While NetJets and Wheels Up have some things in common, their programs and benefits give individual and business flyers much to consider. We have delved into these two private aviation companies, comparing the details of pricing, services, aircraft types and sizes, and member perks.
1. Background & Company Basics
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. He soon purchased Executive Jet Aviation, founded by three retired military pilots in 1964, and renamed it NetJets. A few years later, share owner, Warren Buffet, acquired the company and added it as a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway.
Marquis Jet, the jet card brand that uses the NetJets fleet, was founded in 2002 and fully acquired by NetJets in 2010.
The company now offers a full range of luxury private aviation solutions for businesses and individuals. The services include fractional ownership, leasing, and jet card options under the brand names NetJets, NetJets Lease, NetJets Share, NetJets Elite Card, Cross-Country Jet Card, and Marquis 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.
Member and cardholder perks and benefits include front-row seats to motorsports and racing events, private sessions with professional athletes, exclusive golfing experiences, the equestrian lifestyle, access to culinary and wine tasting events, and arts and culture events.
Wheels-Up—Founded in 2013
Wheels-Up may be a newer face in the industry, but it’s founder, Kenny Dichter, is not. In fact, Dichter originally founded Marquis Jets, now an integral part of NetJets. A few years after selling Marquis Jets, Dichter reappeared on the scene in 2013, along with businessman Bill Allard, to announce the launch of their new aviation company, Wheels Up. Allard and Dichter set out to reduce the up-front cash cost of private flying by using a membership business model, instead of the prepaid Jet Card model which requires upfront spending commitments.
Within the past calendar year, Wheels Up has acquired Delta Private Jets, aviation technology company Avianis Systems and bought charter operator TMC and acquired jet operator Gama Aviation. These acquisitions aim to bring the Wheels Up digital Charter Marketplace to the next level and enhance the membership offerings. The company’s over 8,000 members can use their Wheels Up App and instantly find and book flights, manage their accounts, look for ride-share opportunities and Shuttle Flights, find discounted fares on empty-leg Hot Flights, choose from a significantly larger number of private aircraft and types, as well as more competitive real-time pricing, giving members ways to further reduce their cost of flying private.
Wheels Up perks include added-value benefits of over $35,000 through their specialty Wheels Down program. Contributing to a luxury lifestyle, the program connects members to their renowned signature events and experiences, luxury concierge service, and preeminent lifestyle brands such as complimentary membership with Inspirato and President’s Circle status with Hertz, to name just two.
Both Wheels Up and NetJets own their fleet. This means they can regulate safety standards and maintain quality configurations throughout the fleet, including making sure every aircraft is fitted with updated equipment and technology. Wheels Up also provides access to vetted third party operators through its Charter Marketplace.
NetJets offers four sizes of owned aircraft:
Known for their speed and ability to land on the shortest runways and at the smallest, most remote airports, NetJets’ Light Cabin aircraft are available with as little as four hours’ notice.
- Embraer Phenom 300—up to 6 passengers; 74 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,196 km range with 4 hours endurance. One of NetJets’ most requested aircraft, due to its comfortable interior.
- Cessna Citation Excel/XLS—up to 7 passengers; 79 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,441 km range with 4:15 hours endurance. Offers the amenities of a midsize-cabin jet with the ability to fly into and out of smaller airports.
NetJets’ midsize-cabin aircraft offer additional space for work and comfort and can fly longer distances.
- Cessna Citation Latitude—up to 7 passengers; 100 cubic feet baggage capacity; 4,937 km range with 7 hours endurance. This midsize jet measures 6 feet in cabin height and has the largest cross-section in NetJets’ midsize class.
- Cessna Citation Sovereign—up to 8 passengers; 100 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,219 km range with 7:15 hours endurance. Able to fly longer ranges in high elevations.
Extended ranges, speed, larger passenger capacity, and flexible seating configurations make these jets the top choice for transcontinental business travel.
- Cessna Citation X—up to 8 passengers; 72 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,476 km range with 6:15 hours endurance. This nimble aircraft is reputed to reduce cross-country travel by up to 35 minutes.
- Bombardier Challenger 350—up to 9 passengers; 106 cubic feet baggage capacity; 6,047 km range with 7:45 hours endurance. One of the longest flying ranges of all private jets.
- Cessna Citation Longitude—up to 8 passengers; 112 cubic feet baggage capacity; 6,047 km range with 7:45 hours endurance. Renown for having the quietest cabin in its class for a restful flight.
The top choice for global flyers, these aircraft can transport up to 14 passengers for up to 14 hours. Large Cabin aircraft flights also feature luxury food service.
- Bombardier Challenger 650—up to 11 passengers; 115 cubic feet baggage capacity; 6,833 km range with 8:45 hours endurance. Considered a world-class large-cabin jet, the Challenger 650 provides optimal comfort and mobility during coast-to-coast and even intercontinental flights.
- Gulfstream IV-SP/G450—up to 13 passengers; 169 cubic feet baggage capacity; 7,242 km range with 9:45 hours endurance. Another great choice for intercontinental flights.
- Bombardier Global 5000—up to 13 passengers; 195 cubic feet baggage capacity; 10,452 km range with 11:45 hours endurance. Designed for premium comfort, this large-cabin aircraft is a popular choice for transatlantic trips.
- Bombardier Global 6000—up to 13 passengers; 195 cubic feet baggage capacity; 11,632 km range with 13:30 hours endurance. NetJets longest-range aircraft available.
Wheels Up Fleet
The Wheels Up owned fleet of about 120 aircraft is more streamlined, featuring mainly turboprops and light jets.. However, through their Charter Marketplace, they offer a way to book Wheels-Up approved aircraft outside their fleet. The member marketplace has access to over 1,200 jets including Light, Midsize, Super-Mid, and Large-Cabin.
The owned Wheels Up fleet includes:
- King Air 350i—up to 8 passengers; 71 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,345 km range with 4+ hours endurance. This twin-turboprop aircraft, built for short to medium distances, has advanced noise cancelling technology.
- Cessna Citation Excel/XLS—up to 8 passengers; 79 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,441 km range with 4 hours endurance. Offers the amenities of a midsize-cabin jet with the ability to fly into and out of smaller airports.
3. Jet Card Solutions & Accessibility
In addition to the NetJets Share and NetJets Lease, the company offers three types of Jet Cards.
The NetJets jet cards are for businesses and individuals who fly less than 50 hours a year and want to experience the owned NetJets fleet without a long-term commitment. They offer 25-hour cards valid for an 18-month period and currently have three options: 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. Finally, their newest option, the Cross-Country Jet Card is aimed at members who do a lot of coast to coast flying in the USA. 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.
Wheels Up gives members access—with guaranteed availability 300 days a year for individuals and 315 days a year for businesses—to its entire fleet of over 120 owned aircraft with as little as 24-hour notice. They also have a 12-hour cancellation window for last minute changes.
Wheels Up membership features include access to Shared Flights, empty-leg Hot Flights and Shuttle Flights—all of which help customers reduce the costs of private flights. Additionally, with access to their digital Charter Marketplace, members can search an available inventory of over 1,200 Wheels Up approved aircraft, facilitate flight sharing, and book with real-time pricing.
NetJets prices vary between card options starting in the range of $190,000 for 25 hours on their light jets. Aircraft downgrades are guaranteed, and upgrades are subject to availability.
NetJets Elite Card purchase price is inclusive of flight hours, FET, fuel, and taxes. For all card options, 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 for Elite Card members. Pricing also includes an extensive wine list and catering menu.
Wheels Up operates on a pay-as-you-fly model with no minimum hourly commitment. They have three levels of membership: Connect, Core, and Business.
The Connect program has an initiation fee of $2,995 and annual dues starting in year two priced at $2,495. Connect is a basic level where members gain access to the Wheels Up Marketplace App and book flights on approved aircraft (excise tax and segment fees apply). They can book shared flights for 50% or more savings and have access to the Founders Card (gives connect members up to 4 hot flights a year and “hot nights” at specific vacation properties) and Wheels Down events. Peak days are not guaranteed.
The Core level membership guarantees flyers availability to the fleet 300 days a year with the initial $17,500 fee and annual dues starting after year two currently set at $8,500. Business members have guaranteed access to the fleet 330 days a year with an initial fee of $29,500 and annual dues after the first year of $14,500.
Both Core and Business members get guaranteed availability and fixed one-way pricing on the King Air 350i ($4,695 per hour) or the Citation Excel/XLS ($7,695 per hour). By depositing $50,000, $100,000, $200,000, or $400,000 in the fund Pre-purchase program, members gain more guaranteed days, less peak days, and book faster. Funds are usable for both types of aircraft and never expire.
These memberships also include everything in the connect level plus many added bonuses, including unlimited hot flights and more booking and sharing options with access to a concierge 24/7/365.
NetJets and Wheels Up both offer a range of compelling options for luxury personal and business travel. The type of membership or card program you choose will depend on a variety of factors including how often you need to fly, how many amenities you prefer to have, how much notice you’re able to give, and which aircraft type is most suitable.