Considerations for Buying an Aircraft

August 24, 2022

Questions to Ask Before Signing Up for a Jet Card

Weigh the Value of a Membership Versus Owning a Private Jet

If your organization’s leaders find themselves regularly boarding commercial airlines for business trips, then it may be time to consider switching to private aviation. This sector provides frequent travelers with a range of options at various prices, from chartering flights, to jet cards, to fractional ownership, to owning a business jet.

Jet card programs tend to be the logical first step for business travelers, but they aren’t for everyone. Explore jet card memberships and what you should be asking about when shopping around, but don’t forget to also consider the added value that owning a private jet brings satisfying to your business leaders’ travel needs.

Three Types of Jet Card Programs
Companies that offer jet cards fall into three basic categories. Members may have very different experiences with each of them, so understanding which category the companies you’re considering fall under is important.

  • Fractional and closed-fleet operators

  • Fleet managers and operators (offering “access” or “membership” programs)

  • Charter aircraft brokers

How Jet Cards Work
Jet cards are for travelers who need some flexibility, without long-term contracts, or monthly management costs. Depending on your needs, you can buy a fixed number of flight hours - usually about 25 - or deposit a dollar amount which is then paid out to the provider at an hourly rate when you fly.

Questions to Ask About Membership
When choosing a jet card provider, your first questions should pertain to cost and service. Experts recommend asking the following to guide your decision.

  • Are the hourly rates I’m paying for guaranteed, even during peak travel times?

  • Are there any additional fees I’ll need to pay (repositioning, overnight, etc.)

  • Do the hourly rates expire? Are there blackout periods?

  • Can I travel anywhere in the world, or is there a geographic area included in your program?

  • How far in advance must I request a flight? Cancel a flight?

  • Can we request a specific aircraft type? Or can we request not to fly in a specific aircraft?

  • Can we use our own escrow account? Where do you keep your escrow deposits?

Operations Questions for Jet Card Providers
After you understand the cost of the program, you can narrow down your finalists based on their answers to questions about how their business operates and the kinds of business jets they own and fly.

  • How long has the operator been in business?

  • What is the fleet’s independent safety rating? What is the operator’s safety record?

  • What insurance coverage does the operator carry? What are the coverages per person, per incident, or per aircraft type?

  • What is the average business jet age in the fleet?

  • What kinds of aircraft are included?

  • How are the aircraft maintained? Who maintains them?

Business Jet Crew Questions
You’ll want to know your organization’s leaders are in good hands. Ask these questions about the pilots and crew manning the flights.

  • What level of training and licensure do your pilots have? How often do they receive training?

  • Are there two pilots on every flight? Are both rated in the aircraft they’re flying?

  • Do you provide any additional crew members for the flight?

When Is It More Worthwhile to Buy a Used Private Jet?
For business travelers for whom a jet card is inadequate, owning a private jet may be a smarter solution. And with so many pre-owned jets for sale today, it’s likely that your organization could make a better financial decision by purchasing an aircraft.

A jet card doesn’t guarantee you a seat on an aircraft, and they usually limit where you can travel. If your company grows since purchasing your membership, your new leaders may not be covered. You also may need to pay additional fees for flights outside of your usual business jet size, or if you need to fly at certain dates and times.

If your organization’s executives travel throughout the year, your jet card costs could run you more than $100,000 per person or more. Depending on the number of business leaders in your organization, it is fiscally more responsible to purchase a used private jet that frees you from restrictions and limitations, especially if your leaders collectively travel at least 300 flight hours per year.

If you find that owning a private jet is more cost-effective than purchasing jet cards for your leaders, then it’s time to start shopping for a business jet.

Get on the Path to Private Jet Ownership

If your business is ready to buy an aircraft or expand your fleet, your first move is to partner with an International Aircraft Dealers Association (IADA) Accredited Aircraft Dealer. These dealers and brokers undergo a rigorous vetting process and vow to follow ethical business practices in every transaction. They’re also the only industry leaders who can list private jets for sale on, the exclusive listing site for IADA.

Get started by finding an IADA Accredited Aircraft Dealer, then browse listings of used private jets for sale on AircraftExchange.