By purchasing a jet card you are buying a block of time on a private aircraft. You can buy cards from many charter brokers and charter operators and all the big fractional and closed fleet operators will sell access time in chunks. A jet card typically locks in a price per hour that won't change during the use of those hours. These locked in hourly rates are normally good for either a year or two years.
There are two broad structures for jet cards:
- Plane specific – where you prepay for a set number of hours on a specific aircraft type. These are typically 25 hour cards, but we’ve also seen cards for as few as 5 hours and for up to 50 hours.
- Debit card – where you deposit an initial sum, often starting at $100,000, and then the operator draws from this sum as you use different aircraft at fixed hourly rates. The initial deposit could be lower, for instance we’ve seen them at $50,000. Or could be higher, which may get you a lower hourly rate on each aircraft type.
All flights are conducted under FAA Part 135 charter regulations, and thus you will have to pay the 7.5 % per-leg federal excise tax, although this tax is currently waived through 31st December 2020 under the CARES Act.
One of the great advantages for card holders is that you are usually not billed directly for deadhead, or unoccupied hours. In other words the rate for one way trips are usually built into the hourly rate for the card. This makes the price per hour for these one way trips fairly competitive, but means that return round trips can be more expensive (than other methods such as charter), although some jet card providers do offer discounts for round trips.
Another big advantage is the consistency of service. With the large fractional operators you'll be flying on their fleet of consistently equipped and maintained aircraft. With the charter brokers you'll have one point of call to arrange your travel needs.
Read the latest jet card news below and download the full guide to the right.
Jet card providers NetJets and Flexjet have both expressed interest in the Aerion AS2 supersonic business jet. Flexjet placed an order for 20 of the aircraft back in 2015 and NetJets recently obtained purchase rights for 20 planes.
Sentient Jet, the inventor of jet cards, achieved 60% year over year growth and ended 2020 with $450 million in jet card sales. As with most other private aviation companies, Sentient saw a large influx of new customers who want to travel but are keen to avoid commercial aviation during the pandemic. In 2020 Sentient Jet saw 2/3 of its jet card purchases come from new clients compared to only 1/3 pre-COVID.
During 2020, the global business aviation company VistaJet saw an increase of 29% in new subscription memberships year-on-year. This is VistaJet’s equivalent of a jet card product offering fixed hourly rates.
The 2021 Super Bowl sees two superstars face each other who are both signed to endorse private aviation companies. Patrick Mahomes, quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs is partnered with Airshare and Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has teamed with Wheels Up.
Private aviation firm Wheels Up is going public via a merger with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), Aspirational Consumer Lifestyle Corp. The transaction gives Wheels Up an enterprise value of $2.1 billion. Once the transaction is completed, the company will be listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol "UP".
Wheels Up has just acquired Mountain Aviation, which has the largest and growing Part 135-operated Citation X fleet in the United States, with bases in Denver, Teterboro, and Southern California.
Under the CARES Act there is no 7.5% federal excise taxes (FET) on jet cards and jet charter flights purchased before Dec. 31, 2020. This means you can potentially pay for a jet card in 2020 and travel FET free in 2021 and beyond. This article includes some of the leading companies who are offering FET free jet cards for future travel.
Private aviation magazine Business Jet Traveller conducts an annual reader survey that they call “Readers Choice”. In 2020 they had close to 2,000 respondents who gave their ratings on charter and jet card providers and membership clubs, with enough data to rank 11 of the largest providers.