When it comes to jet selection, features, perks, and membership flexibility, two of the largest jet card providers are NetJets and Sentient Jet. These private aviation giants have been around for several decades offering a wide selection of choices. This article puts these two card companies head to head, zeroing in on their Jet Cards, how they differ and what sets them apart.
1. Comparing Legacies
Sentient Jet—Founded in 1999
Sometimes great ideas come out of necessity. Jet cards, the brainchild of Sentient Jet’s founder, were introduced as a response to the growing demand of fractional ownership (offered by NetJets and one other company at the time). The Jet Card simplified private flight by offering consistent hourly pricing and an alternative to owning an aircraft, with no long-term commitment.
Now an integral part of the aviation holding company, Directional Aviation, Sentient Jet has sister companies that offer fractional ownership, charter and aircraft brokerage. Always evolving to offer clients easier access, they developed an app allowing real time bookings and chat sessions with Sentient’s command center. The app also alerts fliers when their aircraft has passed its safety checks and gives them access to the pre-takeoff safety report.
Placing safety first, Sentient Jet has an Independent Safety Advisory Board, composed of former officials from the FAA and NTSB, which leads safety initiatives in conjunction with Sentient’s Chief Safety Officer. Their stringent safety program requires new operators to complete a rigorous certification process before their first flight and every operator is retested annually. In addition, all aircraft, pilots, and flights are continuously certified to higher standards than FAA regulations. Sentient Jet believes this will “ensure that clients will always have access to executive aircraft that meet their rigorous standards for safety and quality.”
Over the years, Sentient has developed many prestigious partnerships with events like the Breeders’ Cup, Kentucky Derby, Ski World Cup, and famous celebrities like Bobby Flay.
NetJets—Founded in 1986
Private aviation pioneer, Richard Santulli, originally came up with the idea to bring fractional ownership into the private aircraft space just prior to NetJets’ official launch as a company. A few years later, Warren Buffet acquired the company as a subsidiary of his Berkshire Hathaway. Under the Berkshire Hathaway umbrella, NetJets took on the philosophy of long-term growth over short-term wins. This approach has allowed the company to remain at the top of the industry for over 50 years.
The company now offers a full range of luxury private travel solutions for elite businesses and individuals. NetJets services include fractional ownership, leasing, and jet card options. The primary card program is the Marquis Jet Card and there’s also more specialized NetJets Elite Card and Cross-Country Jet Card. Since its inception, the company has grown from a small fleet of Learjet 23 aircraft, to multiple types of planes, and approximately 750 aircraft in their worldwide fleet.
NetJets holds an exemplary safety record, and says it runs safety protocols exceeding industry standards. Additionally, partnerships and recommendations come from some of the world’s most notable travelers: Fortune 500 CEOs, world-class athletes, and celebrities alike.
A key difference between these two jet card providers is the aircraft they provide. Sentient doesn’t have its own aircraft but works with only the top 20% of operators in the country. All operators and aircraft must meet the same strict guidelines for service, quality and safety practices. Sentient says it arranges more flights than any other charter procurement business in the country.
NetJets on the other hand has its own pilots and fleet of aircraft, from light jets through large, long range aircraft.
3. Jet Card Convenience & Availability
Sentient Jet Card Options
Sentient Jet has two Jet Card options, SJ25 and SJ25+. The Sentient 25-Hour Jet Card (SJ25) allows flexible access to light aircraft with a little as 10 hours’ notice. On the 21 peak days per calendar year, cardholders must book 72 hours in advance. This card comes in two categories Preferred or Select. Preferred offers aircraft model year 2000 and newer. Select offers aircraft model year 1999 or earlier.
The Sentient 25-Hour Plus Jet Card (SJ25+) offers larger aircraft with guaranteed access to Wi-Fi enabled mid, super-mid, and large cabin jets. Cardholders are also guaranteed availability starting at 10 hours for the Mid and Super-Mid aircraft and 24 hours for Large Cabin craft.
NetJets Card Options
NetJets Jet Cards are available for businesses and individuals who fly less than 50 hours a year and want to experience the NetJets fleet without a long-term commitment. They offer 25-hour cards valid for an 18-month period. They currently have three Jet Card options for flyers: Marquis Jet Card, Elite Card, and Cross-Country Jet Card.
With the first option, the Marquis Jet Card, owners can book a flight and be in the air in a little as 10 hours on non-peak days and 120 hours for peak period days. They specify around 45 peak days a calendar year.
The Elite Card has a 24-hour minimum booking notice for non-peak days and a 120-hour booking notice for their 45 peak day flights. Cardholders enjoy traveling for 25 flight hours on NetJets Cessna Citation XLS or Gulfstream G450 aircraft.
Finally, their newest option, the Cross-Country Jet Card is offered for travelers who typically fly coast to coast. Cardholders are guaranteed availability to flights within as little as 10 hours’ notice for non-peak days and 120 hours’ notice for the 30 peak days. Aircraft options include super-midsize planes with a minimum 3.5-hour flight time.
4. Jet Card Pricing & Fees
The SJ25 card is all-inclusive with fixed rates for 12 months and purchased hours do not expire. Pricing starts at $137,975 for Select and $147,275 for Preferred cards. Cardholders can earn up to 15% efficiency discount for qualifying round-trip travel. Other fees include a 5% surcharge for flights booked over peak period days.
The SJ25+ card also offers all-inclusive fixed rates for their larger aircraft. Hourly rates are locked in for a 12-month period, but Jet Card hours never expire. Pricing for the SJ25+ cards start at $196,250 for mid, $224,275 for super-mid, and $295,875 for large cabin aircraft. Cardholders have the flexibility to either upgrade or downgrade jet size at fixed hourly rates. They can also receive up to 15% efficiency discounts on qualifying round-trip flights. Additional fees may apply for flights book during peak days.
Exact pricing is difficult to determine with NetJets. They are not as upfront about their costs as other private aviation companies. Prices vary between Marquis Jet card options starting in the range of $190,000. Aircraft downgrades are guaranteed, and upgrades are subject to availability.
NetJets Elite Card purchase price is inclusive of flight hours, fuel, and taxes. Additional fees may apply for domestic passenger tax, ground transportation, and international fees, to name a few. Peak day travel is subject to a 25% increase in overall flight cost. NetJets boasts of an extensive wine list and catering menu also included in the price.
5. Cardholder Perks
Each provider offers an array of perks and luxury benefits for their cardholders. These are not a key reason to choose one over the other but are certainly nice to have if you use them.
Cardholders can access lifestyle perks through the company’s partnerships with some of the world’s most luxurious hotels, resorts, and private clubs. Jet Card holders can also experience private vineyard tours in Napa Valley, and purchase luxury products from exclusive lines of clothing, jewelry, and other high-end products not readily available through mainstream vendors.
Connections and relationships developed over their 50 years in the industry allow NetJets cardmembers to experience the world of luxury in a real and tangible way. From offering front-row seats to motorsports and racing events, to private sessions with professional athletes, exclusive golfing experiences, the equestrian lifestyle, culinary delights and wine tasting events, to unforgettable access to legendary artists, musicians, and numerous arts and culture events.
The two providers are both large, well established jet card companies. They both offer very good safety procedures. A big diiference is that NetJets owns its fleet of aircraft, whereas Sentient works with approved third party operators. Their pricing and charging structures also differ, so it all comes down to personal preferences and budget.