleet for light jets, that’s just the start, and it is a national program using a variety of operators. Primary service area is the Continuous U.S., Canada, Caribbean and Mexico with extra charges for high-density airports and travel outside the lower 48 passed along at cost instead of as a set percentage surcharge.

 

Perhaps most interesting is DashJet Custom Card. Maher says it came from listening to customers. He gives as an example a now DashJet customer who had been with another provider. The customer and his wife were flying 10 times a year between their home in Chicago and Scottsdale. While they were generally happy, the husband didn’t like that on one trip he was charged three hours of flight time and the next trip three-and-a-half hours. And then some trips had extra fees, others didn’t. He found it confusing and time consuming to figure out what was going to be charged when. And then his other beef was the provider charged extra for his special order Diet Sprite and a specific type of dark chocolate and peanut butter Kind Bar despite a six-figure spend. The solution, says Maher, is DashJet developed a 10-trip fixed rate program so he knew what he was going to be paying and knew that it was going to be the same time each time, inclusive of his favorite snacks, so he didn’t have to waste time reviewing invoices.

 

“All the major companies ask you to fit into an A, B or C programs,” Maher says, adding, “What the brands are asking is for the customer to flex towards their programs. We want to flex towards what the customer wants. Let’s build a plan that’s right for you.” He said the company is also designing a similar program for a prospect in South Carolina who in addition to domestic flights does a monthly trip to Amsterdam.

 

In terms of all its cards, there are no annual fees or initiation charges and rates are locked for 12 months after purchase. Hours never expire. Deposits are nonrefundable. Escrow accounts are available on request, something we recommend, particularly for boutique providers. You’re charged for actual flight time – wheels up to wheels down – and there are no fuel surcharges, although deicing is extra.

 

One of our favorite features is DashJet doesn’t bill for taxi time, a true in your pocket cost-savings benefit, particularly if you are doing mainly short haul flights. Somebody who flights 25 one-hour segments at an hourly rate of $6,000 is actually paying $7,200 per hour if you factor in the 12 minutes of taxi time per segment most programs charge (12 minutes =1/5 hour x $6,000 = $1,200).

 

The segment minimum is 60 minutes across all its cards, including super-midsize and heavy jets, which makes it particularly attractive for larger aircraft on short flights where you often run into 90 to 180 minute minimums,, however, all its cards have 90 minute daily minimums – not unusual for brokers – but it works against folks who might have a single 60 to 78 minute light or midsize jet flight during a day. There are no set roundtrip discounts, although for departure from and return arrival to the same location within 12-hours on same calendar date for specific locations, there are unpublished discounts.

 

There are 56 peak days (on the higher side) however the peak surcharge maxes at 10% and only when the operator has surcharges which are passed along at cost up to the aforementioned 10%. Normal lead time for reservations is 48 hours, something that provides more efficiency in sourcing for DashJet and 168 hours for the peak days, so the card clearly works best for folks who are planning at least two days in advance. Cancellation window is 48 hours and 72 hours during peak days and you can access multiple airplanes at the same time, a nice feature for families. The ability to upgrade or downgrade comes with a $1,500 fee. The minimum age for unaccompanied minors is 16.

 

Safety

According to the company its DashJet 5-Point Safety Protocol enforces, verifies and monitors all aspects of every DashJet trip. All of Exec1’s aircraft and the FBO are under the IS-BAO safety management system. IS-BAO is the most stringent certification in the industry, including over 800 audit points that require a two-year process to complete. Any operator DashJet engages outside of Exec1Aviation must have a minimum of one of the top three safety certifications: Argus Gold, Wyvern Registered or at least IS-BAO Stage 1 and be approved under the DashJet-Certified Safety Management System.

 

In terms of pilots, DashJet requires a two-pilot protocol for every flight, both pilots must have been to an approved simulator training program in the previous 12

months in the type of aircraft they will be flying (CAE, Simuflite, etc.), the pilot-in-charge (PIC) must hold a current 1st class medical, ATP rating, have 1,500 hours total flight time, 250 turbine, 100 PIC hours in type. The Second-in-Command (SIC) must hold a current 2nd class medical, multi-commercial/instrument rating,

1,000 hours total time, 100 turbine hours, 100 hours in aircraft type. The cockpit must have 200 hours total time in the type of aircraft.

 

Key Selling Points

– The ability to completely customize a fixed-rate, guaranteed availability jet card per the Chicago to Scottsdale customer is exciting and something that should make DashJet part of the consideration set for those of you who similar needs

– No taxi time provides significant savings, particularly if you fly a lot of segments

– Mexico, Canada and Caribbean additional charges are passed along at cost instead of a fixed rate surcharge makes charges more transparent with modest risk

– No dues or initiation fees

– Funds don’t expire

– A 60-minute segment minimum, particularly for super-midsize and heavy jets, is very attractive even if somewhat mitigated by the 90-minute daily minimum.

– Ability to use two aircraft at the same time

 

Shortcomings

– At 25 hours, for a start-up card that’s non-refundable, it might be a higher commitment than lower frequency fliers will want to make, however, we like that there is also a 10-hour option for starters

– 56 peak days with a 168-hour lead-time for bookings could be an issue for business fliers based on your travel dates

– Daily minimums of 90 minutes for light and midsize jets are not out of the norm for many broker cards, however, even without being charged for taxi time, there are solid 60-minute light and midsize jet card options

 

Toss-ups

– 56 peak days is high, but the 10% surcharge is a cap and in line with other companies

– 12 month-rate lock means you should really focus on your 12-month flying needs when evaluating DashJet

– 48 hours lead-time for non-peak days is higher than the programs with eight to 12 hours. That said, I’ve found for the vast majority of subscribers I talk to this is not an issue.

 

Final Thoughts

As I’ve written before, the number of new aircraft deliveries as still about 30% below their pre-recession peak and there are less national fractional programs – two to be exact – NetJets and Flexjet. At the same time Part 135 (charter) flying is back above those pre-2008 levels and the number of jet card providers and programs has more than doubled to over 40 providers and more than 250 programs. Simply put, jet cards are the easy way to charter and unlike full and fractional ownership don’t require a long-term commitment. You buy 100, 50, 25 hours or even 10 and 5 hour jet cards, and when you are done, you either renew or not. It puts the onus on card companies to provide high levels of service because there are so many options.

 

With that as a backdrop, it’s not surprising to see that operators want to get into the jet card game. XOJET over the past five years went from a pure fleet operator to a hybrid that does over $100 million in brokerage business, including its light and midsize jet cards.

 

DashJet seems to have minimized some of those annoying charges – initiation and membership fees, fuel surcharges, taxi time and so forth, although in some cases it’s not that clear what the savings will be billed at cost versus a set surcharge.

 

“The answer on surcharges is we’ve eliminated or taken it upon ourselves to absorb many surcharges. It is not in our customer model to nickel and dime our clients with fees that are cost of doing business. And when surcharges or added expenses are added, DashJet clients can expect an explanation and transparency with no mark-up on those charges versus a mysterious number that appears on a billing statement,” says Maher, adding, “It is not the standard cookie-cutter industry approach.”

 

In the hunt for folks like you who can spend between $100,000 and $500,000 or more per year on private flights, there is a lot of competition to get you to call, and from the perspective, DashJet’s Custom Card does the trick.

Compare DashJet with over 250 jet card programs here