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Jet Cards
There are many ways to enjoy the time-saving- value enhancing benefits of Business Aviation. Gil Wolin explores jet cards as one such point of access- enabling you to contract to fly and prepay for 25 to 50 occupied hours annually with no capital investment or long-term commitment.

Jet cards are a variation on block charter (discussed in the previous month’s Business Aviation and the Boardroom section)- but with one-way trips- pricing is not usually tied to any specific geographic location. As such- they can be flexible and cost-effective for executives whose trips have various origin points- or whose intermediate stops require extended time on the ground.


All of the major fractional operators- as well as many national and regional charter operators and non-operating charter brokers offer a jet card option for clients with that level of annual charter activity. In fact- the charter broker eBizjets (today Sentient Flight Services) first ushered in the modern jet card era in 1997- before Marquis Jet did the same for fractional operators in 1999.

Not tied to any one fleet or aircraft make or model- non-operating jet charter brokers like Sentient offer you guaranteed access to the worldwide fleet of charter aircraft- with a uniform guaranteed one-way rate between any two city pairs.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
You pre-pay for annual hours based on the size aircraft you anticipate using most- drawing down on that deposit as you fly. While the jet card deposit is supposed to be a “use it or lose it” proposition- most jet card companies will allow you either to extend your contract term- or to add the un-flown hours to your renewal commitment for the next contract year (be sure to check before placing your deposit).

Jet card charter brokers provide 24/7 jet card flight scheduling services from a central dispatch operations center. They maintain a complete file on your contract and flight preferences – including those who are authorized to book trips on your account. Scheduling a trip is very similar to booking charter- with the primary difference being that you book a category of aircraft- rather than a specific make and model. For example- “mid-size” can mean any of several Hawker- Citation- or Learjet models.

To meet your charter flight requirements- the jet card charter broker will vet potential charter providers- auditing them for operational safety and reliability as well as for financial stability. The broker’s profitability depends in large measure on their ability to purchase “empty legs” (repositioning legs already paid for by another charter client) at a discount and reselling them to its own jet card clients at contract rates.

FRACTIONAL JET CARD OPTIONS
You have a similar option with a jet card offered by fractional operators like NetJets- CitationAir- Flight Options- and Flexjet affiliate Jet Solutions. Here you are gaining access to an entire fractional fleet with no capital commitment and no monthly management fee- in exchange for which you pay a higher occupied per-hour charge.

The primary differences with the fractional jet card are that you are committing to fly aboard a specific make/model aircraft in the provider’s fractional fleet- with the option to trade up or down on specific flights (with an appropriate adjustment to the hourly rate) – and that those aircraft will be newer- on average- than those in the charter broker program.

Essentially- you gain the operational advantages of flying aboard fractional aircraft- with their standardized fleet and pilot corps- with no capital outlay.

THE COST?
Entry level jet cards of 25 hours of light jet flight time with either type provider carry a base cost of $120-000 to $140-000. You also will incur taxes such as Federal Excise Tax- per passenger taxes- as well as passenger facility charges- fuel surcharges- and other related fees.

Both charter broker and fractional jet card programs carry some restrictions on advance booking and fleet access- or may require “up charges” on flights on or proximate to holidays and other days with known heavy demand.

The jet card is an excellent compromise between charter and fractional ownership. While this introduction answers many of the key cost and operational questions- there are a myriad of others relative to each specific program- and in the case of the charter broker programs- the criteria by which they select their charter vendors. For those reasons you may find it is best to use a professional aviation consultant to help answer those questions – and to determine- ultimately- which program is best for you.

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