SIMPLIFY YOUR SEARCH HOW TO COMPARE JET CARDS

When it comes to choosing a jet card, there is no “one size fits all” perfect solution for everybody.  You cannot simply make a quick Google search on the “best jet card program”. 

It takes a little more care and consideration as your needs are specific to you.  Luckily, your jet card search need not be littered with stress and uncertainty. 

You will receive the best answers when you ask the right questions.  So we have compiled the five big questions to ask in order to quickly gain clarity and simplify your search.

Perhaps the first decision you will need to make in choosing a jet card program is whether an Aircraft-Specific Card or Deposit Amount-Specific Card is best suited for your needs.  With an aircraft-specific card, you will purchase a determined number of prepaid hours on a certain size or type of aircraft.  A deposit amount-specific card will allow you to lock in hourly rates on a variety of aircraft with your prepaid deposit.

So you will need to ask yourself if it is important for you to be able to choose from a selection of aircraft types and sizes, or will different models of one size be suitable for your needs?  If you decide to purchase an aircraft-specific card, see if you will be able to upgrade or downgrade should the need arise.  Most providers will allow changes at a fixed hourly conversion rate, sometimes called an “interchange rate”.

Moving on from card type, we look deeper into the potential choices presented within the margins of the card type you have chosen.   Can you only specify that you want a mid-size jet, or will you be able to determine the make and model for your flight?  Your range of options has a lot to do with whether the provider is an operator in ownership and maintenance of their own aircraft, known as a “closed fleet”, or if the provider works with a variety of charter operators, known as an “open fleet”.

It goes without saying that safety is a top priority for any traveler, and it should be so for the provider as well.  If a provider does not emphasize safety and take the utmost care in safety management, is their service really worth your time?

When evaluating a provider, try to form an understanding of what safety measures are taken, what structures are in place for safety management, and the overall safety record of the operator. Assure that you will be able to gain access to the safety record of the pilot for each flight, including any record of incidents and accidents, as well as information on the pilot’s level and frequency of training, and type rating.  Most brokers and operators will inform you on their procedures for accessing this information for each flight.  Inquire also about whether you will have one or two pilots for each flight, and if both pilots are rated in the aircraft they will be flying.  It is also a good idea to ask about insurance coverage, and what the insurance is per person, incident, and aircraft type.

Ask the provider about their rating, or contact the rating company directly for a copy of the provider’s report.  Most providers will refer to third-party rating companies, such as ARGUS and Wyvern, which rate levels of safety, maintenance, crew training, and more.

It is important to also understand the level of Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) certification that the provider holds. Be sure that your operator (or the charter operators your broker works with) holds and maintains FAR Part 135 certification, the gold standard for ensuring safe operations.  Regulations for Part 135 govern items such as aircraft maintenance scheduling, runway length requirements, pilot rest days, and fuel reserves planning, in order to ensure safety.

The third big question pertains to the availability of your jet card.  You wouldn’t purchase a brand new car that you can only drive on Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays.  So why choose a jet card whose terms restrict or altogether block off use on certain days (usually important ones).  Jet card programs come in an array of availability, from having many blackout days to having every single day available for flights, with options in between.  With some programs, your flight may incur a peak surcharge on the busiest days of the year, or response times may be drawn out.

Response time is the time it takes for a jet to be made ready for you.  Inquire with potential jet card programs what the usual minimum guaranteed time is, as well as the response time for peak days.  Most providers have a notice period of 10-12 hours, while on peak days you can be looking at a response time of up to 5-7 days. 

Another point to consider here is the minimum flight time.  Many card programs include terms of minimum flight time, the standard being that you will be charged a one hour minimum per trip, and often 2 hours for larger aircraft.  If your usual flight is a short hop of only 30 or 60 minutes, this will be an important criterion for you.

Also, consider the taxi time which is added to your overall flight time.  Generally, it will take 6 minutes to take off and 6 minutes to land.  Add this time to your 30-minute flight, and it may be worth your while to pay the difference of 15 minutes in exchange for the hourly rate you have locked in with your initial deposit.

There are a number of things that can happen when a jet card has reached its term.  This factor is of great importance when selecting a jet card program, so it is key to understand the different ways this can go.  Some jet card programs have no term and the card will last until all hours are used.  Or, a card may expire after a year, 18 months, or longer.

If you are looking at a card company whose cards do expire, what happens once a card has reached its term?  With a lot of cards, you will be able to roll over the unused hours to a new card or continue to have the rest of your deposit on file with the company with the hourly rates reset.  Some cards will issue a refund for unused hours at the end of the card term, and some will even issue a refund at any point in the life of the card. This can be especially beneficial if you are trying out a provider for the first time, as you are taking less of a gamble when you know that you can withdraw funds at will. Watch out for cards that simply expire with no refund or rollover at the end of the term. If you are looking at a card company whose cards don’t expire, it is likely that your guaranteed hourly rate eventually will.  Find out if and when the hourly rate you locked in when you made your deposit will expire, and what the process is for resetting this rate.  Can you lock in a new rate, or is each consecutive flight subject to changing rates?

When a provider gives you a quote for an hourly rate, you need to be sure that the rate is all inclusive with all fees, taxes, fuel surcharges, etc. included in the given price.  Otherwise, all of the additional fees will be tacked on to each flight, and you may be getting a lot less than what you thought you were purchasing when you invested in your card.

For deposit amount based cards, the hourly rate will generally drop as your deposit amount, or purchase of more hours, increases.  With aircraft specific cards, pricing increases with the size of aircraft. 

The additional fees that you are likely to incur, whether included in your quote or added on when you fly, are as follows:  

The cost of fuel is a major contributor to the overall price of your trip.  In some jet card programs, a cardholder is responsible for the full price of fuel.  In other cases, the cardholder is responsible only for the fuel surcharge.  A fuel surcharge, or fuel cost adjustment, is when a card has a specific amount built in to cover partial fuel costs, and the difference between the allowance and actual cost of fuel is charged per flight.

The other big contributor is Federal Excise Tax or FET.  Other charges to be aware of are repositioning fees, flights outside of the service area, catering, taxi time, and one-way premiums. For a more comprehensive breakdown of these additional fees, please read this article.

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