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Written by Mototok on February 3, 2021 // 1:03 PM

Top 10 Private Jet Companies and Charters in 2021

Top 10 Private Jet Companies

Three years ago, we ran an article looking at the private jet and charter jet market and the market's key players. It was well-received, and in light of the changes in the aviation landscape from a highly volatile year in 2020, we are offering an update. Despite the airline markets utterly tanking, private and charter aviation did have some bright spots. 

Were there any positives in Charter and Private Jet Markets in 2020?

Overall, global travel markets took an absolute beating in the weeks and months after the worldwide pandemic broke out. But this did not necessarily transfer or carry over to the private jet and charter markets. Many private air carriers are looking at either equal to 2019 or even surpassing 2019 numbers.

There is a certain amount of speculation in this formula, but it appears to be born mainly out of travelers' desire to avoid transmission of COVID-19. In other words, travelers who have the means to afford private or chartered travel but have ostensibly flown first class are shifting to flying private jets.

Towards the end of FY20, several private jet executives at the Corporate Jet Investor’s weekly Town Hall meeting indicated that they expect to finish 2020 stronger than 2019. In contrast, the major airlines are not anticipating a full recovery until 2024. That's right, three more years of down years for the legacy air carriers. Taking a quick look at a few of these seems consistent: Delta Airlines (DAL) is still down 31% on their one-year value, American Airlines is down over 40%, and United Airlines is down almost 50% from one year ago. 

Types of Charter Companies and Business Models

There are not necessarily many 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 turn a profit on this model when requiring 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.

NetJets

NetJets is the oldest and largest private jet company globally, 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:

  • NetJets Card-minimum commitment of 25 hours of use over a 24 month period. This is ideal for users who will fly less than 50 hours per year. 
  • NetJets Lease-for clients who plan to fly over 50 hours per year but prefer not to own any portion of the asset. Costs are guaranteed for the term of the lease, which can span from 24 to 60 months. 
  • NetJets Share-for clients plan to fly over 50 hours annually and want to own a portion of the aircraft.

NetJets Share is a program that allows the client to purchase a share of a specific aircraft, to which they are guaranteed certain access rights. 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.

WHEELS UP

A relative newcomer at only seven years old, Wheels Up is an example of a company transitioning away from traditional "old money" mindsets and using technology, much like Uber or Lyft, to schedule flights on short notice. UPDATE: after researching WHEELS UP, it appears that no changes have been made of significance since 2018. 

It is crucial to distinguish that Wheels Up is like Uber and Lyft since an app is used to schedule 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, ranging 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.

VISTAJET

Truly a global charter company, VistaJet is the only private jet company that offers its own fleet global services. A number of companies charter private aircraft across the globe, but no others do so entirely by their personal 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 worldwide. As previously mentioned, VistaJet is under the umbrella of Vista Group, which also owns XO, and although they are no longer necessarily competitors, they remain two separate entities. 

XO Global LLC

Since the original writing of this article in 2018, Vista Global, the parent company of VistaJet, has acquired ownership of XOJET to include commercial operations. Vista Global merged XOJET with the JetSmarter mobile app and rebranded it as XO, powered by JetSmarter technology. Functionally speaking, XO remains a significant player in the private jet charter market. They still operate a fleet of Bombardier Challenger 300 jets and Cessna Citation X jets.

GLOBEAIR

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

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

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

MAGELLAN JETS

Chartering everything from King Air 90s to heavy Gulfstream G650s, Magellan covers all the bases globally through an extensive network of aircraft owners. Offering both personal and corporate memberships, Magellan has a program that 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 allow users to tailor perks and add-ons, and options.

JETTLY

Jettly advertises to be the “#1 fastest-growing private air travel and lifestyle community”. As opposed to the previous companies, the feel of their website 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 executive in Los Angeles are very different from 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 its exclusive fleet of Phenom 100 and 300 jets. In having a fleet of similar aircraft, they can keep rates down.

VICTOR

Victor has compiled an extensive 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 criteria which their aircrew and aircraft have met. 

Victor offers an "Empty Leg" service, which shows all available space seating on jets that 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. In contrast, 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 fleet of jets. Zeroing in on the air taxi market in Europe, solely using the Citation C510 Mustang, a small jet that only requires one pilot crew, substantially lowering labor costs. 

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

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

Oxygen Aviation Limited

In the international market, Oxygen Aviation has been a fixture of the market for about 15 years now, based out of the UK with offices in London, Madrid, and Moscow. Oxygen provides on-demand jet charter service, and the price quoted for the charter is for the entire aircraft. This, of course, differs from the fractional ownership in that chartering is a one-off agreement with no long term financial commitments.

Since Oxygen is a charter service and not the owner of a fleet, they have the flexibility to offer a vast array of aircraft in their available fleet, all the way from helicopters through turboprops, all the way to executive airliners (BBJ, A318/319/320, etc.).

Conclusion

We hope that this updated version of our original article helps you and your needs to learn more about charter aircraft and private jet travel. 

Choosing a private jet company to represent your needs or your corporation's needs is a huge decision because it is not cheap. However, there are many options available and choices to cover almost any requirements around the globe.

The reality is that even major corporations who can afford their fleet still may not find it to be financially sound to do so. In place 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 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.

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