Private jet charter – sometimes referred to as private jet rental, jet hire or on-demand charter – generally refers to buying your private flights on a one-by-one basis
There are over 2,000 private jet charter operators and brokers in the U.S. alone to choose from
How do you know who’s behind that slick website?
Here’s everything you need to know before you charter a private jet
If you read a lot of stories about renting a private jet, you might believe it’s like booking an airline ticket. Online apps and websites promise you can charter a private jet with just a few clicks. And you can. But that would be like saying you can buy expensive jewelry online. Yes, you can, but what are you really buying?
In the world of diamonds, somebody who knows all about cut, color, carat weight, and clarity can likely spot what’s a good deal – and what to avoid. They also know who to avoid!
If you book hotels online, at least there are review sites where popular luxury properties have hundreds if not thousands of critiques by customers who have stayed there. Still, it can be tricky to find specific rooms that have the best view – and make sure you get the one you want. And then, then there is the old adage, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.” One reason travel agents remain popular with luxury travelers is that they know which rooms have the best views and the most space. They also get upgrades, dining, and spa credits for their clients. Plus, if something goes wrong – more likely than ever these days – they can help get it fixed.
In this report, we look at what you need to know to make you a smarter buyer of private jet charter. You then will be able to decide the best route for you. If you are new to private flying, the best news is it’s a great experience. It will save you time. It’s much more convenient. You can use airports that are closer to you. Virtually every trip can be a nonstop flight. No more changing in Atlanta or Dallas. You can reduce exposure to COVI-19. Flying privately has fewer than 20 touch points compared to over 700 with the airlines.
So, what is a private jet charter?
Private jet charters – or rentals – mean you are contracting with a company that has been granted by a national aviation body authority to use aircraft for commercial purposes. This requires the operator to have personnel, assets, and system in place to ensure the safety of its employees and the general public.
There are different types of charter, including those shared flights where can buy a seat. Jet cards are prepaid charter. However, for this article, we will be focused on chartering the full entire aircraft on a flight-by-flight basis, and what you need to know.
In the U.S., charter operators adhere to what is referred to as Part 135 regulations. You can work directly with the operator or through a broker. A charter broker will solicit quotes from operators they think best fit your request. Unlike lawyers, financial advisors, and even real estate agents, private jet charter brokers are not regulated. However, in the U.S. they do have to abide by various government rules that were updated in 2018 and went into effect last year.
“These new regulations address many concerns from the past caused by ‘bad actor’ brokers and will allow increased opportunities for legitimate air charter brokers to continue providing the good service they have provided for years,” says Mike Nichols, National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA) vice president of operational excellence and professional development.
DOT rules governing air charter brokers
Here are the highlights of those rules for brokers. Air charter brokers must not:
Misrepresent themselves as direct air carriers.
Use their names and slogans in connection with the name of the direct air carrier in such a manner that may confuse consumers as to the status of the air charter broker.
Misrepresent the service, type of aircraft, or itinerary.
Misrepresent the qualifications of pilots or the safety record and certification of pilots, aircraft, and air carriers.
Make misrepresentations regarding insurance.
Misrepresent the cost of air transportation.
Misrepresent membership in or involvement with organizations that audit air charter brokers or direct air carriers.
Represent that they possess a contract with a direct air carrier until they have received a binding commitment from the direct air carrier.
Sell or contract for air transportation that they know cannot be legally performed by the entity that is to operate the air transportation.
Misrepresent the requirements that must be met by charterers to qualify for charter flights.
Also, be aware of illegal charters and schemes represented as charter flights which are, in fact, dry leases. Both can have serious safety and legal implications for you.
What do you need to know before you rent a private jet?
Here are some things you should know before you contact brokers or operators. By having this information, they will be better prepared to help you.
– Where are you starting from and where do you want to end up?
There are oover 5,000 airports in the U.S. compared to less than 500 used by the airlines. There’s a good chance there are closer airports than you are used to. Let your operator or broker know the address you are leaving from and where you are going. They can suggest alternative airports that can shave hours off your door-to-door travel time.
– Who and what are you bringing?
If you are looking for the most cost-efficient solution, the type of aircraft that fits your mission is going to depend not only on number of seats, but the number of adults, children under the age of two, size of your pets, amount of luggage, and total weight. The number of seats along with weight, weather and winds will impact the type of private jet best suited for your flight.
The range of a light jet varies from around 600 to 2,000 miles depending on the make and model, plus how many people and how much luggage you have. To get the quotes that best match your needs, details matter, for example, six adults, including three large adults over 300 pounds, six sets of golf clubs, a 150-pound Golden Retriever, etc. This will enable your provider to identify specific aircraft that best fit your needs. You can review cabin height and space, baggage space, range, and speed for over 100 private jets here.
– Do you need to fly nonstop?
Are you looking for the cheapest private charter solution? In some cases, a smaller jet with a fuel stop that has the capacity for your group might be less expensive than aircraft that can make it nonstop. In other times, you might say that defeats the purpose of flying privately. However, with COVID-19 driving more consumers to private aviation, the extra time may not be a big factor. That said, you may find being in a small jet four or five hours even with a stop confining and less than ideal. Some light jets don’t have fully enclosed toilets, and others have only an emergency potty or nothing at all.
– Are you flexible on travel dates and times?
While you get to set your departure date and time – it’s on your schedule, not some airline planner – your choices impact your cost. If you are flexible to leave over a span of certain days or times, let your provider know that up front. That will enable them to look for potentially money-savings alternatives. I’ve seen lead pricing between South Florida and New York vary by as much as $5,000 from one day to the next.
If you are really flexible, don’t mind a last-minute cancelation, and are happy to regroup and look for options on other days, or you have alternate transportation, empty leg flights can provide savings of around 50%. These repositioning flights are returning to base after dropping off customers or heading to their next mission. They are sold at big discounts, however, if the person on the other side of the equation changes his or her plans, yours will cancel, and it could be while you are at the airport waiting to board.
– When are your coming back?
Qualifying roundtrips in private aviation can cut costs by up to 40% off one-way pricing. What do you have to do to get that discount? The standard is two billable flight hours per day. That could be a same-day trip where the outbound and return legs are at least one hour each. It could also mean two four-hour flights leaving on day one and returning day four. Four hours plus four hours equals eight hours, divided by four days, equals an average of two billable hours per day. You’ll have to leave and return from the same airport.
It is based on the operator using the same aircraft and flight crew for both legs, so while with jet cards it’s a formalized part of your contract, with on-demand charter it’s more a rule of thumb. If your flight doesn’t qualify as a roundtrip per this definition, in private aviation terms you are booking a one-way, even if you are starting and returning to the same airport. Operators with aircraft based at your local airport often have the best pricing for qualifying roundtrips. However, make sure to read below on what happens when your operator cancels your flight. Keep in mind, for Part 135, pilots are limited to a duty time of 14 hours, which starts when they show up for work to prepare for your flight and includes any flights before yours that day.
– How likely are you to change your mind or need to reschedule?
Just like the airlines, when you are chartering a private aircraft, you are entering into a contract that covers what happens if you want to cancel or change. Typically brokers and operators come back with several quotes based on your request.
Since quotes are often based on a specific aircraft or tail number in industry lingo, the terms can vary. In other words, each quote may have different cancelation terms, including no refunds or changes. When booking ad hoc charters, it’s critical you review the terms of each quote fully.
– Are you bringing pets?
Some aircraft don’t allow pets. In other words, you need to decide if Fido might be traveling with you when you contact the provider. Don’t assume you can show up with your furry friends and they will be allowed to fly. Also, confirm what type of pets are accepted before you sign the contract. It could be the owner of that aircraft prohibits all pets or at least certain types of pets. More on who owns the airplane below.
– What extras do you want?
If you want catering beyond packaged snacks, coffee, waters, and sodas, be sure to specify. Your provider will give you a menu. You will find prices steep for what you get, however, if it adds to your enjoyment go for it!
Also, if you need WiFi, make that clear. Not all private jets have connectivity, and some that do, don’t turn it on for charter flights. Your contract holds you responsible for post-flight charges, so if you ask the pilot to turn on the WiFi and it wasn’t part of the agreement, you could find something akin to those post-check-out charges you get at hotels.
Flight attendants also need to be specified, although they are sometimes included when you charter a large cabin aircraft. On anything smaller than a super-midsize jet, you’ll probably be fine on your own, and in fact, the limited space means you won’t want an extra person.
Lastly, don’t forget about ground transportation. At smaller airports, taxis and ride-sharing may not be readily available. Your provider will normally ask you if you need ground transportation.
– What type of experience do you want?
With apologies to any pre-conceived image about what it’s like to fly privately, the cabin height on light jets is typically under five feet, with midsize aircraft six to eight inches more. The cabins are quite comfortable for sitting, but not so much for walking around. If you want to have that Kim Kardashian-type Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous experience, ask your provider to quote large-cabin aircraft. You can also specify the minimum cabin height.
What if you are flying overnight or to Europe and want to be able to sleep in a flatbed? You can request aircraft that have a separate sleeping compartment – generally for one to two passengers. You should also let your provider know how many passengers will require a flatbed. Not all seats on private jets convert as they do in first or business class on the airlines. In many cases, two club seats convert into a single bed. That means a large-cabin private jet with 14 seats may only sleep, seven passengers.
One-way charter pricing
Let’s talk about how much it costs to fly privately. One-way charter pricing as mentioned above doesn’t mean you aren’t coming back. In private aviation lingo, it simply means you don’t qualify for roundtrip pricing. Remember, that’s when the operator can handle your entire trip with one aircraft and the same flight crew. Here is a very rough range for one-way pricing by aircraft type and cabin size:
$1,000 to $2,500 per hour
$3,000 to $5,000 per hour
Very Light/Light Jet
$3,500 to $6,500 per hour
$5,000 to $8,000 per hour
Super Midsize Jet
$5,000 to $10,000 per hour
Large Cabin/Heavy Jet
$6,000 to $20,000 per hour
You’ll often see lower starting prices on charter broker and operator websites. It’s probably based on roundtrips or empty legs.
– Why do private jet rental prices vary so much?
There are quite a few reasons. One is the age of aircraft. The average private jet clocks an hour of flight time per day. In fact, they often sit idle for days. Compare that to airlines that fly their aircraft around 12 hours per day. That means that properly maintained private jets can literally fly forever. On the charter market, airplanes more than 25 years old are harder to rent, even if they are fine for their owners. Older jets tend to have lower pricing.
On the other end, new jet buyers are less likely to put them on a charter certificate. Owners of new jets are paying a premium. They tend to be high time fliers who want their aircraft available on short notice. That means if you specify very new jet types, there is less supply, hence higher pricing.
A lot of it also depends on where you are flying. The East Coast corridor from Boston to Miami is private jet heavy. There’s a good chance if you are flying from major airports with a lot of private jet activity like Teterboro, Palm Beach, Naples, or Ft. Lauderdale, the need to reposition the aircraft either before or after your flight is less likely.
In fact, you might be able to save money by going to the airport where the aircraft is going to be if it’s not too inconvenient. For example Opa-Locka Executive Airport versus Miami International. Ten miles in a car might save you $2,000.
Size matters with private jet airports
The flip side is if you are flying from Joplin, Missouri to Iowa City, a one hour flight, there’s a good chance your aircraft might need to fly an hour or more from somewhere to pick you up. It’s also likely it will have to fly somewhere else after it drops you off to pick up its next full revenue customers. Those extra hours of flying need to be factored into the quote for your 60-minute trip. It’s one reason jet cards are often the best solution if you fly in these types of markets.
Then you have routes like Teterboro and Westchester County to Van Nuys Airport, serving Los Angeles. You’re talking about three of the four busiest private jet airports. For the operator, you’re also generating about six hours of flight time and there’s a good chance they will pick up a flight going back the other way within a couple of days. It’s not unusual to see rates as low as $23,000 to $27,000 for a coast-to-coast nonstop flight between these airports.
Who owns the airplane?
Most of the U.S. charter fleet is not owned by the operators. The operator manages the airplanes for individual owners and companies that allow them to be rented out when they don’t need them. Hence, rules, pricing, and approval of trips must be granted by the owner, in some cases on a trip by trip basis. Expensive maintenance is based on landings and takeoffs – cycles – not necessarily flight hours. That means the owner of a large cabin jet might be happy to have their airplane booked for four and five-hour flights, but turn down a trip that has several short flights.
Floating fleets versus locally based private jets
Another factor is if the aircraft is part of a floating fleet or based at a particular airport. Floating fleets tend to be owned by the operator. That means the operator doesn’t have to bring them back to a home base. Instead, they hop around picking up and dropping off customers. Because of this, floating fleet one-way pricing is typically better than a local operator, particularly for longer flights.
Recently refurbished aircraft might cost more. Also, the number of seats can be a factor. Midsize jets can have between six and nine seats. Large-cabin jets range from 10 to 16 seats. Some large-cabin jets which have a separate sleeping compartment might price a bit higher.
Then comes the operator. Operators of higher-priced jets will argue that they are spending more money on pilot training, maintenance, and other upkeep that justifies their higher fees. While operators in the U.S. have to abide by the Part 135 regulations, many operators exceed them.
Sometimes it’s the owner. Owners can generally pull their aircraft even after you signed the contract. Good brokers stay away from these aircraft as in a way, it’s a sort of fool’s gold. You think you saved money until you didn’t. Then late in the game, you have to shop for a replacement, usually at a higher cost. Unless you are an industry insider, they may look like a great deal on a website.
By subscribing to Private Jet Card Comparisons you can compare on-demand charter quotes with jet card pricing specific to the flights you are planning with our Quick Compare Flight Pricing tool. Click here for more information.
Private Jet safety
It’s confusing, and there is no straight answer. Argus, Wyvern, and IS-BAO provide third-party safety ratings. You see their logos used like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval on many operator and broker websites. There are significant differences between the levels. While the highest levels include on-site audits, the lowest ones don’t.
In terms of the on-site audits – in some cases, they are only every two years. They are less an inspection of aircraft than the operations. Argus and Wyvern are both for-profit companies, and the audits are just one element of what they do. Below is how each entity describes its standards.
Operating certificate for a minimum of one year
At least one turbine aircraft on the certificate
In-depth Historical Safety Analysis
Pilot background check
Aircraft operational control validation
Argus Gold Plus
Operating certificate for a minimum of one year
At least one turbine aircraft on the certificate
In-depth Historical Safety Analysis
Pilot background check
Aircraft operational control validation
ARGUS On-site Audit with uncorrected findings
Pilot background check
Operating certificate for a minimum of one year
At least one turbine aircraft on the certificate
In-depth Historical Safety Analysis
Aircraft operational control validation
Emergency Response Plan
ARGUS On-site Audit with no or corrected findings
Functioning Safety Management System
This beginner program is granted to any operator who provides Wyvern with their records. Wyvern makes these records available to their clients to review and make sure the operator meets certain standards. These operators have not been audited by Wyvern.
This rating is harder to receive. Operators at this level must follow specific methods that reflect the latest and best safety practices. The Wyvern Wingman is only received by aircraft operators who have been audited against Wyvern’s audit standard.
The International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO), developed by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) and its member associations, is a recommended code of best practices designed to help flight departments worldwide achieve high levels of safety and professionalism. IS-BAO is an industry standard built for operators, by operators that provides standards based on the ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS).
IS-BAO Stage 1
Confirms that the Safety Management System (SMS) infrastructure is established and that safety management activities are appropriately targeted. All supporting standards have been established.
IS-BAO Stage 2
Ensures that safety management activities are appropriately targeted and that safety risks are being effectively managed.
IS-BAO Stage 3
Verifies that safety management activities are fully integrated into the operator’s business and that a positive safety culture is being sustained.
What’s my takeaway on the audit levels? In looking particularly at Argus and Wyvern, don’t infer that a Platinum rated operator is safer than Gold – or Wingman is safer the Registered for Wyvern. While the higher levels have additional criteria that must be met to qualify, it doesn’t mean the operator couldn’t attain that same level if they wanted to pay the associated fee. In other words, it’s not a grading system, like A, B, C, D, F, etc.
– What questions should I ask about safety?
The NBAA recommends asking the following questions:
What is the operator’s safety record?
Has the charter operator had any aircraft accidents or incidents? If so, what measures has the operator implemented to ensure increased safety?
How often is training provided to the crew and what is covered in the training?
Does the charter operator provide training above and beyond the minimum training requirements established by the FAA?
Where is the training conducted? Is the initial and recurrent training provided in a simulator or the aircraft?
What are the charter operator’s policy on crew flight time and duty limits? If a possible customer trip goes beyond the crew flight/duty times, how would the charter operator conduct the mission and maintain its policies?
Will there be a flight attendant onboard the flight? Is the flight attendant trained for the specific make/model of aircraft you are flying on?
Is the aircraft equipped with a defibrillator and are the crew trained in its use? Does the aircraft have a subscription to an in-flight medical assistance program in case of a medical emergency?
You can also call your regional FAA office to ask if there are any outstanding or pending actions against the operator you are considering.
– What questions should I ask about the charter operator?
Again, from NBAA:
What experience does the operator have? How long has the operator been in business: In aviation? As an air charter operator?
What type of aircraft is on the charter certificate?
How many aircraft and crew does the charter operator have? Has the FAA ever taken enforcement action against the operator or one of its flight crew members?
What experience does the crew have? How many flight hours total time? How many hours in the make/model of each aircraft?
For extended overwater and mountain airport flights, what experience does the crew have? Same for international operations.
– What happens if the operator cancels the flight?
With standard one-off charter contracts, be it a pilot gets sick or there is a last-minute mechanical, if the aircraft you chartered can’t make the flight, you’ll get a refund. That’s good news.
The bad news is if the replacement options cost more, and they usually do at the last minute, you the customer has to pay the difference if you want to travel. If you are a good, regular client – read spending hundreds of thousands of dollars a year – your broker might consider it a good business move to cover the difference, but that would be the exception.
– What other charges should I be aware of?
Taxes and Fees
For flights within the Continental U.S. or to destinations within 225 miles of the southern and northern borders, you pay the 7.5% Federal Excise Tax, or FET. Due to the CARES Act, that tax is suspended for flights you book and pay for between now and Dec. 31, 2020, even if your flight is next year. Segment fees are $4.50 per person, also currently suspended. There are various fees for international flights if you are going outside your country of origin. That can include overflight fees. You will also pay for any airport and landing fees. There could also be hangar fees.
Crew Charges and Deicing
You might also have to pay for overnight crew stays if your trip includes them having to hotel somewhere. And don’t forget deicing. The cost of deicing can range fro $1,000 to $10,000 depending on the airport and the size of the jet. You might also get hit with double deicing charges. That would be if the aircraft needed to be deiced before the repositioning flight to pick you up, then again at your departure airport.
It’s rare and most brokers and operators tell me it hardly ever happens, yet I have subscribers who have told me they’ve been hit with double bills more than once. Some jet cards include deicing or offer deicing insurance for a fee. It’s one of the more than 65 variables you can compare when you subscribe. It’s also a reason if you are doing a lot of winter weather flying, a jet card could be a smart option.
Cleaning Fees and Damage
Your contract will likely hold you responsible for any damage incurred during your flight. That could include stains, ripped or scratched furnishings. Also, if you have pets, and there is special clean-up required. If you see any damage when you board, point it out to the pilots right away, and perhaps even take a picture. Also, my best advice is to treat the cabin the same way you would want guests in your home to behave.
Who should you contact to book your charter flights?
You have two choices – operators and brokers. Operators – the companies that fly the airplanes – at your local airport can be very efficient if you are making qualifying roundtrips. Keep in mind most operators are small.
While you’ll see brokers referencing access to 10,000 aircraft, according to Tuvoli, a B2B tech platform, there are only about 4,000 private jets on Part 135 certificates, in other words, that can be rented legally in exchange for compensation. The rest are helicopters, pistons, turboprops, and even airliners. Out of the 573 operators with at least one private jet on a Part 135 certificate, 408 operate five or fewer jets, and 156 operate only one jet. Brokers survey the entire market looking for operators that are the best fit for your flights. Operators, for the most part, will try to sell you onto their fleet first.
Like good travel advisors, good brokers are like gold. They also know why some prices you might see are lower and what’s a good deal versus the cheapest price.
– How do I find a good charter broker?
Argus and Wyvern publish lists of brokerages they’ve registered or certified, so in terms of looking for a good brokerage, both are solid resources. However, the quality of experience comes from the person you are interacting with. If you aren’t happy with your initial dealings, ask for another broker. Even better, ask friends who charter regularly for the phone number of their broker, and benefit from their good and bad experiences.
While most online booking is a request form, I highly recommend for first-timers, the best route is to speak to a human being, preferably one with multiple years of experience booking charter flights. Feel free to ask whomever you are speaking with, how many years of experience they have selling charter flights. If they are relatively new, there’s nothing wrong with politely telling them you would like to speak to a broker who has more experience.
Google is your friend
In looking at broker websites, look for the names of the CEO and other executives. If you don’t see any names of owners or executives, ask! Be cautious of companies that won’t share that information. Google names of companies and executives combined with phrases like “lawsuit” and “complaints.” There are often two sides to a story. Better to know and ask before you book.
If you are paying weeks or in some cases months in advance of your flight, ask who will be holding your money. How will your funds be protected?
The charter broker’s guide that comes along with your Private Jet Card Comparisons‘ subscription includes ratings from the Better Business Bureau, Trust Pilot, Glass Door, and Facebook, as well as whether or not they are part of the Argus and Wyvern programs. Keep in mind, most brokers have limited consumer feedback on these rating sites.
How about chartering a private jet online?
Here’s the first thing to know. In many cases, the app or computer interfaces you are using are merely digitalized request forms. Even the prices you see are estimates. It often takes a live body somewhere to verify the aircraft is still available. Virtually all online brokers, platforms, or whatever they call themselves require you to submit your contact information when you check pricing and availablity.
Expect a call from a salesperson before you get hard quotes.
It’s one reason I strongly recommend those of you who aren’t experts in chartering a private jet to use a human being as your broker. That doesn’t mean companies with slick apps don’t also have good brokers working there, by the way. More on this subject later.
– Can I use more than one broker or operator?
Yes, in fact, until you settle on a favorite or favorites, most consumers request quotes from three to four brokers to compare. That said, each request means you will have to deal with a salesperson following up. Many are great, but some can be a nuisance. Just remember three quotes from the same broker can have different sets up terms, so read the fine print. Some folks use a local operator for qualifying roundtrips, and then brokers or solutions like jet cards for other trips.
– Are there any other alternatives?
If you don’t want to go through the time it takes to shop and compare quotes for each trip, you need more flexible booking and cancelation terms, and you don’t want to find yourself having to get a last-minute re-quote, jet cards and memberships are a good option. The number of jet card providers has more than doubled since the Great Recession because they provide similar benefits to full or fractional ownership, with minimal commitment.
You can buy in for as little as $25,000, so the price of one of two flights. Some even offer pay-as-you-go options, although you pay a membership fee to join. Many jet cards offer fixed one-way rates with guaranteed availability. That means you know how much you will pay on a per flight hour basis when you sign up. To get that price, you simply have to book a minimum number of hours before departure, anywhere from 5 to 96 hours based on the provider. To secure on-demand pricing, you have to commit that day.
For fixed-rate jet cards, it’s the same with cancelations, including some requiring as few as 10 hours notice. And if the operator cancels, your provider will secure a replacement aircraft at their expense, and may even offer you compensation.
Best of all is the convenience. Instead of reviewing quotes for each trip, since you already signed a contract, you can make one call, in some cases book online, or even via email and text message. Do keep in mind, jet card pricing isn’t always lower than on-demand charter costs, so it’s a tradeoff.
Before you fly
Both Argus and Wyvern also provide reports primarily for brokers that ensure your aircraft and pilots are legal – in other words, meet government regulations. You should request from your provider either an Argus TRIPCheq or Wyvern PASS report before flying. If the crew changes before your departure, request an updated report.
Around 90 of the largest Part 135 operators covering over 6,000 aircraft are part of the Argus database, according to the company. With a couple of weeks’ notice, Argus can prepare a TripCheq for a company where it currently doesn’t have information.
Wyvern offers subscriptions for around $300 per month targeted for brokers. However, it can also provide a custom option for individual UHNW fliers or companies that want to do their own due diligence.
Should you subscribe to Private Jet Card Comparisons?
My answer, as you might expect, is yes. While our comparing functions are focused on jet cards and memberships, we also provide personal assistance via our VIP Jet Card Decider service. Regularly, we help folks figure out if they are better of going the on-demand charter route or even fractional ownership. We even help subscribers figure out if there are any sharing opportunities.
Our paid subscription is for 12 months and priced and $250 for the year. If you are looking at any type of private aviation solution, you are likely spending between $10,000 and up – sometimes over $1 million per year. I like to think a subscription to Private Jet Card Comparisons, including personal support is a pretty good value.
Unlike lead generation sites, we don’t sell your contact data nor do we accept commissions or finder’s fees from private aviation companies. We are the only private aviation research site that doesn’t sell your info to jet companies or get referral payments…We protect your privacy and give you comprehensive, unbiased, updated data so you can make the best decision for your needs! More information here.
Private Jet Card Comparisons has developed our exclusive Private Jet Card Glossary, specifically around 65 comparative points that differentiate the programs.
Aircraft Sourcing Standards – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets minimum standards for operations, maintenance, and pilots for aircraft on charter flights under Part 135. Beyond that, some jet card providers use additional standards set by third-party auditors and organizations such as ARG/US, Wyvern, and IS-BAO to guide the sourcing for their jet card programs.
Annual Dues – In addition to hourly rates and other fees, some programs have annual or monthly membership fees.QUICK COMPARE FLIGHT PRICING amortizes those fees into your hourly rate so you can compare actual flight costs head-to-head between providers.
Applicable Aircraft – Private jet card programs offer either specific jet types or categories such as Very Light or Small Jets, Light Jets, Midsize Jets, Super Midsize Cabin Jets, Large or Cabin or Heavy Jets, and Ultra Longhaul Jets. Additionally, some programs allow you to buy into a specific aircraft type. When you buy a category program, you will receive a variety of aircraft in that category. If you have specific preferences, for example, cabin height, you probably want to buy into an aircraft-specific program, particularly for midsize and super-midsize jets.
ARG/US level – ARG/US or ARGUS provides safety audits of private jet operators spanning over 500 operators globally. There are three levels: ARGUS Gold Rated Charter Operator, ARGUS Gold Rated Plus Charter Operator, and ARGUS Platinum Rated Charter Operator.
ARG/US Gold Rated Charter Operator – Requires operating certificate for at least one year, at least one turbine aircraft on the certificate, in-depth historical safety analysis, and pilot background check and aircraft operational control validations.
ARG/US Gold Rated Plus Charter Operator – Requires all of the Gold Rated requirements plus an on-site audit with no safety of flight findings.
ARG/US Platinum Rated Charter Operator – Requires all of the Gold Plus rated standards plus on-site audit with zero findings, plus functioning SMS and Emergency Response Plan.
Black Out Days – Some programs do not guarantee service on specific dates. These are typically referred to as Black Out Dates. The provider won’t provide guaranteed availability on these dates.
Broker – Many jet card providers are brokers. Charter brokers don’t own or operate the aircraft you will fly in. Instead, they source aircraft from charter operators. These programs typically sell by cabin category, although some offer specific aircraft types. However, many operators also broker when their own fleets don’t meet the needs of jet card customers.
CPI Escalator – Hourly rates of some jet card programs are subject to increases based on the Consumer Price Index. This means rates are subject to increase based on CPI at a specific point in time. In some cases, your rate will be increased to the higher of the CPI or an alternate number, meaning your rate will increase regardless of the CPI at that point.
Destination Surcharge – Some jet cards have surcharges for travel outside the Continental U.S. These typically apply when flying more than 220 miles off the U.S. border. Surcharge to the Caribbean, Mexico, and Canada generally range between 10% to 25%. Some providers also for surcharges for high-density airports. This is more prevalent in Europe.
Expiration of Hours/Deposits –Many programs expire your hours or deposits after specific periods, typically 12 to 24 months. However, some jet cards never expire your funds. If you aren’t sure how much you will be flying, make sure to research the expiration policy of the jet cards you are considering.
FBO – Fixed Based Operators are private jet terminals and they also provide fueling and services for the plane.
FBO Choice – Some programs allow you to choose a specific FBO. In these cases, there can be extra charges, typically around $500.
Federal Excise Tax (FET) – Some programs include FET when marketing hourly rates. For other programs, the rate being promoted is without FET. If you are flying within the Continental U.S. or within 220 miles of the northern and southern borders and to, from, or between Hawaii and Alaska, the government assesses the 7.5% tax on top of your hourly rate, including fuel surcharges. As part of the CARES Act, the tax was suspended through Dec. 31, 2020.
Fixed One-Way Rates – Fixed One-Way Rates mean that you won’t have to pay for ferry fees to reposition your aircraft either before or after your flights within your Primary Service Area. By choosing a program with fixed one-way rates, you can more accurately budget how much your private flying will cost in advance.
Flight Attendant Inclusion – Some programs provide flight attendants on specific aircraft types – typically super-midsize and large-cabin – while other programs offer flight attendants as an option for an additional fee.
Flight Cancellation Deadline – Cancellation policies for jet cards refer to the lead-time in which you can cancel your flight without penalty. Lead times can vary based on peak and non-peak periods as well as for domestic versus international flights. Cancellation windows can be as short as four hours. However, some programs make peak days bookings non-refundable.
Fractional Fleet – Some jet card providers use aircraft from their fractional ownership and lease programs to sell jet cards. These programs are more likely to enable you to choose a specific aircraft type instead of broker programs, which are more typically sell by category.
Fuel Surcharge – During periods of fuel price increases, some programs reserve the right to impose fuel surcharges. Others have fuel surcharges as part of their normal pricing. Fuel surcharges are typically updated monthly or quarterly.
Guaranteed Availability – Guaranteed availability refers to the contracted lead time before your departure; your provider will arrange an aircraft for your flight. Providers that also give you a fixed rate typically require six to 96 hours lead time. Lead time is longer during Peak Day periods. Guaranteed availability and fixed one-way rates are considered two key benefits of a Jet Card vs. On-Demand Charter.
Guaranteed Upgrade – Guaranteed upgrades enable you to reserve a larger aircraft than the type you bought. This is useful if you are traveling with a larger group or need a longer ranger jet. Some programs such as NetJets only guarantee downgrades and make upgrades in aircraft size as available. When you upgrade, you will need to pay the rate for the larger aircraft. In some cases, there is an interchange fee, a surcharge for doing so.
Guaranteed Downgrade – Guaranteed downgrades enable you to trade down from your contracted jet type or size to a smaller jet. This can save money if you are traveling alone on a shorter flight and want a smaller plane to save money on your hourly rate.
Hourly Rate – Hourly rate is the rate per hour your program charges per your contract. Flights are typically billed in six-minute increments or to the nearest 1/10th of an hour.
Included Catering – Most programs include basic catering. That might include non-alcoholic beverages and packaged snacks. Some programs include more substantial catering such as sandwiches, fruit plates, hot meals, gourmet preparation, alcoholic beverages, or credits. All programs allow you to order for an additional charge catering to meet your needs.
Interchange Fees – Interchange fees are surcharges if you upgrade or downgrade the size of your aircraft or go between two service areas in a program, for example, North America and Europe.
IS-BAO – The International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO) was introduced by the International Business Aviation Council, LTD (IBAC), in 2003. The industry developed IS-BAO for the benefit of the industry. It is a code of best practices designed to help flight departments worldwide achieve a high level of safety and professionalism. There are three levels or stages.
IS-BAO Stage 1 – Stage 1 of IS-BAO indicates that an appropriate Safety Management System (SMS) has been established.
IS-BAO Stage 2 – Stage 2 of IS-BAO takes years later and ensures that safety risks are being effectively managed.
IS-BAO Stage 3 – The IS-BAO Stage 3 Certification is the highest level of achievement and validates BJA’s commitment to developing and maintaining an effective Safety Management System (SMS).
Lavatory Type – Not all aircraft have fully enclosed lavatories or lavatories you can stand up in. For longer flights or personal preference, you should ask for pictures of the lavatories on the aircraft types that will be part of your program. Not all light and very light jets have full lavatories.
Liability and Risk Coverage (Insurance) – Programs provide varying amounts of liability and risk coverage.
Managed Fleet Operator – Some jet card providers use aircraft they manage for individual owners to sell jet cards. Owners want charter revenue to offset their operating costs. They allow their management company to charter their aircraft when they don’t need it. Like a broker-based jet card program, Managed Fleet jet cards typically sell by size category. That’s because you have a variety of aircraft types in each category, meaning you are likely to get a different jet type per trip.
Minimum Seating Guarantee – As you select a vendor and program, you should think about the number of people, including children, you will be traveling with. You will want to make sure your missions can be accommodated by the type of planes used in your buying program. That said, it’s not unusual for jet card users to be members with two programs based on divergent needs. Within a category, providers might offer guarantees ranging from six to eight seats. Don’t assume how many seats are provider. Compare seat guarantees from the providers you are considering.
Minimum Flight Time Charged – Programs have widely varying minimum daily and segment flight time charges. A 40-minute flight might be charged as one hour by one provider, two hours by another, and 40 minutes by a third. If you are taking a lot of short flights, you will want to pay attention to this. Minimums are typically one to two hours and can depend on the size of the plane. If you multiple same-day short hops, a program with only a daily minimum may be advantageous.
Multiple Same Time Aircraft Access – This allows you to use two or more planes at your contracted terms from a single program simultaneously.
Owned/Leased Fleet Operator– Some jet card providers own the aircraft they use to sell time for their jet cards. These programs are more likely to enable you to choose a specific aircraft type instead of broker programs, which typically sell by category.
Pilot Experience – Jet card companies have varying minimum requirements for pilot experience, sometimes above government requirements. They cover both Captain and First Officer and include total hours of flight time and time in the type of aircraft they will be flying you.
Peak Days – Peak days are high-demand days, typically around holidays and major sporting events such as the Super Bowl or The Masters. While 15 to 30 peak days are the norm, some providers have more than 50 peak days. In addition to longer lead times for bookings and cancelations, which in some cases aren’t permitted, providers have the right to move your departure time by +/- 3 hours for operational reasons. This can put a damper on a getaway weekend. There are also surcharges (see below).
Peak Day Surcharges – Most programs have surcharges for peak travel days. The number of peak days varies by the program, as do the surcharge amounts. If you are buying a jet card in anticipation of flying during busy holiday periods and aren’t flexible to move your dates, you should study any peak travel surcharges or blackout dates. Peak day surcharges range up to 40%.
Pet Policy – Most programs allow you to take certain types of pets. Some programs have mandatory or discretionary cleaning fees. If you are using a broker or managed fleet program, it pays to triple check their policy since they don’t have the final say on pet policies – that’s up to the actual owners or operators of those aircraft.
Program Hours Denominations – Jet card programs are generally denominated in hours, for example, 10, 15, 25, 50, or 100 hours. The more hours you buy, typically, the lower your hourly rate and additional benefits. Some providers use dollar denominations (see below).
Program Dollar Denominations – Some deposit jet card programs are denominated in dollars, for example, $25,000, $50,000, $100,000, $250,000 or $500,000.
Refund Policy – Some programs will refund unused funds, while others are non-refundable. Some allow you to roll over unused funds or hours to a new contract. If you are unsure you will use all your hours or funds, you will want to pay attention to the Refund Policy and rollover options.
Refill Policy – Refill policy refers to enabling you to add money or hours to an existing program you purchased at the original terms.
Reservation Lead Time – Non-peak day lead times to book your jet card flights range from four hours to five days. Lead times are longer during peak periods or for international flights. Lead time for programs that have fixed-rate pricing tends to be longer than those that offer dynamic pricing. Fixed-rate providers will often still arrange flights inside the booking deadline. However, they will charge you market rates at the time you book. Booking lead times are also referred to as call-outs.
Roundtrip Discount – Roundtrip flying is more efficient for the operator, so jet cards typically offer discounted roundtrip rates. Published discounts range up to 40%.
Roundtrip Discount Qualification – What qualifies for a roundtrip flight discount in private aviation varies. The efficiency for the operator is when they can use the same aircraft and flight crew for the entire trip. The contracted definition requires at least two billable flight hours per day, starting and returning to the same airport. All your day’s flights need to be completed within FAA-mandated crew duty time limits (14 hours including preflight duties). For multi-day trips, there has to be mandatory overnight rest of at least eight hours. A trip from A to B to C to D and back to A with a total of eight flight hours completed in four days (8 divided by 4 = 2) would qualify. In addition to the discount, you may be billed for crew overnights and hangar or airport charges.
Service Area (Primary Service Area) – Some programs enable you to travel globally at your contract rate. In contrast, others will only fly you in a limited area.SomeU.S. programs include parts of the Caribbean, Mexico, or possibly Hawaii. Some service areas aren’t country-specific but refer to a mileage limit outside of the Continental U.S. border. Ensure the places you will be flying are within the primary (or fixed rate) service area of your program. Otherwise, you will likely pay expensive ferry fees.
Service Recovery – Outside of weather, different programs have different commitments for mechanical delays, pilots running out of flight hours, etc. This is another benefit compared to on-demand charter.
Taxi Time Billing – You will typically be charged for taxi time, generally 12 minutes per segment. This means if your hourly rate is $8,00, your account will be debited $1,600 per segment for taxi time. Not all programs charge for taxi time.
Unaccompanied Minor Travel Policy – Age limits for sending an unaccompanied minor privately vary by provider. Not all providers permit this. You will need to pay additional fees for a flight attendant to accompany your child in some cases.
Wyvern Wingman – Wyvern Wingman is a third-party rating system of private aircraft operators measuring adherence to ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) standards for safety management systems, emergency response plans, and internal evaluations. Its Wingman level rating Includes a two-day, on-site audit recurring every 24 months. There is also a Registered level.