Several companies offer "open fleet" or jet charter cards. These companies may either have their own aircraft fleets that they manage and/or may charter aircraft on the open market to meet the flying needs of their members. An "open fleet" jet card provider usually does not own any aircraft. They use aircraft from other charter operators, and/or from aircraft in a fleet that they may manage but do not own. Hence the "open fleet", it's potentially open to any available aircraft.
Features of Jet Charter Cards
Jet charter cards can be structured in a couple of different ways. They may be plane specific, in which you buy a certain number of hours in a certain size of aircraft eg 25 hours in a light jet. With 25 hours being the standard size, but they can be as low as 5 hours or as high as 50 hours.
Or, they may be deposit based, in which you simply put down a deposit, typically starting at $50,000 or $100,000. When a member requests an aircraft the service provider then supplies the required plane from their own fleet or charters one on the open charter market. Members pay agreed flat hourly rates for flight time which are deducted from their deposit. These locked in hourly rates vary according to aircraft size and potentially whether a trip is one way or round trip. The deposits are also usually fully refundable.
Jet Charter Card Providers and Pricing
With a large number of operators providing charter cards here are some of the most popular ones. Air Partner provides a deposit based card. Simply choose your cabin size and flight hours, and fixed hourly rates will be debited from your account balance. Sentient Jet offers cards in four aircraft sizes, all of which lock in rates, and pricing starts at $187,000. Delta Private Jets, Velocity JetCard and Magellan Jets are three other leading providers. Higher deposits provide additional benefits such as lower fixed hourly rates and lower minimum flight hours per day.
Advantages and Disadvantages
If you charter aircraft several times a year, a charter card can save you the hassle of finding a plane and negotiating rates each time you want to fly. The card provider will get to know your travel preferences, your likes and dislikes, and can find you a plane to match each of your travel needs. Jet card providers normally only charge for the time you are in the plane, so there are no charges for repositioning flights or dead legs, which you may face on individual charters.
One of the primary advantages of the open fleet or charter card is the cost factor. Compared to fractional jet cards and fractional aircraft ownership, charters are more cost effective, especially for people who require less than 50 hours of flight time per year. Other benefits include not having to compete with fractional owners for the use of the fractional fleet. As a result, most charter card providers offer 365 day guaranteed availability, typically on 12-24 hours notice, although it's longer for peak travel days. It's usually very easy to upgrade or downgrade and book different sized aircraft and many charter card providers offer a full service concierge to arrange all your travel needs. Charter cards also offer all the standard advantages of flying privately.
Disadvantages include the average age of charter aircraft, which are usually older than those in fractional and closed fleets. Another is the variable service standards and security features prevalent in the charter fleet. These disadvantages arise from some charter card providers bargaining for low charter rates from charter plane operators.
Security and Safety
Charter companies and the US charter fleet adhere to Part 135 of FAA regulations. Planes are operated under industry specific security and safety standards. There is an average of two pilots per plane, and extensive security checks for pilots and ground staff prior to hiring. Many of the top charter card companies have additional safety and security standards over and above the FAA's. Most large reputable operators are also audited by one of the large standards companies such as Wyvern or ARGUS or ISBAO, and display the fact that they have met these independent third party standards.
Money that you put down for your card usually goes into an escrow account. Be sure to ask about the details on this and how money can be drawn down from this account as you travel.
Who Should Use One
Jet charter cards primarily benefit people who do not fly a fixed number of hours every year. They provide a lot of flexibility and depending on the service provider offer several unique benefits which have contributed to their popularity. These include no long term contracts and no monthly management fees. They allow individuals or businesses to maximize their productivity and improve their image, without tying up large capital amounts in executive aircraft.
If you're considering a charter card, you should also look through fractional jet cards and aircraft charter. And once you're ready to move forward, here's a list of questions to ask your jet card provider before handing over your deposit.