New Routes to the Runway

Once approximately as short as a handwritten prix fixe dinner menu at a Michelin-starred restaurant, the list of available jet card, membership, shuttle, and other charter access programs now resembles a roadside diner’s multi-page opus. For business jet travelers, that means expanded routes and regions, more pricing options, and greater choice of aircraft models via programs that are likely more convenient and less costly than on-demand charter. 

If you’re happy with your current service, you may feel little need to investigate new alternatives, and that’s perfectly reasonable. Conversely, if you’re a charter neophyte or are considering a switch, don’t focus on the latest access programs alone. Many long-standing providers continue to offer excellent card, block-charter, and other options, complete with fully refundable deposits and guaranteed access, and they deserve consideration despite their lack of new bells and whistles.

Still, those bells and whistles are noteworthy. The expanding universe of options reflects growing consumer sophistication and grasp of details from hourly rates and baggage capacities to high-and-hot runway requirements, in combination with digital technologies allowing providers to identify and exploit service niches. 

Below we present some of the new programs and other developments driving today’s action.

*****

Before the recent announcement of Delta Private Jets’ merger with Wheels Up, the Delta Air Lines subsidiary introduced long-range aircraft to its jet card program (minimum deposit $150,000) and added more lift (see sidebar) to support that and its Sky Access on-demand charter customers ($6,000 annual membership). 

*****

Massachusetts-based Magellan Jets has restructured its card program with the debut of the Elevate Card, which features all-inclusive guaranteed rates, access to all fleet aircraft without interchange fees, and no peak-day surcharges or blackout days. Backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, the customizable cards provide options, including standard light- and midsize-jet pricing versus preferred aircraft. Standard light jets cost $5,250 per hour, and the Phenom 300, new to the fleet, is $7,199. Standard midsize runs $6,994 and the Hawker 800XP is $7,751. Hourly rates for a super-midsize Citation X and large-cabin Gulfstream 450 are $8,972 and $13,500, respectively. The card also provides access in New York City to Sikorsky helicopters ($13,799 per hour, $4,100 trip minimum). 

*****

Could “premium” per seat be the next big charter trend? High-end per-seat shuttle membership program Airspace, linking the New York City area and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, launched in December and immediately sold out its limited-availability membership program. (There is a wait list.) Aimed at filling a gap between charter and first-class commercial service, Airspace lets members select individual seats, priced by location on the aircraft, on a Gulfstream 650 or Bombardier Global 6000. The monthly fee for individual members is $2,600, which guarantees the right to purchase one seat per month. Helmed by CEO Robert Molsbergen, former NetJets COO, Airspace plans to add New York–Los Angeles as its next shuttle route this year.

*****

Fixed-rate transatlantic jet cards offered by brokers are in vogue. These programs are backed by commitments from operators to make specific tail numbers available, from models including Bombardier Global 5000 and 6000, Dassault Falcon 7X and 8X, and Gulfstream GV and G550/650 jets.

Publicly traded U.K. mega-broker Air Partner introduced a fixed-rate, guaranteed-availability, fully refundable transatlantic jet card, with an entry-level 10-hour card priced at $156,500 (seven-hour-segment minimum), with a 15 percent discount for qualifying round trips. On the card, one-way from Teterboro, New Jersey, to London Luton would run about $109,550, and Washington, D.C., to Paris Le Bourget would cost about $117,845.

*****

New York’s JetSet Group has also introduced a transatlantic card, starting at $145,000 for 10 hours of flight time, with no peak-day surcharges and 10 percent round-trip discounts, as has New Hampshire–based jet card brokerage and aviation consultancy Private Jet Services Group.

PJSG has also rolled out updated memberships, allowing customers to choose either estimated or actual flight times for their charges when booking, and reducing minimum flight times on light jets from 78 to 60 minutes. The company’s cards offer Elite (year 2000 and newer) hourly aircraft access for $5,490 (light jets) to $13,005 (heavy jets). Priority (pre-2000) aircraft access costs $4,890 (light jets) to $11,050 (heavy jets).  

*****

Rebounding from setbacks in 2018, Surf Air, the all-you-can-fly membership model pioneer, is expanding the schedule and frequency of its flights, linking the Los Angeles and San Francisco areas, along with Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Growth has been driven by Surf Air’s entry-level Express membership, introduced a year ago, which provides individual seats starting at $500 each for one annual $2,500 fee. The company also still offers its $1,995-a-month all-you-can-fly program.

*****

Wondering what happened to Dallas-based shuttle charter airline JetSuiteX? It rebranded as JSX and continues to sell seats on scheduled flights aboard its 30-passenger, business-class-configured Embraer E135s. JSX’s route network includes Las Vegas; Phoenix; and, in California, Orange County, Concord/East Bay, Oakland, Burbank, and (seasonally) Mammoth Mountain. It plans to add service between Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

*****

Now you can trade your obsolete jet for a jet card. With ADS-B mandates grounding legacy airframes, Alliance Aviation and Encore Plane Parts, which specializes in aircraft disposals, have partnered to offer a Fly Alliance jet card for owners of mandate-grounded aircraft. If you’re parting out your aircraft, you can exchange a portion of the hull value for jet card hours, yielding a higher rate of value than a cash sale would produce, the companies say. You provide a CAMP or equivalent report, Encore inspects the aircraft, and you take payment in jet card hours (though cash payment is also available). Sold in 25-hour blocks from 25 to 100 hours, the Alliance card offers light to large-cabin jets for $4,995 to $10,890 per hour, as well as fixed one-way rates on popular routes and roundtrip discounts. (The majority of card programs include the 7.5 percent Federal Excise Tax in quoted hourly rates but this program does not.) 

*****

Shuttle and on-demand charter operator Tradewind Aviation has introduced a Pilatus PC-12 turboprop card. Using the 23 PC-12s in the Connecticut company’s managed fleet, the card covers the Northeast U.S. and Caribbean (within 300 nautical miles of Tradewind's operating bases at New York’s Westchester County and San Juan International Airports, respectively). It doesn’t guarantee availability but does offer fixed-rate, one-way pricing on popular routes, and no peak-day surcharges or blackout dates. Hourly rates range from $4,100 (10 hours) to $3,800 (40 hours), and single-day roundtrips can qualify for a 30 percent discount.

*****

With concerns about sustainability rising, Washington, D.C., brokerage Paramount Business Jets has introduced the Easy Private Jet Carbon Offset Calculator, enabling charter and business aircraft passengers to compute their emissions, flight-by-flight, based on the airplane type and time en route. Available on the company’s website, the calculator lets users enter origin, destination, and aircraft type from dropdown menus; then it computes flight time and emissions and lists organizations (Terrapass, Carbon Fund, and Climate Care, for example) that offer carbon credits for the flight. Paramount founder and CEO Richard Zaher says he will provide the source code for the calculator free of charge to any companies wishing to post it on their websites.

*****

Anticipating growth in its charter business in the Americas, Air Charter Service has more than doubled the size of its U.S. headquarters in New York. The global brokerage opened three of its nine offices in the hemisphere in the last two years, and “we have more planned in the near future,” ACS Americas president Richard Thompson says. Along with ability to select the aircraft model, the company’s Empyrean jet card provides a choice of capped hourly rates and guaranteed access; fixed hourly rates based on aircraft category; or market rates based on dynamic pricing.


Some Noteworthy Fleet Additions

  • California’s Solairus Aviation recently became the first operator to offer the G600 for charter. Its G600, based at San Francisco International Airport, boasts a 6,500-mile range and a maximum speed of Mach 0.925.
  • Delta Private Jets has added three large-cabin Gulfstream and a Dassault Falcon 900. Based in the New York metro area and southeastern U.S., DPJ operates more than 70 Wi-Fi-equipped jets in its charter fleet.
  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida–based Presidential Aviation notched the first Gulfstream G500 in its managed charter fleet. Joining the 15 jets on Presidential’s charter certificate, the 18-passenger twinjet is based at Miami Opa-Locka Executive Airport.
  • In San Diego, Latitude 33 took delivery in December of its sixth Bombardier aircraft—a Challenger 350 that has the distinction of being the first airplane the manufacturer has delivered with a load of sustainable aviation fuel.
  • Jet card provider Nicholas Air introduced a Phenom 300E to its fleet late last year and plans mid- and super-mid fleet additions this year.
  • Boca Raton, Florida’s Journey Aviation added a Gulfstream GIV-SP—its first wholly owned aircraft—to its charter certificate, bringing the firm’s heavy jet charter fleet to 15 Gulfstreams, Falcons, and Hawkers.
  • Joining a G650 from the same owner, Planet Nine Private Air added a Gulfstream 550 to its fleet and has expanded support staff and hangar space at its Van Nuys, California, base to accommodate the aircraft.
  • Another Van Nuys-based operator, Clay Lacy, added a Gulfstream GV to its fleet, but this one is in Naples, Florida. The GV is the only ultra-long-range charter aircraft based in Naples, according to Clay Lacy, and its recently updated interior features a three-zone configuration and divans that convert into beds.
THANK YOU TO OUR BJTONLINE SPONSORS