Editor’s note: Forbes.com contributor Doug Gollan has undertaken an analysis of jet card companies for his new business providing a paid analysis of jet card programs.
The third installment is a Who’s Who in private jet cards, prepaid jet charter and private jet memberships:
When you are buying a private jet card and with most prepaid programs, you are wiring the money from your bank account to theirs. With transactions often ranging from $100,000 to $500,000, it makes sense to know whom you are dealing with.
From my research, I originally found 18 different companies that offer jet cards or prepaid programs, but since publishing the first article in this series, have identified six more, including Singapore-based Zetta Jet, New York-based JetSet Group and Wholesale JetClub, Boca Raton, Florida-based Airstream Jets, GrandView Aviation from Maryland and Colorado-based StraightLine Private Air, started by a founder of Exclusive Resorts. (Note: After publishing this article, I heard from a seventh company, Silverhawk Aviation which recently introduced a Jet Card for customers living within 175 miles of Lincoln, which includes Omaha, Kansas City, Des Moines, Sioux City, Sioux Falls.). In Part 2, I took a look at whether or not it even makes sense to buy jet cards and prepaid block charter programs versus just buying as you go via on-demand charter with some interesting perspectives.
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In terms of the companies that you will be doing business with if you buy a jet card or prepaid program, they are about as diverse as you can imagine, and when you included related entities, span from under 10 employees to over 300,000.
Air Partner, a U.K.-based company with its U.S. headquarters in Ft. Lauderdale is the oldest, with its roots in aviation dating back to 1961. The famous pilot and aviation entrepreneur Clay Lacy (he flew a DC-8 with “The Human Fly” standing on its roof) started his namesake group in 1968. Among the most recent entrants are Marquis Jet Partners founder Kenny Dichter, who after selling it to NetJets then launched WheelsUp in 2013, Singapore-based Zetta Jet which started flying in August 2015 and Blue Star Jets (famous for taking its name from the movie Wall Street) co-founder Ricky Sitomer, who started Star Jets International last year.
Some companies are publicly owned, or divisions of publicly traded companies, including Air Partner which is directly traded in the UK, Delta Private Jets (a subsidiary of Delta Air Lines), and NetJets (which owns and sells the Marquis Jet card and is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway). Directional Aviation, which traces its history to 1981, owns two jet card players, Flexjet and Sentient. Its chairman Kenn Ricci started a small aircraft management company and has turned Directional into a multibillion-dollar enterprise which made news in 2015 when it placed an order for what potentially could be the next supersonic passenger jet. Earlier this year he won the Lifetime Aviation Entrepreneur Award. Previous winners included the founders of FedEx (Fred Smith), Southwest Airlines (Herb Kelleher) and Virgin Atlantic Airways (Sir Richard Branson).
Other bosses of note include Thomas Flohr, the founder of VistaJet who had the foresight to see the market from a global point of view, and Private Jets Services (PJS) Group founder and CEO Greg Raiff, who started the company with a focus on charters for sports team, live entertainment and political campaign charters before getting into the jet card segment. In addition to Lacy, David Sneed (Delta Private Jets) is a current commercial airline pilot for Delta. In his case, he was furloughed leading him to find a place in management although he now active again. PrivateFly founder and CEO Adam Twidell is a former Royal Air Force pilot and still flies private jets. He is married to his CMO, an ex Conde Nast executive, making them the only husband-and-wife team I came across. Nicholas Air founder Nicholas Correnti accumulated over 1,000 flight hours by the time he turned 16. JetSuite founder and CEO Alex Wilcox was a career commercial aviation executive working under two legends of that segment, Branson at Virgin Atlantic Airways and David Neeleman, who founded JetBlue and is an investor and on the board of JetSuite.
The size of the companies varies dramatically. Delta Air Lines employs 80,000 people, with Delta Private Jets making up 450. NetJets has about 6,000 employees (parent Berkshire Hathaway has 367,000), Flexjet 1,300 and VistaJet 800. At least a half dozen of the companies surveyed employ under 100 people, however, part of the variance in size is that some companies operate the planes you fly on while others use a charter broker model and go into the market to source planes for your flight. In other words, they don’t need the infrastructure to operate planes.
One of the main drivers in choosing the right company and card for you is where you want to fly. Clay Lacy, Delta Private Jets, Flexjet, JetSet Group, JetSuite, Nicholas Air, PriveJets, Sentient Jet, Solairus, Wheels Up, Wholesale Jet Club and XOJET will fly you to over 5,000 airports, but you will be mainly restricted to the continental U.S. and Canada, in some cases including the Caribbean and Mexico as part of their service footprints. Air Partner and NetJets also offer you service in Europe. Jet Linx, Magellan Jets, PJS Private Jet Service Group, Star Jets and VistaJet have global programs. Of course, some programs can arrange charter pricing for you when you go outside their service area, although you will end up paying different rates and may be subject to one-way surcharges and other extra fees.
In total, I found over 60 different variances in private jet card and prepaid private jet programs from they ways you get charged for taxi time to WiFi access, policies on flying your pets or unaccompanied children and perks such as luxury partnerships and access to big sporting events such as the Super Bowl or Kentucky Derby.
I’ll be detailing the differences in subsequent articles, however, if you want to jump ahead you can find all the information from over 80 programs in spreadsheet format at PrivateJetCardComparisons.com.
From Forbes.com article by Doug Gollan
The FlightList PRO multi-search platform which includes all 16,631 charter aircraft and 3,419 charter operators worldwide. FlightList PRO is used by the most successful and experienced brokers and travel professionals in the industry; 80% of those using FlightList PRO have been arranging charters more than 10 years, and a full 1/4 – more than 20 years. Currently 30-day free trials are available.
Air Charter Alerts by FlightList PRO, are the latest announcements in the private air charter industry about operators, brokers and charter aircraft, and geared towards active participants in the industry.