Aside from owning your own plane there are many ways to fly private. Depending on your flight time needs and budget, there are a number of ways to charter a plane:
The biggest name in Fractional ownership is NetJets. This model functions like a vacation club, with airplanes instead of real estate.
- The typical minimum share is 1/16th of the total hours the plane can fly per year. If a plane’s max annual flight hours is 800, a 1/16th share would be 50hrs.
- Fractional ownership is incredibly expensive and can lock in buyers for several years with a large upfront cost, hourly flight time charges and monthly management fees.
- At the end of the program, owners can sell their interest back to the fractional provider. Buybacks vary based on the ‘market value’ of the plane, which is determined by the fractional provider.
- Fractional ownership is not shared use of an individual aircraft, but rather a fleet of identical aircraft. Members are not often on the same planes for each trip.
Jet Card Programs
Jet Card providers sell blocks of retail flight hours, kind of like a prepaid phone card, but much more expensive:
- Buyers purchase hours on a specific type or class of aircraft. The smallest packages begin at 25-50 hours and cost between $100-150k in average upfront cost.
- Most jet card programs do not refund unused hours; if you pay $150k and only use $100k, you may lose the remainder of your investment.
- Jet card hourly rates can be in excess of 4x what the owner actually pays to operate the aircraft per hour.
- Costs vary by aircraft and level of commitment, with the largest/newest jet card aircraft costing between $10,000-14,000k per hour, before taxes and fees.
- On-demand providers offer large/new aircraft identical to those used by jet cards at around $6-9k per hour, with all fees included.
On-Demand Charter (Broker Services)
On-Demand jet charter requires the lowest level of capital commitment and provides the highest level of flexibility.
- On-demand providers do not own or operate aircraft – they function as a broker in the jet charter process.
- Brokers leverage relationships with aircraft owner/operators to provide aircraft for clients on a per-trip basis.
- Most operate on a commission basis, though some brokers offer jet cards and other packages.
- While many charter brokerages offer jet cards, they still do not own or operate the planes that jet card flyers use.
- Also note that many jet card providers are brokers – they offer fixed rates but do not own the planes they provide.
Local Fixed-Fleet Operators
In almost every city, there is a local private jet charter provider with FAA certification to operate ‘Air Taxi’ services for retail clients.
- These companies range in size, operating as few as 1 plane out of their home base or as many 25+ in multiple cities.
- Aircraft are incredibly expensive to own, maintain and staff, so the average regional provider operates between 5-10 aircraft.
- Clients can contact fixed-fleet operators for flights out of their home base. This process can be difficult, as many of these companies do not market their services widely, keeping busy with internal clients and owner flights.
- If you book directly through a local provider, you must also trust the company has a strong reputation, safety record, honest pricing standards, etc.
Membership and Jet Sharing Apps
Many companies have attempted to create an ‘Uber for Private Jets’, and failed. One very public example is the closing of BlackJet, founded by early Uber investors.
- App-based membership and flight sharing platforms are jet brokers at the core – they do not own or operate aircraft.
- Platforms vary, but most charge initiation fees to join. Members are later offered ‘discounted’ rates on highly trafficked routes.
- How is this different from a traditional on-demand model? Initiation fees. Clients fly on brokered planes, only they paid a membership fee to join the platform, which is later used to offer them discounts.
- If you book through an app, make sure to understand the role of the app!
- Will they help you if there is a mechanical issue? How long will that help take? What will they do to get you another plane?
Finding the best jet charter service requires research and a full understanding of the various types of private jet travel.
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