Presented by Private Jet Card Comparisons - While names like NetJets and Wheels Up are familiar, there are thousands of private jet charter brokers, nearly 2,000 operators, and more than 60 companies that sell jet cards and memberships. They range from subsidiaries of Fortune 100 companies to one-person shops. It’s often hard to tell what’s behind slick websites. And like airlines, private jet companies go bust. Last year’s bankruptcy filing by JetSuite cost its SuiteKey members $50 million in unused deposits.
At the same time, private travel is proving popular with newcomers. Subscribers of Private Jet Card Comparisons who are new to private aviation say they plan to continue flying privately in overwhelming numbers after the pandemic ends. Of those who had started flying privately because of COVID, 96% say they will do so ongoing, with 41% saying they will be regulars.
Doug Gollan, founder and editor of the buyer’s guide to private aviation solutions is often called “The Points Guy of private jets” because of his expertise in helping subscribers figure out what he calls a “devil is in the details” purchase that typically ranges into six figures. Contracts can range up to 30 pages!
If you are looking into private aviation options, he recommends a measured approach. “The biggest source of new customers for private aviation companies is recommendations from friends of current customers. My biggest source of new subscribers is those folks who joined their friend’s program, and found out after the fact it wasn’t a good fit for their needs.”
duPont Registry recently asked Gollan for his top tips.
Tip #1 he says is to have a clearly defined idea of where you are likely to fly in the next six to 12 months and how many people will be flying with you. Program rules make some better for short flights while others are better for cross-country trips. Some are good for domestic flights, but aren’t cost effective if you are flying internationally, even on short-hops like The Bahamas.
Knowing the number of passengers is as important, he says. Many jet cards sell by cabin size category, and while they let you upgrade to a larger category, that’s more expensive. On light jets, as an example, the range of guaranteed seats can range between 5 and 8 between providers. In other words, with some programs, if you have seven passengers you would need to pay to fly in a midsize-jet while others can accommodate you on a light jet.
Gollan’s Tip #2 is to review the peak day calendars and policies of the programs you are considering. Peak days are high-demand periods – think holidays or big events such as the Super Bowl. On these days, which providers publish for the upcoming year, they generally have the right to move your preferred departure time by plus or minus three hours. If you are paying the money to fly privately so you can get an extra afternoon of skiing or at the beach, being told the day before you need to be wheels up at 2 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. can be upsetting.
The number of high-demand days ranges by provider with 20 to 30 being typical, although some programs have over 50. Surcharges can range as high as 40%, and your ability to upgrade or downgrade size of aircraft on those dates can also be restricted. Gollan says if you can’t avoid peak days, it sometimes makes sense to look at another program. “It’s really like two programs, so this goes back to the premise that just buying a program without studying the details can end up in disappointment,” he says.
Tip #3 is to look at cancelation policies. “Most people only look at the deadlines for booking, but cancelation terms can be even more important. If you cancel after the deadline, you could lose your full flight amount, so tens of thousands of dollars.”
Cancelation periods can be as short as four hours and up to a week prior to departure. Going back to peak days, Gollan says for some jet cards, peak day bookings are non-refundable. “Everyone thinks their plans won’t change until they do. If you are going to be using your jet card for business, and the client calls you the day before your meeting and says they need to reschedule, the last thing you want is to lose $25,000 in flight credits.
Still, Gollan says the number of jet card providers has tripled in the past decade. “You can buy jet cards in increments of 10 or 25 hours, so it is a short-term commitment.” He notes, “Unlike chartering on a flight by flight basis, most jet cards don’t charge for repositioning fees, and you can choose programs that include WiFi, deicing, and catering. If the operator cancels because of a mechanical or a pilot is sick, they are offer a replacement flight without an extra cost to you, something that is different from when you charter on-demand. Best of all, once you find the right program, you don’t have to shop brokers for quotes each time. Jet cards are much easier.”
Subscribers to Private Jet Card Comparisons get 12-month’s access to its updated comparison guide, which includes over 250 jet card programs measured by more than 65 variables. It's Jet Card Decider 2.0 enables subscribers to request a custom analysis from their smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer in minutes. There is also phone and email support to help with any questions.