Today’s business air travel options today are many, and allow for customization of hours, aircraft, and costs. Whole aircraft ownership offers an aircraft and crew tailored to your specific requirements and preferences, but requires a significant capital investment. We normally recommend that clients new to business air travel start with another option, unless they are certain their travel requirements justify full aircraft purchase. If you’re not yet ready for whole aircraft ownership, consider:
Charter, an excellent way to experience the benefits of business aviation, is the best option when your travel is intermittent, the type of aircraft needed varies, and you fly not more than about 25 hours per year.
Travel by charter is safe, efficient, and when used appropriately, cost-effective. Your commitment is limited to only the individually contracted trip. Charter providers offer a variety of different aircraft to suit most travel needs, and since most are regionally based, you’ll likely find one near your closest metropolitan area.
With traditional charter, you pay for the hours the aircraft is used, including any positioning. Other charges include catering, landing fees, and taxes. Discounts can be offered for round-trip/same day travel, or “empty leg” trips, when your travel matches a repositioning flight on an aircraft returning with no paying passengers. A commitment to advance purchase hours in blocks of time from a single provider is called “block charter” and often offers discounts and/or an availability guarantee.
However, absent a block hour purchase, the charter provider or aircraft type you require may not be available on the dates you desire, requiring you to pay for a larger aircraft, for an aircraft to be positioned from far away, or to reschedule your trip.
Jet cards make economic sense when you fly 25 to 100 hours annually, especially if different aircraft capabilities frequently are needed.
A form of block charter, jet cards commonly are sold in 25-hour blocks, and offer added features such as one-way (or occupied leg only) pricing. Costs may be lower than traditional charter (unless guaranteed availability is included), as you pay in advance for the card and are guaranteed a set price per hour for the aircraft type/category used. There is no commitment beyond the hours of flight time purchased. You can purchase jet cards according to aircraft type or category, and if you need aircraft for both short and long trips, you can purchase different cards for aircraft that best meet each need.
Like charter, booking generally is via telephone or online. Many card providers also offer concierge services such as ground transportation, hotel booking, and even special event tickets. Jet cards offer guaranteed availability when booked according to contract, often with as little as 24 hours’ notice.
Fractional ownership is best for those with consistent travel needs that range between 50 to 200 annual hours. Under fractional aircraft ownership, an aircraft management company facilitates the sale of shares of an aircraft to a number of co-owners, who in turn employ the management company to operate the aircraft on their behalf. Typically, you purchase an interest in a specific aircraft, based on 800 occupied hours per year for each whole aircraft. Each 1/16th share is guaranteed 50 occupied hours annually. You have access to the entire fleet of the provider’s aircraft and can upgrade or downgrade your aircraft category with hourly-fee adjustments.
Ownership contracts typically run for five years. Owners are charged only for hours during which they actually occupy the aircraft. In addition to the initial capital outlay (or lease payments), both monthly and hourly charges apply. Costs escalate annually based on the CPI or on a fixed minimum increase. At the contract’s end, your share is sold back to the management company or you may elect to renew.
Make the best use of your resources by choosing the right form of business aircraft travel for each trip. And when you are flying 200 to 250 hours annually, it’s time to evaluate full aircraft ownership. BAA
David Wyndham, President, Wyndham + Associates, develops and manages new programs, conducts consulting studies, manages aircraft cost and performance databases, and offers customer computer support. He was an Instructor Pilot in the US Air Force.