Since the mainstream arrival of chartered aviation services, jet cards have been an industry staple. They enable holders to fly privately on different craft at fixed rates with certain perks or opportunities depending on their card level. Jet cards make the benefits of private aviation broadly available to those who don’t own their own jet. This convenience is causing an explosion in popularity for jet card membership as lingering pandemic concerns fuel the rise of private aviation.
Demand for jet cards is booming
The global pandemic has had a drastic effect on consumer habits in every sector, including private aviation. The private jet industry is seeing record highs for flight demand fueled by pandemic fears and an increase in personal wealth creation due to a rising stock market. Those who can afford to charter an aircraft have done so to avoid the health risks of crowded airports and packed commercial flights.
It’s clear both business and leisure travelers are willing to pay more for the safety, convenience, and comfort private jet travel affords. Nowhere is this more evident than in the rising demand for jet cards and membership to various charter jet agencies.
The travel boom has fueled interest in private jet cards, leading charter companies, such as NetJets, to temporarily pause their programs to best serve the needs of existing clients. The pause allows NetJets to take time to reassess and consider how to meet new demand. Charter company Wheels Up has also seen a surge in demand — and revenue — with membership growing over 50% in the last year. Customers are flying longer distances and demand is up for all fleet categories — a trend private jet experts believe will continue to grow in the months ahead.
A lucrative opportunity for flyers and sellers alike
As more people shift from commercial to private aviation, companies have an opportunity to promote the jet card membership model.
A private jet membership is one of the easiest ways for newcomers to get a taste of private jet travel. Many companies offer a tiered membership model for cardholders to access flights and specific lifestyle and hospitality benefits. Members who invest in higher tiers can take advantage of a dedicated concierge service, automatic President’s Circle status with Hertz, meet-and-greets with celebrities, bucket list travel opportunities, and other perks.
For members at all levels, aviation companies must keep their focus on reliability. As more people ditch commercial flights in favor of charters, companies must ensure they have the capacity to handle increased demand. This includes accommodating travelers even on peak days when demand is at its highest.
The new norm for private aviation?
The aviation industry — and private aviation in particular — is experiencing a historic post-pandemic boom. As more people choose safety, convenience, and luxury over commercial travel, the popularity of jet cards will continue to rise. Card memberships and perks are likely to change in the near term as the industry seeks to accommodate the influx of new patrons.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is tamping down hard on illegal charters. Back in May 2020, the agency sent out a letter encouraging pilots to double-check compliance standards before chartering a flight to ensure they aren’t in violation of federal aviation regulations and, thus, operating an illegal charter. The reminder comes at a time when the FAA says illegal chartering is happening more than ever. More operators and more technologies to facilitate charters have made it easier to broker one; however, that doesn’t mean it’s a legal charter.
The industry fights back
There are numerous reasons to avoid an illegal charter, and to make sure the charter you’re booking isn’t operating outside of FAA guidelines in any way. The chief problem with most illegal charters is that flyers (and operators) aren’t even aware they’re illegal. As a result, there’s no assurance of safety. Unfortunately, not only do illegal charters pose a threat to their passengers, they also risk besmirching the entire charter aircraft industry — whether the pilot is knowingly or unknowingly breaking FAA rules.
In response to increased concern for illicit charters (also known as “grey” charters), a group of 10 prominent industry groups from four different continents have banded together to educate the public. The Air Charter Safety Alliance (ACSA) intends to launch “an online educational campaign” to improve awareness of these potentially dangerous trips.
As it ramps up initiatives, the ACSA counts among its members several prominent aircraft safety organizations, including the U.S. National Air Transportation Association, the U.K. Air Charter Association, and the various incarnations of the National Business Aviation Association spread across the world. Dave Edwards, CEO of the Air Charter Association, stated:
“Illegal charter goes against everything our industry works hard to deliver — it increases the risk to passengers, damages the reputation of our industry, and impacts careers and businesses. By working together with our partner associations around the world, we aim to protect the air charter community and educate passengers, pilots, and aircraft owners about the serious consequences of illegal charter.”
The accidental criminal
One of the most alarming factors surrounding grey charters is that many pilots may be operating one without realizing it. Experts consider something like loaning your plane to friends or clients a grey charter. What may appear to be casual, harmless arrangements for jet owners could end up costing thousands, even millions of dollars in the event an accident occurs. If the National Transportation Safety Board discovers you’re operating a grey charter, the consequences are severe for pilots and owners alike — including fines and/or loss of licensure.
It’s cases like these that the ACSA hopes to curtail. The goal of the organization isn’t to punish offenders but to educate those people unknowingly committing infractions and guide them toward compliance. The hope is that with increased awareness and education about grey charters, the number of accidental illegal charters will drop and the excuses for knowingly operating one will become narrower.
The private charter industry has always been an arms race for market share. Now, regional charter provider Wheels Up has issued a challenge to its closest competition in the form of an acquisition. Wheels Up has purchased Gama Aviation for an undisclosed sum. The deal makes Wheels Up the second-largest private aviation provider in North America, rapidly closing the gap between itself and its prime competitor, NetJets. It’s a move many analysts believe to be a power play for market share as the industry continues to consolidate.
With the Gama Aviation acquisition, Wheels Up now has more than 300 jets. In 2019, the number-two aviation company beat Flexjet with more than 160,000 flight hours. These impressive figures mean Wheels Up is aggressively ramping up its arms race with NetJets.
Despite the acquisition, Gama Aviation will continue business as usual. Tom Connelly, current CEO of Gama Aviation, will oversee operations from their headquarters in Shelton, Connecticut. As a newly acquired subsidiary, Gama Aviation employees may enjoy opportunities to grow their career within Wheels Up. Keeping staff indicates Wheels Up might not be done making moves.
Major players are teaming up
Gama Aviation by itself is a behemoth in the private aviation industry. They control their own massive fleet while offering aircraft management to other companies. Since Wheels Up’s founding in 2013, Gama Aviation has been the sole operator of Wheels Up’s King Air 350i, Citation Excel/XLS, and Citation X airplanes. The consolidation makes sense.
With the acquisition of Gama Aviation’s versatile aircraft services, Wheels Up has become a powerful force in the private aviation industry. They have everything from the largest fleet to aircraft management. Gama Aviation allows Wheels Up to expand their reach and provide private flights for all types of customers.
Transformative benefits of Gama Aviation
Before the Gama Aviation acquisition, Wheels Up focused primarily on small private jets. This was a lucrative business move; most private flights last only about two hours. With Gama Aviation, Wheels Up has it all. Customers can choose from the budget-friendly King Air or the massive Gulfstream G650. The company now caters to all passenger needs with their expanded fleet.
Wheels Up is coming up fast behind their primary competitor. The company’s focus on expanding both market share and capability shows it’s not content with being number two. If NetJets doesn’t play their cards right, Wheels Up could steal the title of number one private aviation company in the world.
Imagine taking a charter from New York City to London on Tuesday, then London to Dubai on Thursday. By the time Friday rolls around, you’ll have accumulated 9 hours in time zone changes and, depending on your flight times, might be as much as a day ahead. Now, imagine flying back to New York City.
Chartering global flights takes a major toll on the body and often leaves people wondering what day it is. It’s definitely something to get used to and is much easier to digest with proper timekeeping practices.
Traveling between time zones
Anyone who’s ever suffered from jet lag understands how jarring it can be to go back and forth between time zones. Our body’s sense of time and circadian rhythms are off, thanks to the lack of daytime/nighttime cues from the sun. After multiple flights, your body doesn’t know what day it is or when it should sleep — which is why proper timekeeping is so important.
Typically, it’s easier to recover from a westbound flight than an eastbound one because westward flights lengthen the day while eastward ones shorten it. It’s a smart idea to plan travel around the time you want it to be when you land, not when you leave. This helps your body get back into rhythm after a time zone change. It’s also smart to nap whenever possible. An hour or two of restorative sleep makes a real difference when you’re leapfrogging time zones over the span of several days.
GMT is calculated by the time at the prime meridian in Greenwich, England, but it’s important to note that their day starts at noon and runs to the following day at noon. GMT also observes Daylight Savings Time, whereas UTC does not. Finally, Zulu Time is essentially UTC with a different name.
To calculate how long your flights are, convert all times to UTC. For example, a flight from San Francisco that leaves at 8 a.m. PST departs at 1600 UTC, or 4 p.m. It might land in New York City at 9 p.m./2100 UTC, which is 1 p.m. PST and 4 p.m. EST. By converting all times to UTC, it’s easier to tell that the flight took five hours.
Best timekeeping practices
Chances are, you pull out your cell phone to check the time — which is convenient when you’re on the ground, but impractical in the air. Experts suggest that you combat this by setting all timepieces to UTC and being aware of the local time zone you’re landing in. For example, PST is -800, whereas EST is -500.
Flying in a private jet is a luxurious experience. The exclusivity and class that comes with flying in aircraft with few seats, no crowds, and numerous on-board amenities is nearly unmatched. Therefore, many corporate executives purchase or charter private jets for business purposes.
An outstanding number of flights on private jets occur every day, but if you’ve never been fortunate enough to fly in one, you probably wouldn’t realize that they’re an extremely common form of travel. But who is traveling on these jets and where are they going?
Despite the frequency of private aviation, most people who travel by private jet don’t actually own the aircraft. Private jet chartering is more popular. Business executives or individuals with money to spend can rent jets and fly to and from their destinations without any long-term investments.
As for the owners, this affluent group of aircraft collectors tend to be involved in a few distinct sectors of business, including finance, banking, investment, oil, and gas.
United States travel goes between hubs
Some of the most popular travel departure spots and destinations within the United States are major cities that offer travelers an abundance of activities, food, entertainment, and of course, business opportunity.
New York — The Big Apple should be no surprise on this list. As one of the United States’ most popular destinations for financial and investment business, the city also has interesting things to explore outside the office. Travelers depart and arrive in New York often, heading to or from other popular urban hubs like Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Miami.
Los Angeles — Sometimes considered the New York of the West Coast, LA is another no-brainer destination for corporate executives. Many corporate offices are in the LA area, making it a popular place to depart from to visit national branches or clients.
Las Vegas — Las Vegas is an adult playground, filled with both fun events and business conventions and meetings to attend. Flights between LA and Las Vegas are among the most popular in business aviation.
Other popular departure and destination locations in the U.S. include Miami, Chicago, and Houston.
Global travel continues to grow
Outside of the U.S., global business aviation is also booming. International flights may be more common for major corporate executives who own their own jets, but overseas markets are also popular.
Flights between London, Paris, and Nice are quite popular. Additionally, the use of business jets in Asia has multiplied in recent years, particularly in major business centers like Hong Kong.
If you are interested in joining those who often fly coast to coast in a luxurious private jet, contact an experienced aviation broker to learn more about the industry, set up a charter flight, and look into purchasing a new aircraft of your own.
The expert jet brokers at L & L International are here to help you acquire the perfect jet. Need to charter a jet? We can assist with that, too. Charter a private jet online, at sales@L-Lint.com, or at +1 (305) 754-3313.