How Private Aviation Works
Private jet travel used to be the plaything/necessity (delete as applicable) of the hyper-rich. Celebrities, corporation leaders and other such manifestations of the worlds top-earners all enjoyed the exclusivity, convenience and ultimate luxury afforded by taking to the skies in their own private transport. But these days you don't have to be the head of a multi-national or even a Hollywood A-lister to kiss the hustle and bustle of commercial air travel farewell.
Today there are fractional-jet ownership programs that allow you to buy a share of a jet and a number of hours of flying time for prices still unaffordable by most but then there are the lower-price alternatives such as jet cards that offer a similar service but on an asset-sharing basis rather than a fractional ownership one. It's all relative and there is certainly nothing bargain basement about the latter option, in neither cost nor the rigorous safety measures.
But let us take a look at the former option first, fractional ownership. In short, one purchases a "share" of a plane, with the price pro-rated from the market value of a the specific aircraft. As a fractional owner, you have guaranteed access to that plane with as little as few hours' notice with your amount of hours flying time spread throughout the term dependent on the size of your share. A monthly maintenance is payable and then an hourly operational fee when you are actually onboard. As with normal commerical flights you generally pay a fuel surcharge as well to cover fluctuations in the cost of fuel.
Throughout your agreement you have access to the full fleet of planes and may upgrade or downgrade as your needs demand. At the end of the term, you sell your share back to the company for fair market value, less a remarketing fee. The overall cost to you is dependent on how much the jet is worth at the end of the agreement. There are a number of programs which differ in their costs and terms but most generally operate in this way.
The second option, Jet cards, offer the benefits of fractional ownership without the tie-in or the higher cost. The lower cost means that you will have less hours available to you but obviously that is to be expected, although bear in mind that the lower overall cost means that the hourly rate is usually higher than fractional ownership when you sit down and work it out.
Other incarnations of the jet-card program include debit cards that deduct the trip's cost, rather than hours flown, from an already pre-filled account. Similar to the fractional ownership format, you establish a cash balance which you draw against per a pre-defined fee schedule. In exchange for your prepayment, you are guaranteed access within a "call-out" period (4-12 hours), and pay only for "occupied" flight hours.