Charter-Card Programs

Jet-card programs offered by charter companies differ from those offered by fractional vendors in that they always rely upon third-party air carriers or charter companies to provide aircraft. (In most instances, fractionals utilize aircraft from their own fleets.) With this in mind, one of the most effective ways to differentiate between charter-card programs that are merely good and those that are truly the best is by examining the various ways that companies offering these programs select their air carriers and aircraft. Because cardholders may fly each leg of a journey on a different aircraft, charter companies must have processes in place that enable them to provide a consistent level of service, even though each aircraft may be operated by a different air carrier. A charter company with effective processes typically provides its cardholders with safe, enjoyable travel experiences. Those companies that invest very little time and effort in vetting potential sources of aircraft, however, often disappoint.

Another way to gauge the desirability of charter-card programs is by assessing their flexibility. Most charter-card customers deposit a specific amount of money with a provider, and, as they travel, the cost of each trip is deducted from the deposit. Some cardholders want to fly on a particular type of aircraft. To accommodate these requests, some programs require that customers purchase a certain number of hours. The best programs, however, provide more flexibility in this area by allowing customers to determine their aircraft needs on a leg-by-leg basis without financial penalty.

The last important attribute that travelers should look for in a charter-card program is the ability to exit the program easily. Many providers in this market offer tiers of service that can actually limit the cardholder’s ability to exit a program. While it is important to note that some of these tiered service offerings include added values, discounts, or benefits that offset the inconvenience of not being able to exit prior to exhausting the account balance, in many cases travelers choose charter-card programs primarily because they want minimum commitment and maximum flexibility. Therefore, before enrolling in any program, it is important that travelers understand what they are getting and what they are giving up in return. The best charter-card programs offer a wide variety of options that address most needs.

This year, the members of the Robb Report Private Aviation Advisory Board recognize two card programs that excel in many of the ways that benefit charter travelers. The Skyjet Card, offered by Bombardier Skyjet, and Sentient Jet Membership consistently offer customers new and different programs that feature enhanced services and discounts, plus some creative benefits. For example, Skyjet guarantees aircraft availability and free positioning. Sentient offers custom catering and allows customers to fly with their pets. Furthermore, these two companies have proven records of working effectively and efficiently in the highly competitive and ever-evolving charter industry.

Programs listed in alphabetical order

Program Sentient Jet Membership

Established 1999

Offered by Sentient Flight Group

Aircraft Jets of various makes offered by category

Description $150,000 initial deposit, replenishment in $50,000 increments

Contact 800.760.4908, www.sentient.com

Program Skyjet Card

Established 2002

Offered by Bombardier Skyjet

Aircraft Jets of various makes offered by category

Description $100,000 initial deposit

Contact 888.275.9538, www.skyjet.com