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Written by Mototok on March 15, 2018 // 4:39 PM

Top 10 Private Jet Companies and Charters

privatejet

Executive jet aircraft owned by large corporations for executive travel are declining. Jets are extremely expensive alone, and their required aircrews and ground support teams add enormous financial strain. The only way in which they are an economical endeavor is if they are employed on a frequent basis so as to justify the cost of storage and associated payroll.
Instead, many companies have opted to subscribe to charter services, which allow corporations and private individuals alike to guarantee travel availability every day of the year without the burden of owning a fleet and the associated support. Jet charters have surged in recent years and these are the top 10 companies to offer these services.

Jet Charter Companies Versus Air Charter Brokering

After the initial running of this article in 2018, there was some confusion about the different models associated with air charter, particularly the difference between jet charter companies and air charter brokers.

In a nutshell, and without getting into the weeds about which part of the federal code each falls under, here are the essential differences between the two:

  • A jet charter company is one which owns the aircraft and is responsible for filling their seats.
  • Air charter brokers, as defined by the National Business Aviation Association, is strictly a middle man. They exist to line up seats on jets, brokering deals between charter companies and prospective clients.

Both of these business models have their place in the charter industry; it is due time that we understand that third parties have a legitimate place in the business cycle. They take on a role which is often looked down upon, but they provide services that consumers want and producers need. In this case, they fill seats which would otherwise be going empty on charter aircraft, for a nominal fee.

Types of Charters Companies and Business Models

There are not necessarily a wide variety of different types of jet charter businesses; they all share a common thread: lining up clients with available seats.

The distinction between types of service lies in how they model their business. For instance, some providers sell fractional ownership to the clients. Essentially, you purchase a percentage of the aircraft and the associated support, and your usage is pro rata to the percentage owned.

Other private jet companies sell blocks of time in predetermined increments. The client determines how much usage they require and purchases a block of hours, ostensibly lowering the overall cost.

Pay-as-you-fly is another model, although perhaps less sought after since the lack of any outlay of cash or ownership generally makes it harder to secure space availability.

The model which sounds most appealing, but is perhaps the most difficult to cultivate, is that of paying a flat rate for unlimited access and usage. A number of companies have promised this and subsequently gone down in flames. It is unclear how a jet charter business could possibly turn a profit on this model when it would require a practically limitless pool of aircraft and pilots, which does not exist. All certified aircraft go down for routine, scheduled maintenance, and the supply of qualified aircrews is finite.

The Top 10 Private Jet Companies

Wheels Up

A relative newcomer at only seven years old, Wheels Up is an example of a company which is transitioning away from traditional “old money” mindsets and using technology, much like Uber or Lyft, to schedule flights on short notice. 

It is important to provide the distinction that Wheels Up is like Uber and Lyft inasmuch as an app is used to schedule on short notice. It is still very much a jet charter company in that you must pre-purchase a plan or package, which are as follows:

  • Connect Membership: 
    • One-time initiation fee of $2,995
    • Annual dues starting year two: $2,495
    • Hourly rates in the King Air 350i are in the sub-$5,000 range. 
    • Two passenger lead included. 
  • Core Membership:
    • One-time initiation fee of $17,500
    • Annual dues starting year two: $8,500
    • Includes fixed rate fees for a broad range of aircraft in their partnership Program Fleet which ranges from light jets to large-cabin class aircraft. 
    • Guaranteed availability of King Air 350i from the Wheels Up Exclusive Fleet.
    • Guaranteed availability of program fleet aircraft from light jet to large-cabin class. 
  • Business membership:
    • One-time initiation fee of $29,500
    • Annual dues starting year two: $14,500
    • Includes fixed rate fees for a broad range of aircraft in their partnership Program Fleet which ranges from light jets to large-cabin class aircraft. 
    • Guaranteed availability of King Air 350i from the Wheels Up Exclusive Fleet.
    • Guaranteed availability of program fleet aircraft from light jet to large-cabin class. 
    • Six authorized lead passengers, enough to support your team.

NetJets

NetJets is the oldest and largest private jet company in the world, amassing a fleet of around 700 jets worldwide, of all classes and sizes. They support flights to over 4,000 airports globally and are made up of over 6,500 fractional owners worldwide. 

NetJets offers clients three different options for membership and use:

  • Jet Card-sold in blocks of 25 hours. 
  • NetJets Lease-for clients who plan to fly over 50 hours per year but prefer not to own any portion of the asset.
  • NetJets Share-for clients planning to fly over 50 hours annually and do want to own a portion of the aircraft.

NetJets Share is a program which allows the client to purchase a share of a specific aircraft, which they are guaranteed certain access rights to. The added benefit of the Share program is that NetJets certifies that you will get your jet, and if that is not available, you get the next tier up, not down.

XOJET

XOJET employs a different game plan that NetJets, paring down their fleet to only two models: the Cessna Citation X, and the Challenger 300 series of jets. Their business model is private ownership of 116 aircraft, and preferred partnerships with over 1,500 private owners.

The great benefit of exclusively operating a very narrow variety of aircraft is a reduced logistics train; the downside is that only a select clientele will be able to use the services.

Stratos Jet Charters, Inc.

Stratos is a U.S.-based broker which operates through partnerships to offer over 5,000 aircraft of all sizes and varieties to charter. They own none of their own aircraft but instead offer tremendous variety of services by brokerage of services through private owner/operators.

Stratos coordinates with clients to provide what the client needs and then taps into their vast network to provide services. They also offer services in two ways: through a Jet Card membership, which guarantees certain availability and locks in a fixed rate, or on-demand pricing which gives no certainty to availability or hourly rate.

PrivateFly

PrivateFly is another network-oriented service which builds its business around centralizing a very large pool of privately owned jets globally and selling seats to executives much like Priceline or Orbitz. 

PrivateFly has access to a shared network of over 7,000 jets which allows the flexibility top match nearly any request to a compatible aircraft. 

PrivateFly advertises two services which are fairly unique, those being helicopter charters and pet flights.

Paramount Business Jets

Established in 2005, Paramount Business Jets has developed a network of aircraft with over 4,000 private jets that they check for safety and quality by hand. PBJ claims to be able to provide private charter flights within as little as 4 hours – to and from any global destination.

Probably their highest asset is their culture of transparency and safety. PBJ was the first company in the industry to introduce a full transparency jet card. Nowadays the client receives a full breakdown of the costs and a detailed safety report for every flight he takes.

They consider themselves a full-service private jet charter company, offering their clients membership options and on demand private jet charter services.

Jettly

Jettly advertises to be the “#1 fastest-growing private air travel and lifestyle community”. The feel of their website, as opposed to the previous companies, is distinctly Uber-ish with an app that allows clients to check fares and schedule flights all from their smartphone. 

While it is unclear how small of aircraft their competitors offer, Jettly clearly shows that they offer aircraft of all sizes, including single-engine piston airplanes, as well as helicopters. This does come in handy because chartering is not a one-size-fits-all business; the needs of a corporate exec in Los Angeles are very different than those required by, say, an oil rig foreman in the far reaches of West Texas. Jettly can hook you up with options for either one.

JetSuite

JetSuite, not to be confused with their subsidiary JetSuiteX, which has been renamed JSX, has been in the charter business since 2006, after Alex Wilcox left JetBlue. Originally branded Magnum Jets, financial backers pushed the rebranding effort in 2008, and JetSuite has been the namesake ever since.

JetSuite offers their own exclusive fleet of Phenom 100 and 300 jets. In having a fleet of similar aircraft, they are able to keep rates down.

Victor

Victor has compiled a large network of over 200 operators to partner with, offering jets of all sizes to clients globally. Victor requires all partner operators to comply with ISO-9001 standards and provides this information to all clients, ensuring that prospective passengers are fully aware of the standards which their aircrew and aircraft have met. 

Victor offers an “Empty Leg” service which shows all space available seating on jets which have been chartered and will have empty seats on the return leg. If any of these are compatible, the client is able to inquire and receive a quote on that single leg. 

The empty leg is a real benefit on several levels: environmentally, because it does no favors to fly an empty jet vice a full jet, and it benefits the owner’s bottom line to have paying customers on both legs. Commercial airlines always fill seats when they build routes, ensuring paying customers will embark and disembark at every destination, whereas charters are generally booked on a one-way sort of arrangement.

GlobeAir

Serving the European community exclusively, GlobeAir is unlike many competitors in that it owns and operates its own fleet of jets. Zeroing in on the air taxi market in Europe, exclusively operating the Citation C510 Mustang, a small jet which only requires a crew of one pilot, substantially lowering labor costs. 

GlobeAir, like Victor, also offers the empty leg booking to ensure that every mile is a productive and environmentally sound mile.

An interesting twist to their business mile is their express cargo service for urgent documents and small parcels, as well as spare parts up to 136kg.

VistaJet

Truly a global charter company, VistaJet is the only private jet company which offers global services with its own fleet. There are a number of companies which charter private aircraft across the globe but no others do so entirely by their own private fleet.

VistaJet has set the bar high by abolishing aircraft positioning fees for their Program members and operates a fleet of 70 Global and Challenger jets serving 187 countries world-wide.

Magellan Jets

Chartering everything from King Air 90’s to heavy Gulfstream G650’s, Magellan covers all the bases globally through an extensive network of aircraft owners. Offering both personal and corporate memberships, Magellan has a program which will suit everyone.

The corporate membership guarantees aircraft availability within 6 hours, no peak fees or blackout dates, and Wi-Fi availability on all mid-size and larger jets.

The personal membership is the most detailed of the group, prompting users to select an aircraft size range (no specific aircraft), amount of hours anticipated in blocks from 25 to 200+, and then allows users to tailor perks, add-ons, and options.

Conclusion to private jet companies

Choosing a private jet company to represent your needs, or your corporations needs, is a very big decision because it is not cheap. However, there are a lot of options available and choices to cover almost any requirements around the globe.

The reality is that even major corporations who can afford their own fleet still may not find it to be financially sound to do so. In lieu of ownership, jet charter companies have networked to provide that same level of concierge service to clients of many economic tiers now, not just reserved for the super-affluent.

Make sure you, the end user, understand exactly what each option (fractional ownership, shared, pay-per-flight) entitles you to, as well as any hidden fees and associated expenses. Also, keep a keen eye open to make sure that the service you choose is open and transparent about their fleet and their safety record; your livelihood does depend on it.

You are all about the jets themselves? Our colleagues at Assets America listed their Top 10 Luxury Aircraft in 2020. Get the list right now for free:

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