Best of the Best 2007: Flight-Card Programs: Charter

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Delta AirElite Business Jets, the jet charter operation owned by Delta Air Lines, continues to enhance its flight-card operation, which it launched in 2003. Most recently, the Delta AirElite Fleet Membership (800.927.0927, www.airelite.com) program introduced the Efficiency Bonus feature, which rewards you for taking round-trip flights (thereby enabling the company to avoid flying dead-head ones) by giving you as much as 35 percent more flying time than you purchased. You can purchase cards in 10-, 25-, and 50-hour increments for light, midsize, or large-cabin jets. Prices range from $43,900 for 10 hours aboard a light jet such as an eight-passenger Raytheon Beechjet 400A to about $488,000 for 50 hours on a new, 14-passenger Gulfstream IV-SP or 550. The company imposes no time limit in which members must use their hours. Fleet members also qualify for Delta’s SkyMiles Medallion program, which grants preferred seating and boarding, special check-in privileges, expedited security checks, and other perks on Delta commercial flights.

The Jet Aviation Privileged Travel Card (201.288.8400, www.jetaviation.com), from the international aircraft charter and service company Jet Aviation (see here), offers flight time in increments of 10, 25, 50, and 100 hours. Card owners have access to more than 700 jets, ranging from small-cabin craft such as a Cessna Citation II, at $45,000 for 10 hours, to large jets such as a new Bombardier Global Express, at about $1.3 million for 100 hours. Round-trips qualify for discounts of as much as 40 percent for owners of 25-, 50-, or 100-hour cards. Late last year, Jet Aviation introduced what it calls the first flight card created specifically for women travelers. Five percent of the proceeds from sales of the Red Dress Privileged Travel card go to support a National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute initiative that raises awareness about heart disease among women.

Paul Svenson remembers the days when, as an executive at Sentient, he helped invent the flight card. “People had the black Amex card, but they didn’t have a ‘jet card,’ ” he notes. “Then I decided to make it like a debit card, and it really caught on fire.” Indeed, at JetNetwork (888.255.5387, www.jetnetwork.com), which Svenson launched in 2002, membership has increased about 75 percent over the past year. But he is watching the growth carefully: “We’re creating something like a country club,” he says, “and we want to keep the operation manageable.” Svenson intends to hold the line at 750 members and is currently about halfway there. Once they pay a deposit of $100,000, $250,000, or $500,000, JetNetwork members gain access to some 100 aircraft, from a seven-passenger Raytheon Beechjet 400A (at $2,550 per hour, round-trip) to the 19-passenger Bombardier Global Express (at $7,850 per hour, one-way). The company imposes no extra charges for jet repositioning or fuel, and any remainder of the deposit is fully refundable.

The aircraft management and charter company TAG Aviation (see here) launched its TAG Aviation JetCard (800.331.1930, www.tagaviation.com) in late 2005. Owners make deposits of $100,000, $250,000, or $500,000, from which flight costs are deducted on a fixed-rate, per-hour basis. The available jets range in size from light ($2,900 per hour) to midsize ($4,270) to super-midsize ($6,840) to large-cabin ($8,890). There are no minimum usage requirements, and any unused portion of a deposit is refundable. TAG says that it will provide a plane within 12 hours of notification.

Illustration by Jean-François Martin
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