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Cost of NetJets vs Wheels Up vs SimpleCharters

It sometimes seems like one of the most coveted secrets of the private aviation industry, but booking a private jet doesn’t need to be so complicated. In this incredibly diverse market, there’s a lot of misinformation, conflicting models, and ever-elusive “deals.”

If you’re looking to book a private jet, or you’re interested in learning how to cut through all of the cruft, you’ve come to the right place. 

We've put together this guide to explain the differences in the programs, so you can compare apples-to-apples when making your purchasing decision. 

Feel free to schedule a private aviation consultation to discuss your specific needs

 

Booking with private jet operators

Booking directly with private jet operators

In private aviation, Operators are akin to airline carriers such as Southwest or JetBlue which own/manage and operate the actual aircraft. There are over 2,500 certificated private jet charter operators in the United States alone, operating over 10,000 total aircraft.

Every operator is different, from geographic region to aircraft models and the average charter operator has 4 aircraft in its fleet and is based at 1 airport.

Booking with an operator is relatively straight forward, as long as you know what to take into consideration. Important factors include:

  • Operational history
  • Aircraft age and refurbished date
  • Appropriate safety ratings
  • Fair market value of flight

When booking directly with an operator, the process looks similar to the following. 

  • Operator research: Finding appropriate operators (often via Google) that are near your departure airport, have your desired aircraft, and possess appropriate safety rating.
  • Quote request: Calling your short list of operators and requesting a quote for your flight by providing all itinerary details.
  • Examining/comparing quotes: As your quotes begin to come in via email, usually arriving within 2-6 hours, you’ll need to compare not just the final charter flight cost, but the difference in aircraft, flight times, airports, and terms of payment.

Commitment: None, Total time to book: 1-2 days 

 

Booking through a private jet broker

Booking through a private jet broker

Brokers are like travel agents, with expertise in aircraft sizes, models, operators, and more. There are an estimated 6,000 brokers in the United States, and brokers do not operate any aircraft— they arrange flights with operators on behalf of their clients.

When you book with a broker, the process is very similar to going directly through an operator. In fact, many clients report not realizing the difference between a broker and an operator when initially researching options.

  • Broker research: Finding brokers online that arrange flights in the appropriate region. Some brokers specialize in a specific field, such as large group charters, sports teams, luxury travel, or complex international trips.
  • Quote request: emailing or calling each broker to discuss your itinerary and explain what you’re looking for.
  • Examining/comparing quotes: As the quotes arrive, often between 4-8 hours, you’ll have to compare the same aspects as booking through an operator.

Important tip: make sure that you understand what the quote includes. Landing fees, ramp fees, overnight fees, etc. are often excluded and “billed at actual” making quotes appear more competitive than others.

Commitment: None, Total time to book: 1-2 days 

 

Buying a private jet card

Purchasing a jet card, like Marquis® or Sentient®

After booking charter flights using the above two methods once or twice, many individuals begin looking for easier, less time consuming methods of booking private charter flights. One such program has been the Jet Card. 

Jet cards let you pre-purchase flight time in 25 hour blocks, at above market rates, in exchange for the peace of mind that you’ll have availability when you need it and you won’t have to call a dozen companies requesting quotes. 

Booking flights is relatively easy once you've bought a jet card:

  • Purchasing and flight costs: Ensure you understand exactly what you'll be paying for each flight
    • Upfront costs: Pre-purchasing 25 light jet hours at $5,000 per hour, total cost is $125,000.
    • Fuel surcharge: Assessed by the hour, fuel surcharges can exceed $650 per hour
    • International fees: On average, an additional 10% per hour  is charged.
    • Peak period days: High demand dates are billed at an additional 5% per hour on average. 
  • Booking: Call your account manager and they'll generate a quote for your flight, with any applicable fees and surcharges. 

The downsides of purchasing a jet card extends beyond just the initial upfront costs and confusing surcharges seemingly attached to every flight. You’re often restricted to a single type of aircraft with significant upgrade charges for different aircraft. Jet cards are subject to “Peak Period Days” with limited availability, with additional surcharges for these periods.

Lastly, many Jet Cards are non-refundable, flight hours may expire after 24 months, and hourly rates are often negotiated, not published, so you never truly know the fair market value. 

Commitment: 12+ months, Total time to book: 1+ hours 

 

joining private jet membership program-1Buying into a membership club, such as Wheels Up®

Memberships are relatively new to the private aviation market, but serve a similar purpose to the jet cards. Your annual dues give you access to the club’s fleet of aircraft, in which you have to pay a fixed hourly rate for your flight time. Many of these programs have the same caveats as Jet Cards, with additional fees and upgrade charges. 

Here's how it works: 

  • Membership Dues: Before you can access any of the aircraft, you'll have to pay the initiation fee, on-average $17,500 per year, and expect annual dues of about $8,500, for a personal membership depending on the program.
  • Booking your flight: Use an app or call your account manager to get a quote for the flight.
    • While programs differ in cost structure, typically you can expect to pay per hour at a rate often up to ~2x more expensive than the open market.
    • We've put together a comparison table with published hourly rates to illustrate the difference

Often referred to as a "lifestyle tax", the increased costs of the programs provide members with many ancillary benefits, such as access to exclusive shows, clubs, concerts, and private events. 

Commitment: 12+ months, Total time to book: 1+ hours 

 

Booking private jets with SimpleCharters

Pay as you go: Booking with SimpleCharters

SimpleCharters has made this whole process much easier, with an artificial intelligence powered platform for booking private jets with no membership fees or upfront costs.

We designed SimpleCharters to address these pain points by providing a platform to price shop and book private jets instantly, with consistent pricing and guaranteed availability. Think of it as an Expedia or Kayak for private jets. 

Unlike many websites claiming to give you instant quotes, SimpleCharters uses sophisticated AI technology to provide guaranteed access to all of your trips.

With SimpleCharters you can reliably book all of your flights for fair market rate with no surprises. You can learn more about our technology here. 

Getting started is simple, head over to SimpleCharters.com... 

  • Specify your itinerary: Input your desired flight plan into the search bar, select dates & times, and specify passengers for each leg.
  • Choose your aircraft: You'll instantly see all of the available aircraft with actual quotes for each. Select the perfect jet for your trip and continue to the checkout.
  • Securely Checkout: When you're ready, use our secure checkout to easily book your flight in just minutes-- no matter what payment method you choose. Once you've paid, you'll receive instant confirmation and your trip sheet containing all of the flight details. 

SimpleCharters also provides guaranteed flights, so if scheduling conflicts arise, with the crew or aircraft, we'll automatically reschedule your flight on an equivalent aircraft at no additional cost. 

If you're currently committed to another program, you can always access SimpleCharters to price check, compare, and book trips at your convenience.

Because we have no memberships, contracts, or upfront costs, many jet card holders choose to book specific trips with SimpleCharters to save time and money-- for example utilizing a turboprop or smaller jet for regional flights instead of a costly midsize. Learn what type of aircraft you should be flying here.  

Commitment: None, Total time to book: 5 minutes

 

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Charles Denault

Charles Denault

Founder & CEO, SimpleCharters