Joining the jet set
Even those that enjoy the actual flying experience would not argue that the initial jostling and queuing, arriving hours early for check-in, enhanced security leading to increased delays, generally crowded planes with cramped accommodation and other associated drudgery is not exactly fun. Even as a small percentage of the approximately 2 billion air passengers that travel every year, there are an awful lot of people out there looking for something more out of their flying experience. It is fair to say that the vast majority would rather be flying privately, but is this only an option available to the super-rich? Not if you’re travelling fractional.
Private jet travel is becoming more popular for the cash-rich, time-poor consumer in today’s world and the signs are that it is set to continue. With flexible schedules and destinations to suit you, a super-slick airport process, extra security and the potential for entertaining friends and clients but, ultimately, to just travel and arrive in impeccable style, nothing can match your own private jet.
There are a wide range of different options available, ranging from fractional ownership programmes, fractional card and membership programmes, charter card programmes and on-demand charter.
Firstly, there is actual fractional ownership, where one buys a share of a plane; as a part owner, you have access to ‘your’ plane at short notice. Just like with other fractional models, your annual use of the aircraft corresponds to your share size. At the end of your contract, which typically lasts around five years, you sell your share back to the management company, which is valued based on the current market price of your plane, less a remarketing fee. In addition to your share, you pay a monthly maintenance fee for the upkeep of your plane and crew, and a separate hourly fee for your flight time.
The fractional card and membership programme is an asset-sharing rather than a fractional model, so there is no actual ownership involved. Instead, you simply prepay, much as you would with a pay-as-you-go phone card (although £10 of airtime in this case doesn’t get you very far!). When you’ve used your allotment, you simply purchase another card.
One key distinction in card programmes is the source of the planes and crew. Fractional cards provide you with access to the same aircraft and crew that fractional owners receive. Charter cards draw from the wider array of charter operators. The structure of the programme itself is based on either hour/plane or debit models. In the latter, you prepay and each trip is deducted from your card balance, and in the former, you pay based on the accumulated flying hours (i.e. excluding preparation of the craft), which are debited from your account in a similar fashion to prepay.
So which format is best for you? Well, the keyword there is you. Where do you want to fly, how short a notice period do you require for your needs, do you have a provider preference and even the apparently small details such as how much baggage you regularly need to carry, for example, if you regularly carry skis or golf clubs, as certain smaller craft are immediately ruled out, are down to you. Also, there is obviously some financial risk involved in owning your own personal share of a plane, so you need to weigh that up. As with any fractional decision, there is also the release of financial concern—cards require a smaller initial investment than ownership, as this can run into millions of pounds. To make the decision process slightly easier, many companies offer the full range of options.
Although referred to as private jet travel, you will not always be travelling by an actual jet. Particularly when travelling within Europe, a jet is not the most efficient way of getting around. Many companies offer a range of turboprop aircraft giving jet-like efficiency at a lower price point and with a lower environmental impact.