Well-to-do people looking for a novel holiday gift have an uncommon option available to them: a plastic card loaded with 10, 20, or 25 hours of flight time on a business jet.
For Christmas last year, one successful Wall Streeter gifted six jet cards — each valued at $185,000 — to family members so they would not have to fly with airlines.
Jet cards have become since 2001. Privacy, safety, convenience, and travel flexibility are key reasons why people buy them. The airlines and traveling public have experienced record delays in 2007, which makes jet cards even more attractive to those who can afford them.
The private aircraft that jet card holders fly on can operate from thousands of airports in North America and other regions where airline service is either non-existent or infrequent.
Private jet travel without buying part of the airplane
“The Vector Card is our jet card product,” said Jean Kelly, a Senior VP at CitationShares, a fractional aircraft company affiliated with the world’s leading corporate jet manufacturer, Cessna. “It allows people to buy hours on the airplane without making the capital investment of buying the share of the airplane as our owners do.”
The Vector JetCard program allows customers to buy flight time in 20-hour increments starting at $111,000. The Cessna jets operated by CitationShares are the Citation Bravo, CJ3, XLS, and Sovereign, which seat as few as six and as many as nine passengers, depending on the airplane.
Bombardier, the Canada-based company that builds Learjet and Challenger business jets, has a fractional aircraft subsidiary. Bombardier Flexjet not only sells jet cards, but in the spirit of the holidays the company is donating one hour of flight time for every jet card sold between September 15 and December 15, 2007.
The recipients of Bombardier Flexjet’s generosity are the people who fly with Angel Flight South Central, a charitable organization based in Texas that offers free air transportation for medical and humanitarian purposes. Each Flexjet 25 card bought during the 3-month period comes in a designer green or red leather case with literature explaining the gift of jet time to Angel Flight South Central.
Variety and time-savings
People enjoy selecting different gifts for their family and friends. Marquis Jet offers more choice in terms of different types of corporate jets than its competition. The company has an exclusive alliance with NetJets, which operates a fleet of more than 700 airplanes. The ten aircraft types in NetJets’ fleet include the near-supersonic Citation X and the ultra-long range Gulfstream 550. Listed 2007 jet card prices for 25 hours range from $119,900 on a Citation V Ultra to $339,900 on a Gulfstream 450.
Ken Pingree, president of the Bay Area Financial Group in California said of the Marquis Jet program, "It frees me up for an additional four hours per round trip, and you also don't get the brain damage of dealing with LAX or San Francisco Airport."
Congestion at major U.S. airports increases substantially between mid-December and early January as more than 47 million passengers travel on U.S. airlines globally.
Even more choices
During the holidays, most people travel on commercial air carriers, and many fly on Delta Air Lines. The world’s second largest airline not only offers flights on its Boeing and McDonnell Douglas airliners, but through its jet card program, also offers private air transportation on Learjet and Challenger business jets.
Delta AirElite offers the jet card industry's lowest cost of entry. Pricing for 10 hours in the light jet category starts at just $43,900, which makes giving a jet card possible for more people.
Flight Options, another fractional aircraft company, offers a different way to enjoy the benefits of a jet card. Clients deposit $100,000 and receive a JetPASS Ultimate Travel jet card. They have access to three cabin classes of private jets: light, mid-size, and large. Flying hours during peak, high-demand, and non-peak days are deducted from their balance.
A number of jet card companies have experienced a double-digit increase in business this year, with sales during the latter part of 2007 being the strongest as many people buy jet cards to avoid next year’s price increase. Whether for oneself or someone else, a jet card is a welcome gift.