Culture / Travel

Private Jet Travel Lessons

Is a Charter Broker or a Jet Card a Better Deal for You?

BY Promoted Series Correspondent

Short of owning a plane with your personal pilot on standby, the easiest route to flying private is by using a jet card or a charter broker. No single choice is right for every flight — and the wrong choice can financially ding you.

Only fly a few times a year? Brokered charter is the way to go. Brokers have access to a network of planes and will source the right plane for the flight profile, after filtering for safety factors and cost. If your flights are long-hauls with extended stay-overs, a jet card could be the way to go. There are operational nuances between the two, but all things being equal, flight times and the number of overnight stays are the main metrics that determine the economic efficiencies.

You can hop on an eight-seat jet — think Citation XLS or Lear 45 — from Houston to Aspen for a four-day weekend and pay $30K through a broker or $35K using a jet card. That same trip, for a weeklong stay, could cost $43K with a broker, but only $35K with a jet card. Day trip to New Orleans? Jet card for $16K, but only $9K with a broker.

Seven couples could take a four day weekend trip to Cabo from Houston for $53,000 with a broker (about $7,500 per couple). Those same private flights would set them back $65,000 with a jet card. That price gap might be the difference between deciding to stay at a magical spot like the Hotel San Cristóbal or a more ordinary hotel.

Saving significant money on your private flight impacts a vacation in all kinds of ways. Research is key. Take a four-day trip to Alys Beach, the small town on the white sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle that’s become something of a secret hideaway for the rich and famous. That trip for a family of six from Houston would set you back $17,500 with a broker as opposed to $12,600 with a jet card.

Closer to home, the savings are just as dramatic going the broker route. A trip to Dallas and back for you and your attorney going up to close a deal would cost $6,300 using a broker and $10,300 with a jet card.

Alys Shoppe at Alys Beach

Jet cards typically require you to spend a bunch of money upfront, and that also has to be baked into the equation. Thought that was it? Not quite. Brokers have a trick up their sleeves: finding empty planes that are crisscrossing the country, exacting a discount from the operator that can leave both traditional charter and jet-card pricing in the dust. They’re hit or miss, but when they hit, they’re magic on the checkbook.

Inside The Broker vs. Jet Card Debate

Charter Brokers have access to thousands of planes, from single engine turboprops to Boeing Business Jets. They use networks, and experience, to evaluate what planes fit the trip, then choose the right operator after filtering for safety and pricing factors.

Jet Cards come in myriad flavors. They don’t own the airplanes, and like a broker, they search the market for the right plane. Most require the client to buy blocks of flight time upfront, or, otherwise charge an initiation fee. If they find a plane at a great price, they make more money since they still charge the client the rate card pricing.

In contrast, a broker will typically pass some of the savings along. Hourly fees with jet cards are typically much higher than a brokered flight — however, often times fees such as landing, overnight, parking and deicing are waived. Some companies  quote hourly rates that include tax, and some don’t. Be careful. Most card companies guarantee a plane within a certain timeframe – 8, 12 or 24 hours, and, a replacement plane if your plane breaks.

Brokers, too, can find planes on short notice, but planning ahead always helps. If your plane breaks with a brokered flight, the broker will have to source another one, and you would be charged to reposition that plane to you (if it’s not on the field where you happen to be). However, breakdowns don’t happen regularly, and the premium of paying jet card rates are typically offset by lower, brokered rates.

Jet card companies promote the safety of their planes, but the funny thing is, brokers have access to, and often use, the same exact planes that a jet card company uses, so the safety factor is normally a wash.

For more expert private jet travel tips and inside the cockpit knowledge, go to The Company Plane can help plan and book any private flying needs. From one passenger to one hundred or more, we will find the right plane. For those companies and individuals who fly frequently, we can help evaluate the perfect broker versus jet card mix, and, can manage both of these for you. Let’s talk, let’s fly.

NOTE: The Company Plane is not the operator of charter flights. Fleets and companies are constantly changing, and it curates only FAA Certificated Part 135 operators that are appropriate for its clients. Ultimately, these operators are solely responsible for the transportation that is arranged by The Company Plane.

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