Wheels Up adds capped hourly rate, guaranteed availability Super Midsize jets

The new program follows its light jet program introduced earlier this year.

When Wheels Up’s Kenny Dichter told Squawk Box on CNBC in January that it was working on strategic initiatives, common wisdom in the industry was the founder and CEO was following a similar move by XOJET in 2018, which ultimately led to its acquisition by Vista Global and merger with JetSmarter.

It hasn’t turned out that way.

Weeks later came Connect, a new entry-level membership, priced at $2,995 designed to increase the addressable mark of customers who want to share flights to save costs.

Buying a jet card? Remember, there are options for cabin size or picking a specific aircraft type

Will any light jet do, or would it be better to have a specific type such as the Embraer Phenom 300?

While there are many variables that separate the over 300 jet cards in the Private Jet Card Comparisons database – over 65 in fact, one difference means a lot to some people and nothing to others.

However, for both types of buyers, choosing the wrong type of program can make for a less than enjoyable experience despite the provider’s overall merits. Figuring it out before you sign can both save you money and make sure the program fits your mission needs.

There are essentially two ways that available aircraft are structured for fixed-rate (and usually guaranteed availability) programs by jet card providers.

One is by cabin-class or size. When buying into a cabin class you are assured of getting an aircraft in that class or larger if you are lucky enough be upgraded based on operational needs.

The other is by specific aircraft make or type, for example, you are buying into an Embraer Phenom 300. So while the provider may let you fly in other types, you know when you want a Phenom 300, you’re going to get a Phenom 300 and not some other type of light jet.

NetJets, Wheels Up, Jet Smarter and JetSuite compared

NetJets, Wheels Up, JetSuite, JetSmarter

The four most searched private aviation companies on Google are very different, although they also have some similarities

In the world of private aviation solutions – fractional ownership, leases, jet cards, memberships, seat sharing, semiprivate airlines, and so forth, four companies have generated the most interest, according to Google Trends. Surprisingly, perhaps, they are each quite different once you get past the fact that they all want to fly you somewhere.

In terms of interest, Wheels Up (red) followed by NetJets (blue), JetSmarter (yellow) and JetSuite (green) are the most search private aviation companies. Source: Google Trends

Is NetJets worth the price?

NetJets may be ubiquitous with the concept of fractional ownership, and by far the dominant player in the market, but the big question remains, is the unit of Berkshire Hathaway worth a premium?

Of the over the nearly 1,000 subscribers to Private Jet Card Comparisons since we launched nearly two years ago I get to talk with perhaps 20%, so while it is more day-in-day-out contact with private aviation consumers than probably any other journalist, it’s still a relatively small sample of users.

VistaJet, XOJET report 2018 results

VistaJet XOJet private jet card programs

The two subsidiaries of Vista Global posted significant gains in memberships and flying last year

In separate press releases, private jet operators VistaJet and XOJET released results from 2018. VistaJet said the figures are preliminary and subject to change after auditing. Both are now part of Vista Global, a Dubai-based holding company which served as a vehicle to buy XOJET last September.