A fractional jet card is an alternate, albeit popular method of experiencing the benefits of private aviation. Jet cards give members access to 20 to 50 hours of flying time. Their popularity has opened up private flying to a whole new type of traveler. Someone who recognizes the inherent advantages of flying on the fractional fleets but who doesn't want to tie up the capital to become a fractional owner.
How a Fractional Jet Card Works
A fractional jet card is typically structured as a sublease of a fractional jet share. They are sold as prepaid hours of occupied flight time, with all providers selling 25 hour options, but we've seen everything from 5 hours to 50 hours. There are also various options on the type of aircraft that are available. Jet card members can book aircraft 24x7 and usually with 10 to 12 hours notice, but there are often restrictions on the days on which you can fly, and peak days always require more notice. So for instance you might choose a 325 or 355 day option, with restrictions for the remaining (popular travel) days of the year. As you fly, your flight hours are debited from the prepaid amount at an agreed rate for the type of plane you're flying in.
Leading Fractional Jet Cards
The pioneer in the arena of fractional jet cards was Marquis Jet Card which partnered with Netjets in 2001 to provide access to the large Netjets fractional fleet. Other companies soon followed suit with competing offers. These include the Bombardier Flexjet Card which has an added feature of converting unused hours into a fractional jet share purchase. Flight Options JetPass provides access to four different aircraft types, from light to heavy jets.
Prices & Services
An entry level prepaid fractional jet card providing 25 hours of flight time on a light jet will cost between US $120,000 to $135,000. Added to this base price are taxes and specific fees such as Federal Excise Tax, per passenger taxes and fees, and passenger facility charges, plus fuel surcharges. All of the major companies provide a full service including full travel booking services, limousine services, standard in flight catering and entertainment. Some companies include a base fuel amount in the quote and for others the fuel is added, so always ask what's included in the price.
Pros and Cons of Fractional Jet Cards
Some of the positive points of jet cards include the low capital outlay compared to full or fractional ownership. The ability to select from a variety of aircraft types, often specifying the actual aircraft model and upgrade or downgrade options are another plus point. Overall the fractional fleets have much newer aircraft compared to charter planes, so with a fractional jet card you can be comfortable knowing you'll be flying on the most up to date planes. The fractional fleets also offer consistent service and safety standards, whereas these can vary across charter providers.
Disadvantages include the relatively high cost per flight hour compared to other options. In addition, with the increasing popularity of jet cards the card members started to overload fleets, so the fractional companies have imposed usage restrictions. The main feature of these restrictions is to limit the number of days you can fly at your agreed base rate. If you want to fly on popular days you may then be charged a premium. As with all private air travel, another disadvantage of particular importance to the leisure traveler is the inability of a smaller aircraft to accommodate bulky luggage, such as several golf bags in addition to personal luggage.
Who Do Jet Cards Work For
Individuals and businesses who require less than 50 flight hours or who make a number of short trips per year gain the most from fractional jet cards. On average, these cards represent a costly option and they are not recommended above the 50 hour barrier. If you like to know exactly what you're getting in terms of plane, overall service level and crew training then a fractional card could be the way to go. Increasingly, leisure travelers are discovering the benefits of using fractional jet cards. Marquis Jet reports that almost 80 percent of their clients are leisure travelers. If you'd like to compare the jet card providers, download our free Guide to Private Aviation, click here, (we do ask you to register) which compares costs and gives you questions to ask each provider so that you can select the right one.
For fractional owners the jet cards can also be a good way to top up their usage, or to have the option of a different plane type.
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