Fractional-Card Programs

In evaluating various fractional-card programs for possible inclusion in this year’s Best of the Best list, I and the other members of the Robb Report Private Aviation Advisory Board considered several important factors. For example, we looked at the ways card providers fulfill their customers’ expectations of service on a daily basis. We evaluated their management processes and systems, including scheduling and dispatch, service limitations, flight and maintenance operations, and customer service. After careful consideration and discussion, we determined that the card programs offered by Marquis Jet, Flexjet, CitationShares, and Avantair consistently met or exceeded our standards and delivered high levels of customer service.

Yet as any private-aviation traveler knows, processes are worthless if the staff members executing them are unable to be flexible when necessary. There are always situations where exceptions must be made. In terms of consistency and flexibility, all of the fractional-card programs on the list this year received high marks, with special recognition going to Marquis Jet, due in large part to the sheer size of the program at NetJets, the vendor’s exclusive aircraft provider.

In this industry, reputation is the perception of a card provider’s overall performance. We found that Marquis Jet benefits from being one of the first fractional-card programs established, which gives it a commanding lead in terms of market share. The company also continues to promote its card program with strong marketing efforts. Likewise, Flexjet and CitationShares benefit from the rock-solid reputations of their respective parent companies, Bombardier and Cessna, which loom large in the private-aviation industry. Like Marquis Jet, these two companies continue to grow their card programs in interesting ways by offering a variety of value-added options. Finally, Avantair’s reputation is growing as a regional fractional player that offers a more affordable alternative to the high costs of jet cards and fractional aircraft ownership. As prices for jet fuel soared in 2008, Avantair—with its relatively fuel-stingy Piaggio Avanti aircraft and its flexible card program—saw an increase in revenue.

Buying access to private-aircraft travel is, of course, expensive. Given the amount of money involved in fractional-card transactions, accuracy in accounting is of paramount importance. On this point, we found that all of the programs on this year’s list are consistently reliable. In the end, however, the way a vendor makes its cardholders feel—that is, its customer service—is as important as having the best program in the industry for cost and operations. Upon the conclusion of our review, the members of the Robb Report Private Aviation Advisory Board agreed that in this regard, the four programs we cite here are, indeed, the Best of the Best.

Programs listed in alphabetical order

Program Avantair Edge Card

Established 2008

Offered by Avantair

Aircraft Access to the Avantair fleet

Description Cardholders purchase access to the Avantair fleet in 15- and 25-hour increments

Contact 877.289.7180, www.avantair.com

Program Flexjet 25

Established 2006

Offered by Flexjet (operated by Jet Solutions)

Aircraft The Flexjet fleet, including Learjet and Challenger models

Description Cardholders purchase access to Flexjet aircraft in 25-, 30-, and 35-hour increments

Contact 866.473.0025, www.flexjet25.com

Program Marquis Jet Card

Established 2001

Offered by Marquis Jet

Aircraft The NetJets fleet, including models from Cessna, Hawker, Gulfstream, Boeing, and Dassault Falcon

Description Cardholders purchase access to NetJets aircraft in 25-hour increments

Contact 866.538.0707, www.marquisjet.com

Program Vector Fleet JetCard

Established 2005

Offered by CitationShares, a division of Cessna

Aircraft The CitationShares fleet, including various Cessna Citation models

Description An up-front deposit provides access to the CitationShares fleet

Contact 877.832.8678, www.citationshares.com