Jet card or on-demand charter. Which should you choose?

For those new to private jet travel, deciding between a jet card and on-demand charter can be a challenging task. Understanding the basic distinction is crucial: a jet card requires upfront payment for a fixed number of flight hours, whereas on-demand charter allows you to pay for flights as you use them.

This article aims to provide insights to help you make an informed decision that aligns with your travel requirements and preferences. We will explore various aspects, including cabin experience, pricing, personal service, and environmental impact, in order to guide you toward the most suitable option for your luxurious journeys ahead.

If you are considering either option, here are some thoughts to help you make a more informed decision:

1. Consistent cabin experience  

If you are investigating a jet card because you want a consistent cabin experience, similar to ownership, check the jet card provider owns the planes you would be flying on.

Some of the largest business jet companies in the world selling jet cards do not own any aircraft. They are asset-light agents using exactly the same planes for their jet card clients as for their on-demand customers.  

Companies selling jet cards which do not own the aircraft may also choose not to share the name of the operator of your flight when you confirm your schedule. As you are already financially committed having purchased a jet card, the broker can then maximise their margin by sourcing the least expensive aircraft nearer the time.

In this scenario, the likelihood of enjoying your preferred cabin experience is lower than if booking on-demand with a transparent broker who will name the operator and aircraft tail-number at the quotation stage. With the latter, you will also be able to stay in control of comparing and choosing which aircraft best suits your needs before you even have to commit any money.

If you purchase a jet card from a large operator for access to their fleet, you have a far greater chance of achieving the consistent cabin experience you were looking for. Just be aware that even with some of the largest providers, demand can exceed supply during busier periods.

When this happens, the highest-spending jet card owners benefit from the promise of preferential access to the operator’s exclusive fleet, while the lesser-spending customers are passed off. If a jet card customer is looking to guarantee an on-fleet aircraft, they will often have to avoid booking during peak travel periods. This can be incredibly frustrating as a client if you have been sold on the promise of priority access in return for your financial commitment, to end up flying with an off-fleet aircraft that could be found on the open market. 

The on-demand operators that help make up the shortfall with supplement lift are reliable and highly-rated operators, however, some jet card customers can feel aggrieved when they have paid a premium price per hour for their own brand-consistent cabin experience but end up flying with a third party without having any say in the matter.

2. Fixed pricing  

Jet cards with fixed hourly rates can be an attractive proposition. Perhaps easier for budgeting or more convenient than having to agree to a price and make a payment each time you fly. Whether you are exploring a jet card from a broker or an operator, it is important to investigate the pricing.

We recommend asking for a transparent breakdown of how the company calculates the flight time, and if there are any variable charges. All-inclusive jet cards sometimes do not include administrative fees, national luxury taxes, or costs when travelling with your pets. On-demand quotes are typically all-inclusive, so if you are buying a jet card for the first time, avoid any surprise charges by asking for all the financial information upfront.

If you like the on-demand model but wish to avoid the hassle of making a transaction every time you book, most on-demand providers allow you to keep money on account. With Victor, our optional funds on-account program means your money is 100% refundable at any time and held in a secure HSBC client deposit account, ready for when you wish to book.

3. Personal service    

If you desire a high-touch, informative and seamless service – perhaps similar to the relationship you have with your private banker – we recommend finding a knowledgeable jet broker supported by an experienced global operations team on hand 24/7.

Unlike when you purchase a jet card from an individual, but are then passed onto a larger member services team, when flying on-demand your broker is your point of contact throughout the entire process. The most successful brokers have close, long-lasting relationships with their clients.

Here at Victor, we recruit outstanding people who continue to value transparency, which is something our clients cherish. As we do not own any aircraft and share the operator and aircraft details at the point of quotation, clients feel safe in the knowledge that our account managers make recommendations to them based on aircraft suitability for that flight. Even long-standing Victor clients extremely familiar with the sector continue to trust their broker’s recommendation when it comes to jet suitability for their needs.

4. Flexibility   

Flyers crave flexibility more than ever before.

Many jet cards have a ‘use or lose’ policy. Therefore, you run the risk of buying too many hours and never using them (even for reasons beyond your control). One way of mitigating this risk is to share your private flight itinerary for the 12 months you envisage buying a jet card for and see how an estimated on-demand total cost compares.

Some believe that jet cards provide more flexible cancellation terms, but a private jet card in itself does not provide customers with enhanced flexibility. It has nothing to do with pre-payment and everything to do with procurement.

On-demand brokers are able to offer comparable flexible cancellation terms when they have agreed special terms based on their relationship with the operator and the volume of business that they do with them.

At Victor, we want to ensure our clients are well-informed and in control when it comes to their on-demand charter bookings. We share the operators T&Cs upfront which the client accepts each time they book. Our Client Preferred Operator Program is a natural extension of our transparent customer proposition. One of the benefits of booking a Client Preferred Operator is enjoying the same flexible cancellation terms brokers offer their jet card customers, without the significant upfront financial commitment.

Ultimately, these terms are dictated by the operator, and it is only with their consent that jet card providers who do not own their planes are able to offer such flexible terms.

 5. Environmental impact  

Unfortunately, some brokers selling on-demand charter will recommend heavy jets to maximise margins rather than smaller aircraft that would perfectly suit the need of the flyer and have a lower impact on the environment. There is little doubt that such practices occur in certain organizations; however, the more significant concern lies with jet cards, as clients often feel compelled to use the same aircraft category repeatedly, even when it may not be the most suitable choice for their specific trip. Clients might also feel compelled to use their hours for the sake of it if they’re concerned about them expiring before the end of the year.

In fact, a reason some of our most frequent flying customers who could easily afford hundreds of jet card hours per year, choose to fly private on-demand is because it can be less impactful on the environment. We understand that private jet flyers value transparency and that is why we are the only private jet charter company to disclose the estimated fuel burn for your trip prior to booking.

It is worth noting that our pioneering partnership with Neste, the world’s leading producer of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), allows our customers to fly more sustainably and reduce their CO2e emissions by up to 80% when flying privately.

Over the last twelve months even we have been pleasantly surprised by the amount of Victor customers who have embraced Neste MY SAF™ for their bookings. Their commitment has not only reduced carbon emissions but has also helped pave the way towards a more sustainable future for Business Aviation since our hard-to-abate sector is under heavy scrutiny. We recently celebrated 300 jet charter bookings with SAF (284 private jet charters, 16 commercial jet charters) and we are very proud of the results achieved during this time.

To summarise… 

While some jet cards offer value on specific routes, there has never been a better way to fly on-demand. With the right broker, you can enjoy a consistent cabin experience, maximum flexibility, and 24/7 expertise that you can trust.  

Transparency is at the heart of Victor’s offering, as we want to ensure you remain connected and in control of what matters most to you every time you fly. It is natural that your requirements and preferences may change for each flight, but on-demand charter means you can tailor your experience every time.

If you would like to discuss in more detail, our brokers are always happy to advise…