When is a jet card not a jet card? When it’s a turboprop or piston aircraft – which for shorter flights might be the perfect solution
The number of jet card programs and providers has more than doubled in the past 10 years in large part because card memberships are the easy way to charter an aircraft – as close to that tap and go Uber analogy many like to use as you can get. What’s more, you can buy jet cards in chunks ranging from five hours up to 100 hours, so you don’t have the three to five-year commitment of buying a fractional aircraft share. Of course, the trick is finding the right program for your needs, and while many programs offer all sizes and shapes of jets, not all programs off turboprop or piston solutions.
If you aren’t sure you will need 25 hours over the next two years these programs, which start at five hours and $15,000, are an alternative to on-demand private jet charter
Jet cards are the hot spot of private aviation bridging the gap between on-demand charter and fractional or full aircraft ownership. Jet cards make flying easy with one call or some taps on your smartphone to arrange your flight. Many programs have guaranteed availability with one-way fixed rates so you know what you will be paying ahead of the time. You also don’t have to pay for positioning flights. Lead time to make a reservation can be as little as eight hours and unlike charter, you may be able to cancel within hours of your flight with no penalty.
The two biggest players in fractional jet ownership have different approaches to the jet card segment
The vast majority of jet cards are marketed by charter brokers, however, two of the most prominent names in the jet card space – NetJets and Flexjet – are in fact fractional aircraft operators with their principal business selling fractional shares and leases in whole aircraft. Fractional ownership entails a commitment of three to 10 years whereas, with jet cards, we have seen programs with commitments starting as few as 10 hours and $25,000.
Wheels Up features its own fleet of Citation X, Citation Excel/XLS and King Air 350i
Of the more than 20 new jet card programs launched since the Great Recession, Wheels Up has been one of the most notable providers. Founded by Kenny Dichter, who in 2001 started Marquis Jet Partners before selling it to NetJets, Wheels Up can be credited with popularizing the use of turboprops and a membership model.