For those who frequently fly privately, convenience and efficiency are without exception the priority when choosing the right private jet programme. Jet card programmes are unrivalled in terms of flexibility and give the member access to the benefits and advantages of a private jet on standby.
Investing in a Jet card can allow you to reap the same benefits of having your own jet, without the capital expenditure and depreciation of ownership or fractional schemes. Compared to on-demand private jet charter, Jet cards provide a simpler way to fly with a more stream-lined booking process, as well as access to premium terms that allow more flexibility.
The number of Jet card programmes in the market has risen over the past few years. With more choice, it can be difficult to find the solution that is right for you and your flying profile. Not all Jet cards offer the same benefits and there are a number of often hidden variables that are important to consider before choosing a programme.
A good Jet card is one that is flexible to the needs of the member. Some providers will cap the number of users that can be linked to one account, making it a less attractive prospect when flying with colleagues for business. Others will limit the number of aircraft you can access per day whereas the best will allow unlimited users, giving total flexibility. The immediacy of availability can vary also, with some programmes guaranteeing an aircraft with just 24 hours’ notice and others requiring booking up to 7 days in advance.
The majority of providers base their Jet card hourly rate on the aircraft size. There are six widely accepted categories that increase in both size, range and amenities. It’s worth thinking about your flying needs to ensure you choose the correct category - a good provider will assess your flying profile and advise the category that will best suit your requirements. There may however be times where you require a different sized aircraft – an unexpected long-haul trip for example. Some Jet card programmes will allow you to interchange between aircraft categories freely, but others will charge a penalising rate to use a jet that is outside of your usual category. It’s an important factor to consider if you are likely to fly Transatlantic, travel with a larger group or on some occasions simply wish to save some money by taking a smaller jet than usual.
Do flight hours expire? Many providers will offer hours that you will have to use within a certain period of time. After that time, you will lose any remaining hours you purchased but haven’t flown. By choosing a programme with flight hours that never expire, it puts you in control to choose how often and when you wish to travel without being limited by an expiry date. Are unused funds refundable? More often than not, they aren’t but there are programmes that will return all your remaining funds should your flying circumstances change. This flexibility can be important when weighing up the investment of a programme – with refundable cards you will only pay for the hours you fly.
What is included in the cost of my hours? Many programmes will cover the cost of your time in the air, but may add on additional extras such as landing charges, de-icing fees, fuel or catering costs. It is worth investigating the small print and understanding what is included in your hourly price – there are programmes that offer a fully inclusive hourly rate, meaning that there won’t be any surprise costs. Are there additional monthly management fees to consider? Does the programme offer round trip discounts? It’s worth doing a comparison once all costs are taken into account.
It’s important to ask the question of where are the funds held. Air Partner’s JetCard money is held in completely segregated bank accounts, in trust, ensuring that all client money is safe, not co-mingled with the company’s cash, and managed in line with best practice as you would expect from a PLC listed on the LSE.
Also consider whether the rates are guaranteed to remain static. Jet cards that offer a fixed rate for the lifetime of the purchased hours allow members to budget a number of years in advance, due to fixed price and zero annual escalator guarantees.
The private aviation market has boomed in recent years and consequently seen a rise in a number of new charter businesses. It is important to understand the background of the company you are purchasing from. Consider factors such as their reliability and financial strength for peace of mind that your funds are secure.
What is the company’s safety management system and do they regularly operate comprehensive audits of their own aircraft or the ones they use? Air Partner conducts comprehensive audits of every supplier used, which includes operating standards, crew experience, safety records and finances.
The service offered from different companies can also vary. Key considerations include catering and the aircraft offered. It’s worth investigating whether the provider offers a wide selection of aircraft models to ensure your private jet always best suits the requirements of your flight.
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to state the same preferences every time you want to book a flight. Jet card programmes offer a dedicated Account Manager who understands your preferences and ensures every detail of every flight is in place. It saves having to advise preferred catering and specific requirements each time.
To conclude, there are lots of benefits to investing in a Jet card programme, but it is important to consider the number of variables across the market. By taking the time to investigate and asking the right questions means you can make the right choice for your needs.
The Air Partner JetCard was one of the first private jet membership programmes when it was introduced 14 years ago and is ranked the most flexible programme in Europe and the US by Conklin & de Decker, the independent aviation consultancy.
Article by Steven Warner-Gould, Head of JetCard. Published by Family Office Magazine, Winter 2019