Match your travel needs to a bizav solution

Buyers' Guide » 2014
Those interested in purchasing aircraft often have a lot of options to consider such as owning a fractional share, chartering or purchasing a jet card.
Tuesday, July 22, 2014 - 3:45pm

Match your travel needs to a bizav solution

Which of the major bizav access models—charter, jet card or fractional ownership—best suits you? To begin to answer that question, determine which of the statements below apply to you. If more than half of the statements for an access option apply, it could be a good choice. Note, though, that not all statements carry equal weight; the hours you fly annually can trump other factors in determining whether a solution is appropriate.

CONSIDER CHARTER IF...

You’re based in or near a major metropolitan center.

This means you can take advantage of many charter options without facing charges for repositioning. 

The number of people in your party or the distances you travel often change from flight to flight.

With charter, it’s easy to book the optimum aircraft for each trip; with fractional shares and jet cards, switches may be difficult or involve a surcharge.

You make frequent round trips.

Round-trip charter remains one of business aviation’s best bargains. 

You usually fly fewer than 25 hours per year.

Many jet cards are sold in minimum denominations of 25 flight hours while fractional shares typically start at 50 hours per year.

Your travel schedule is often flexible.

Flexibility allows you to take advantage of off-peak oversupply, empty legs and other discount charter deals.

You don’t mind flying on older business jets.

The charter fleet is older than card and fractional fleets, but aircraft from licensed operators are safe and well maintained. When chartering, you can request the age range of the aircraft you want, and an older model will be less expensive than a newer one.

You typically don’t need to travel during peak holiday periods.

Fractional and jet-card providers can usually accommodate their owners and cardholders during such times. Charter customers may have to wait.

You prefer to pay as you go.

Jet cards involve significant upfront expenditure and fractional shares require even larger initial investments.

You occasionally need to make immediate, unscheduled trips.

Peak holiday times notwithstanding, charter can often have you in the air faster than a card or fractional program, which may require 12 hours’ or more advance notice.

You need to travel internationally.

No card or fractional program can match the best international charter providers when it comes to servicing far corners of the world.

CONSIDER A JET CARD IF...

Your company uses business aviation regularly, but doesn’t want to carry a corporate jet on its books.

A jet card comes close to mimicking the ownership experience but doesn’t require you to manage an aircraft—or add one to your list of capital expenses.

You often stay at your destination two nights or more.

This means you’re not a round-tripper, and the one-way pricing of cards works to your advantage.

You fly at least 25 hours per year.

This is the minimum flight time for many cards. Make sure you know the replenishment policies and other program rules of your card provider.

You want guaranteed access to a jet for special events or emergencies.

A jet card is an ideal get-out-of-wherever card. Many charter users buy one at least partly for this reason.

You don’t mind keeping money on account if you get a reasonable discount in return.

Typically, the higher the hours or dollar value of a jet card, the greater the per-hour savings, providing the equivalent of volume discounts for flight time.

Your flight department needs supplemental lift.

A card gets you airborne quickly when you need additional lift or your own aircraft are grounded for mechanical or other reasons.

You think fractional ownership suits you, but you want to be sure before buying in.

The first card programs were created by fractional providers so potential customers could sample the service before committing to it.

If you want to try before you buy, a fractional provider’s card product is the way to go.

You don’t live or work near a major metro area.

The jet card’s one-way pricing model and lack of repositioning fees make it especially attractive for travelers who’d likely be assessed repositioning costs and have a lesser selection of available aircraft when chartering away from major business aviation flyways.

You’re using more hours on your fractional card this year than planned.

Policies about buying, selling, banking and borrowing flight hours vary among fractional programs. A jet card can provide the solution for owners looking for an alternative source of additional hours.

You have to take a team on the road for back-to-back presentations in multiple cities.

Cards offer a defined amount of flight time and major providers have the requisite backup to ensure your road show doesn’t hit any speed bumps.

CONSIDER FRACTIONAL OWNERSHIP IF...

You fly at least 50 hours per year.

That’s the flight-hour equivalent of a 1/16th share, the usual minimum.

Consistency in your travel experience is important to you.

With fractional ownership, you’ll always know what you’re getting. Service is personalized and quality tends to be high.

You like flying aboard new aircraft with the latest technology.

Fractional fleets are early adopters, often serving as launch customers for new aircraft.

Your company could justify a business jet but doesn’t want a flight department.

Removing ownership hassles is a key benefit of fractional programs.

You can take advantage of the tax benefits of ownership.

If so, the case for a fractional share can be compelling. If not, charter or a jet card may make more sense.

You don’t live or work near a major metropolitan center.

With fractional programs as with jet cards, the one-way pricing model and lack of positioning fees is advantageous in remote locations where charter presents few choices and charter repositioning fees often apply.

Guaranteed access is important to you. Fractional providers have all the lift needed to ensure you’re airborne when needed, mechanical problem be damned. That can give you a sense of confidence that even whole-aircraft owners don’t often enjoy.

Most of your flights involve approximately the same distance and number of passengers. The fractional model is based on buying a share in a specific aircraft that you will fly aboard (or an identical one when your aircraft is unavailable).

Occasionally you need access to several aircraft simultaneously.

Your annual allotment of flight hours can be used concurrently in most programs, ideal for bringing board of family members together while ensuring everyone gets consistency in aircraft type and treatment.

You want the simplest access solution possible and money is no object.

You can find quality service providers within any access model, but for the freedom to go as you please on an ongoing basis, fractional ownership provides the most convenience and simplicity.

Don’t be surprised if two or even all three of the above options seem appropriate; many private flyers find it best to use a combination of access modes, depending on the requirements of each trip. Might you be one such traveler? Here are some tips to help you decide.

CONSIDER USING BOTH CHARTER AND A JET CARD IF...

You need guaranteed access but want to economize on a flight-by-flight basis, using charter to find the best deals available and drawing on the card when it’s the better option.

You want to compare a variety of aircraft models for your travel needs, using a card that provides access by category to a variety of aircraft, and when chartering, selecting models appropriate to each mission.

You’re a devoted charter user but need backup for situations when no suitable charter solution is available.

CONSIDER USING BOTH FRACTIONAL AND CHARTER IF...

You enjoy the consistency of fractional but want to take advantage of charter bargains that may be available on some routes you fly. You have a heavy domestic travel schedule but occasionally fly to far-flung international locations, which are better served by charter. A fractional share takes care of almost all but not quite 100 percent of your travel needs.

Charter can fill in the occasional gap without tying up your money in a jet card.

CONSIDER USING BOTH FRACTIONAL AND A JET CARD IF...

You want to keep business and personal travel separate, using the fractional share for business, for example, and a card from the same provider for personal travel.

Your usage warrants fractional ownership, but the hours you fly vary substantially year to year. You can buy a share covering the minimum hours needed and cover your peak demand periods with a jet card.

You have consistent but unequal needs for two or more category of aircraft. You can use the fractional share for your primary travel, and the jet card for access to the secondary lift you regularly need. (Note that some fractional programs offer split ownership options for such situations.) 

James Wynbrandt is a private pilot and a regular contributor to BJT. 

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T Rich
on July 24, 2014 - 1:55pm

You didn't close the solution chain with "Full Ownership". I'd like to see the bullets on that.

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