The Best of the Best 2003: Flight Services - Sentient

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The standard fractional ownership experience can include five-year commitments, costly management fees, and unwanted shares whose value—if you attempt to sell them back to the provider—can depreciate significantly from the time you purchased them.

A Sentient owner experiences none of these inconveniences. Instead, you purchase a Sentient travel card, which operates as a kind of debit card, and draw upon your balance every time you fly aboard a Sentient aircraft. Rates range from $2,050 per hour to $4,950 per hour (based on round-trip travel), depending on the size of aircraft you choose. Sentient’s per-hour prices can be higher than the rates of fractional providers and charter operators, but you do not need to commit to a long-term contract or to a certain number of flight hours per year. There are no management fees. And if you decide to redeem your Sentient membership, you receive every dollar remaining on the balance of your travel card, though it is rare for a Sentient owner to discontinue his membership. The Norwell, Mass., company boasts a 98.5 percent retention rate.

Like fractional companies, Sentient presents itself as a cost-effective alternative to jet ownership. “If you’re a corporation, you might own two jets that stand idle on one day,” says Sentient CEO Mark Stone. “Other days, you might have five times the demand. We can make as many aircraft available as you need. If you have 12 board members spread out across the country and you need them to converge in Sun Valley for the weekend, we can supply 12 aircraft.”

Sentient is also an increasingly popular alternative to first- and business-class travelers inconvenienced by budget-conscious airlines’ reducing their schedules, especially on regional legs. While acknowledging that Sentient’s rates are more expensive than a first-class ticket, Stone cites the time his clients save by avoiding layovers, flight delays, and security checks. “Let’s say you have a meeting for five people an hour away in South Bend,” Stone says. “You have to fly out the night before, round-trip tickets cost $4,500, and then you have to pay for a hotel, dinner, and breakfast the next day. Instead, you get a light jet with Sentient. Round-trip cost is $2,050 an hour, making it $4,100. Plus, you’ve got the group together, you have a two-hour meeting, and they’re all back in the office by noon the same day.”

For its aircraft, Sentient draws upon a national network of charter operators who can have planes ready within five hours. Available aircraft include the Learjet 31 ($2,050 per hour, based on round-trip travel), the Raytheon Hawker 800XP ($3,200 per hour), and the Gulfstream IV ($4,950 per hour). Because the company has access to a charter network, it is easier to own a Sentient travel card than to contact individual charter operators seeking an itinerary that best suits your needs.

Other membership benefits include limo service to and from the airport, catered meals, in-flight video and audio entertainment aboard larger aircraft, and upgrades to bigger jets (from a Hawker 800XP to a Challenger 604, for example) based on accrued mileage.

Sentient, 866.473.6843, www.sentientjet.com

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