Best of the Best 2007: Flight-Card Programs: Charter: Sentient Jet
In the past year, Sentient Jet has joined the ranks of the largest flight-services operations. A deal between Sentient and the Pennsylvania-based aircraft management firm JetDirect, characterized by different sources either as a merger or as an acquisition by JetDirect, was scheduled to be finalized in April, just after this issue of Robb Report went to press. As described by Sentient, the deal would give it access to the 140 or so jets that JetDirect manages, in addition to the 70 dedicated aircraft and 600-plus nondedicated ones that Sentient already counts in its fleet. “Now we’re the only flight-services player of size and scope besides the large fractional programs,” CEO Steve Hankin said in late March. “Our membership has tripled in the past 24 months, to about 3,500, and we expect it will grow even faster now.”
Sentient has offered its TravelCard since the company’s launch in 1999. The card comes in Silver and Gold versions, which require deposits of $100,000 and $250,000, respectively. Flight expenses are deducted from the deposits, which never expire, and remainders of the deposits are refundable at any time. Earlier this year, the company began offering the Preferred Plus card program, which guarantees access to the newer planes in its fleet and sets rates for flight hours that are about 6 percent lower than those for the TravelCard. The new card requires a nonrefundable deposit of $150,000 and expires after one year. Hourly rates for the program range from about $3,300 for a round trip on a light jet to $9,600 for a one-way trip on a heavy one.
According to Sentient, the deal with JetDirect should give it more control over two important aspects of its operation: safety and service. The company touts its efforts to ensure aircraft safety, noting its establishment of an independent Jet Safety Advisory Board in 2005. The board reviews all accidents in the industry and reports back to Sentient with any information that would be relevant to the company’s operations. The company also has created what it calls a Preferred Operator Network, which consists of charter companies that work only with Sentient.
As for service, Hankin has pointed to an on-time record of 99 percent—before the addition of the JetDirect planes. In addition, the company continues to forge relationships with luxury providers that offer various benefits to members. Most recently, Sentient partnered with Cotton Bay Estates & Villas in the Bahamas, whose owners may join the Sentient program under preferred terms. Sentient is also the private jet provider for the PGA Tour, Pebble Beach Resorts, and the Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina.