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Photo: Fotolia

More Ways to Take Off

Just when you thought flight-time options had been sliced and diced into as many different jet cards and charter offerings as possible, and fractional ownership had reached an evolutionary deadend, along come a spate of new offerings. Here’s a look at some of the newest and most noteworthy options.

Jet Cards

Air Charter Services’ Empyrean Capped Rate Account. Designed for the North American market, the Capped Rate Account card from U.K. broker Air Charter Services sets an upper limit on the per-hour price for the light, midsize, and super-midsize aircraft the program employs. As such, “you can take advantage of market conditions with the protection of capped hourly rates—the best of both worlds,” says a spokesperson, meaning a 25-hour card might actually yield “27 or 30 hours” of flight time. Card prices are customized based on factors including need for guaranteed access, onboard Wi-Fi, aircraft and interior age, and amount of liability insurance required. Costs for the 25-hour program average about $121,000 for a light jet, $188,750 for a midsize model, and $211,000 for a super-mid.

Airstream Jets’ Distance Card. In a new wrinkle on assessing costs, Airstream Jets’ Distance Card charges by distance rather than flight time. Sold in small, light, midsize, super-midsize, and heavy-aircraft categories, the card pegs rates to statute miles flown, and the farther you fly, the lower the per-mile cost, with charges based on 1,000-statute-mile increments (as calculated on a great-circle route). Per-mile prices on small jets range from $9 per mile for long trips to $14 per mile for short ones; on midsize jets, you pay $12 to $17 per mile; and on large jets, the price is $17 to $24 per mile. Cards from the Florida-based broker start at $25,000. (With federal excise tax, or FET, that's $26,875.) There are no blackout dates or fuel surcharges, and a 5 percent discount applies to same-day trips as well as to those starting or ending at any of more than a dozen of the country’s busiest general aviation airports. The HondaJet has been added to the program in the small-jet category.

DashJet’s Custom Card. One of a growing number of custom cards, this 25-hour offering from an Iowa-based brokerage is priced based on your flight patterns and preferences (round trips vs. one-ways, typical routes flown, preferred aircraft models). A 25-hour light-jet card averages about $145,000 ($5,800 per hour). One-hour minimum flight times on all category aircraft, including heavy jets, make the DashJet card a good option for regularly moving large groups relatively short distances, and taxi time isn’t charged. Cards for more than 25 hours are available at lower, negotiable rates, and you can buy a 10-hour introductory card. Availability is not guaranteed on peak days.

Priester Aviation’s Centerline Jet Card. This card parlays the venerable operator’s regional bases and high-touch service into a customized offering available by invitation only in Chicago, New York, southern Florida, Atlanta, Texas, Colorado’s mountain airports, and Los Angeles. Restricting membership to those regions helps ensure that the travel patterns and expectations of those invited to join mesh with Priester’s fleet and service model, says Andy Priester, company president and CEO. The card is sold in 25-hour denominations for light, midsize, super-midsize, and large-cabin jets. Its all-inclusive price is tailored based on callout time, one-ways vs. round trips, preferred aircraft type, schedule flexibility, and other factors, and includes premium catering and other amenities. 

Do Your Homework Before Flying Privately (We'll Help)

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Do Your Homework Before Flying Privately (We'll Help)

Whether you’re weighing the relative merits of charter, a jet card, a membership program, or a share in a fractionally owned aircraft, we’re here to help.

Delta Private Jets’ Sky Access Membership. This program opens up the company’s repositioning flights—a.k.a. empty legs—to members for free booking 24 hours in advance, primarily aboard Citation Excel/XLS jets. The list of available flights, mostly east of the Mississippi, is continually updated, and recently added AmpliFly technology allows members to choose among up to 30 alternate destinations along empty-leg routes—for example, Chicago; Aspen, Colorado; or Las Vegas on a flight between New York and Los Angeles; and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and Savannah, Georgia on a flight between New York and Miami. Members can set up flight alerts for up to 10 locations. The card also guarantees availability and provides rates for on-demand charter through DPJ, and additional perks including discounts on some Delta Airlines flights. Membership costs $8,500 for the first year and $6,000 for annual renewals.            

Northern Jet Management’s Florida Private Advantage Card. This 25-hour card from a Michigan-based operator targets leisure travelers flying one-ways between the Midwest and Florida. The program features the company’s managed Learjet 40XRs. (A Learjet 70 is also available.) The narrow route focus and relaxed callout response time (24-hour notice) allow economical all-inclusive per-hour rates. The card costs $164,375, and travelers who can take advantage of the repositioning flights posted on the company’s site save $1,000 off the regular per-hour rate. There are no blackout dates—an important consideration for many Florida-bound holiday travelers—and no repositioning fees apply for Midwest-based cardholders, who also have access to the company’s fleet of more than 20 aircraft, ranging from turboprops to large-cabin jets. 

Silverhawk Aviation’s Jet Card. “No repositioning fees” is a common feature of most jet card and membership programs, yet repositioning costs are actually baked into pricing and shared equally—though members at the fringes of service areas typically benefit the most from this arrangement. With its Midwest focus, charter operator Silverhawk Aviation keeps overall positioning costs down for its jet card and structures charges to reflect the relative expense of servicing cardholders. Flights originating within 200 nautical miles of Silverhawk’s Lincoln, Nebraska headquarters incur no repositioning fees; a 1.5-hour minimum applies to flights originating from 51 to 200 nautical miles from Lincoln, while a 1.5-hour minimum and negotiable repositioning fees apply to flights originating beyond that radius. The $100,000 minimum deposit card has no taxi time, peak, or holiday charges, or blackout dates, and provides free Wi-Fi access and phone calls on all aircraft in Silverhawk’s primarily Citation Jets fleet.

Magellan Jets’ Sikorsky S-76 Card. Veteran charter brokerage and card provider Magellan Jets offers a 10-hour card for summer travel in the Northeast on the Sikorsky S-76, one of the most comfortable and capable executive helicopters. The all-inclusive $13,799 fixed hourly rate for the S-76 is good for travel beginning or ending in New York to locations from Maine to Washington, D.C., including Cape Cod, the Hamptons, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket. The program is operated through Associated Air Group, which runs a fractional-ownership operation with the Sikorskys. Magellan has also launched a corporate membership deal providing guaranteed access and recovery, fixed hourly rates, catering, and fuel (FET not included) for a $25,000 initial fee and annual renewals of $15,000. 

PJS Group’s Rendezvous Card. PJS Group, a Massachusetts-based brokerage, gives new meaning to the term “lift provider” with its Rendezvous Jet Card, which entitles cardholders to two free season ski-lift passes at Jackson Hole, along with other exclusive offerings at this and other ski destinations. The card isn’t ideal for some last-minute trips, as it requires seven-day notice for travel on 20 peak days. On the plus side, you can even get to Gstaad, Switzerland, because Europe and all other international travel is at the same hourly rates, which are locked in for 12 months. The card is available for light, midsize, super-midsize, and heavy jets in Priority and Elite categories; prices range from $4,890/$5,490 per hour for light to $11,050/$13,005 for the large cabins including fuel and FET, with a 5 percent round-trip discount. A 10-hour introductory card is available.   


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Photo: Fotolia

Membership Programs

Surf Air’s Express. Last year was a tough time for all-you-can-fly membership pioneer Surf Air: it was sued by its erstwhile operator and shown to owe more than $2 million in federal taxes; and it shuttered its Surf Air Europe venture. But it also introduced Surf Air Express, opening all routes in its California network (including Las Vegas) to flat-rate, per-seat purchase. Members pay an annual membership fee of $2,500 and then $445 for each flight. You can get from Oakland or San Francisco to Los Angeles (Hawthorne is the sole L.A. location) far cheaper via the airlines, but Surf Air carves more than an hour and a half off such trips, while flights between Santa Barbara and San Diego save nearly two hours, according to the company. Surf Air plans to open its routes to the public sans membership, but rates will vary and only Surf Air Express members will have guaranteed pricing, among other perks. 

Wheels Up Membership. Wheels Up, which pioneered the closed-fleet membership access model, is introducing a light jet offering with fixed hourly rates on an as-available basis for its members. The company currently has close to 100 aircraft in its members-only fleet, which consists of King Air 350i turboprops, Citation Excel/XLS jets, Citation X jets, and options from 1,000-plus partner aircraft through its digital Charter Marketplace feature. Details regarding the light jet offering and fixed hourly rates were under development as we went to press. Current fixed hourly pricing for members—who pay a $17,500 initial fee and annual renewal charge of $8,500 starting in year two—is $4,695 for the King Air 350i and $7,695 for the Citation Excel/XLS (plus 7.5 percent FET).

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Photo: Fotolia


Solairus Aviation’s Altitudes Club. This program requires no annual fees yet offers guaranteed access to four categories of late-model aircraft with 24-hour notice; five-day notice is required for flights on 15 peak days/weekends. The 25-hour program charges $130,000 for light jets to $276,000 for super-mids, the largest cabin category, including fuel surcharges and FET; there are no interchange fees among categories. The Altitude Fixed Dollar Program provides access to the same aircraft at guaranteed hourly rates for a minimum deposit of $100,000. Very light jets are priced at $4,590 per hour, and super-mids are $9,800 per hour, with fuel surcharge not to exceed $250 per hour (FET not included); round trips are eligible for discounts of up to 25 percent.

Clay Lacy Aviation’s Preferred Access. This membership program provides discounted charter rates and guaranteed availability, with no blackout dates, peak-day surcharges, or membership fees, for a fully refundable $100,000 deposit. It also provides guaranteed recovery in the event of a grounding due to mechanical problems. All aircraft have dedicated flight crews that have been trained in corporate etiquette, and the program includes complementary aircraft upgrades, high-end catering, and detailed client profiles that ensure cabins and onboard entertainment are prepared to passengers’ preferences.

Executive Jet Management’s Flat Rate Program.This program from NetJets-owned Executive Jet Management requires a minimum $100,000 deposit, which is refundable. It provides guaranteed access, and locked-in discounted hourly rates. There are no blackout dates or limits on simultaneous use of aircraft, which include small, midsize, super-midsize, large, and heavy jets. Recent hourly rates in the continental U.S. ranged from $6,650 one way and $5,790 round trip for small jets to $13,481 one way and $10,524 round trip for heavy jets. (These amounts include FET.) One-way rates outside the continental U.S. range from $7,295 to $14,556 for those same categories. EJM also offers a program with reduced rates on popular city-pair routes. Additionally, its block-charter program for travelers needing 50 or more flight hours per year provides discounted hourly rates pegged to a contracted number of flight hours. 

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Photo: Fotolia

Fractional Shares

Jet It’s HondaJet Elite. Jet It, a fractional startup on the U.S. East Coast, offers shares in the HondaJet Elite. This marks the first time the upgraded version of the HA-420 HondaJet, announced last year, has been made available via shared ownership. Founded by two former HondaJet execs, Jet It expects to have three Elites—each with two to 10 owners—by the middle of this year. The company, based in Greensboro, North Carolina (as is HondaJet) touts an operating cost of about $1,600 an hour for the Elite. Usage is charged by days rather than flight hours, with a fifth share providing 55 days of access per year. Another potentially huge differentiator for the program: if you’re a pilot “with an easy but thorough type training process,” you “can fly your jet whenever you like,” the company says.

Teebee Jets’ Beechjet 400E Program. Teebee Jets offers access by the week to shareowners of its Beechjet 400Es, which are refurbished Beechjet 400s featuring upgrades that include new interiors, LED lighting, Wi-Fi connectivity, Garmin G5000 glass-panel avionics, and winglets. Owners fly in their own aircraft with dedicated crews. “The 90,” the lowest ownership level, provides up to one week of use per month and costs $850,000 plus a management fee of about $10,000 per month. “The 180” provides use of the aircraft and crew for up to half of each month for $1.65 million plus $19,000 a month. Shareowners additionally pay operating costs of about $2,000 per hour. All told, those numbers add up to about half the price of an equivalent share from a major fractional program, Teebee says. The Greensboro, North Carolina–based company has a similar fractional program for the Beech Baron NexGen 55, a twin-engine piston aircraft. 

Dumont Aviation’s Falcon 2000 Program. The Dassault Falcon 2000 is being phased out of NetJets’ fleet, but fans of the popular but aging jet can still get onboard through Dumont Aviation. Dumont is buying and refurbishing more than a dozen of these aircraft from NetJets. An eighth share provides 100 hours and 45 days of aircraft availability per year; buy-in runs $750,000 and the monthly management fee is $12,300. Round-trip flight and repositioning fees are $3,500 per hour; one-way rates are $5,650 per hour. Owners also pay flight-crew overnight and per-diem expenses and airport fees at cost. For flights from Delaware (the company’s home base), all of that translates to one-way costs of about $13,500 to Miami; $18,000 to the Turks and Caicos; and $31,900 to Los Angeles. One-way flights must begin or end at one of Dumont’s bases, which in addition to Delaware include Fort Worth, Texas; Orlando, Florida; Allentown, Pennsylvania; and Bloomington, Illinois.

Airshare’s Phenom 300E Program. Airshare (formerly Executive Airshare) now offers a Phenom 300E, making it the only fractional provider to sell shares in the new version of Embraer’s bestselling light jet. The 300E (E for “Enhanced”) features an overhead tech panel, more comfortable seats, and other upgrades. The Central U.S.–based provider offers shares that give owners access to their aircraft for a set number of days, rather than hours, per year. A one-sixteenth share provides 20 flight days per year on the Phenom 100, 300, King Air 350i, Citation CJ2+, or Learjet 45XR. The only limits on daily flight hours are FAA crew-duty day rules.

Fractrade’s Preowned Shares Program. Fractrade has been brokering for-sale fractional shares since 2006. Owner Dan Dugger says it makes sense to buy a share on the secondary market, because you will pay less and have access to the same fleet as if you bought new. At any time, his site may list more than a dozen available NetJets and Flexjet fractional shares and leases for aircraft in a range of cabin and share sizes. Such third-party brokered share sales net sellers more and cost buyers less than going through the program, Dugger says.