H. Lee Rohde III

Aircraft Share Options Explained: Fractional Jet Ownership vs. Charter vs. Jet Card

H. Lee Rohde III
H. Lee Rohde III President & CEO
A private jet flying over a coastal landscape with greenery and a body of water.

Flying private has long been a popular alternative to flying commercial due to the luxury, privacy, and convenience it affords — but now, in these uncertain times, flying private also provides a much-needed sense of security and peace of mind. As a result, a growing number of individuals are starting to explore private jet share options, particularly fractional ownership, charter programs, and jet card programs, each of which offer the same amenities as outright acquisition with less of a commitment.

In this blog post, we’ll compare fractional jet ownership vs. charter program vs. jet card program to help you find the private jet share option that best meets your unique travel needs.


What is a Private Jet Share?

As implied by its name, a private jet share refers to any private aviation program in which you own or lease a share of an aircraft rather than own it outright. There are multiple private jet share options to choose from, including fractional aircraft ownership, private jet membership or card programs and private jet chartering. How a private jet share is structured depends entirely on the program, aircraft model, and number of hours utilized.

What is Fractional Jet Ownership?

Those interested in fractional ownership purchase a share of a specific aircraft type and agree to an annual amount of allotted flight hours. Most fractional ownership programs require a minimum size share of 50 hours of flight time per year, though this can vary depending on the provider. The maximum share size is 800 hours of flight time per year, which is roughly equivalent to ownership of an entire aircraft.

Fractional ownership shares are acquired from the company that operates the aircraft and that has a designed shared ownership program and services agreement in which all share owners participate. This company also employs pilots, cabin crew and flight operations coordinators, administers maintenance and covers airport and hangar fees and insurance, which can be attractive to individuals who want the benefits of aircraft ownership without the responsibility. Some fractional ownership programs even provide the option to upgrade or downgrade the size of the aircraft depending on your trip requirements.

When Does Fractional Jet Ownership Make Sense?

Although the total cost, including the share acquisition or lease, is more expensive than other alternatives, fractional ownership doesn’t require you to pay a “deadhead cost” — that is, any costs incurred from positioning the aircraft at your departure point. Additionally, it’s possible to sell fractional shares back to the program provider, though these shares tend to depreciate more due to their high level of annual utilization, resulting in lower residual values.

Fractional ownership is a popular option among those who frequently travel for business-related reasons because it offers tax benefits. Frequent fliers also appreciate the consistency and continuity that fractional ownership offers. Most groups that operate fractional programs, such as NetJets, FlexJet and AirShare are highly reputable and have well-documented, standardized procedures for everything from how they vet operators to how they sanitize aircraft between one flight and the next.

Fractional aircraft ownership is ideal for individuals who want the experience of flying with an organization with a dedicated fleet of aircraft, pilots, and crew, and who require the flexibility to avoid duty times and other restrictions.

What is Private Jet Chartering?

Private jet chartering is an on-demand service that enables you to compare pricing and amenities for various aircraft types and book the one that best meets your travel needs in much the same way as you’d book a seat on a commercial flight. Those interested in chartering have the option of working with either a charter operator or a charter broker, though it’s best practice to work with a private aviation consultant before considering either option.

When Does Private Jet Chartering Make Sense?

Of the three types of private jet share presented in article — fractional jet ownership vs. charter vs. jet card — private jet chartering requires the least commitment, both in terms of time and expense.

In fact, chartering is the most popular private aviation option due to the fact that it doesn’t require a significant capital cost upfront or fixed costs associated with maintenance and staff salaries — all you have to pay for is the utilization of the aircraft on a trip-by-trip basis. This makes chartering ideal for anyone who wants the private aviation experience without any of the responsibility. It’s important to note, though, that what you save on chartering, you’ll make up for in terms of non-guaranteed availability in a specific aircraft type: It can sometimes be challenging to find an aircraft that meets both your specific needs and your schedule, so you may be forced to choose between one and the other.

What Are Membership & Jet Card Programs?

Membership and jet card programs, though often referred to interchangeably, are structurally unique. With a membership program, you agree to a fixed cost per hour at the start of the contract and are billed after each flight. You’re also typically subjected to either monthly management or annual membership fees.

There are two types of jet card programs: a dedicated service with a predetermined number of hours on a specific aircraft type or size category, and a debit card service that enables you to fund an established travel account and select the aircraft category on a trip-by-trip basis with agreed-to hourly rates. Depending on the program, the provider will either quote you for a certain number of hours during booking and bill actual time upon completion of the trip or deduct the final total cost of the trip from your balance after it is completed.

When Do Membership & Jet Card Programs Make Sense?

Much like chartering, membership and jet card programs are best suited for individuals who want a short-term commitment and require a much lower investment than fractional ownership. Jet card programs, in particular, are appealing because they come at a fixed rate. There’s no need to negotiate the price for each flight — just add money to your jet card account and go. In some cases, you can even cancel your membership and get a refund for unused hours if you’re dissatisfied with your service, which makes jet card programs one of the most accessible points of entry to the private aviation market.

Another compelling reason to consider a membership or jet card program is because most major private aviation companies offer them, making them a reliable option. When evaluating either membership or jet card programs, be sure to work with an experienced private aviation consultant who can steer you toward a reputable company and help you understand the relationship between the program provider and the aircraft you intend to utilize.

If you’re interested in joining a membership or jet card program, keep in mind that they often come with a longer advance notice requirement to schedule an aircraft. This is less of an issue if you’re the type of traveler who books their trips well in advance but can be challenging if you frequently make last-minute travel arrangements, especially during peak periods such as holidays.

At a Glance: Fractional Jet Ownership vs. Charter vs. Jet Card Programs

Fractional Ownership Private Jet Chartering Membership and Jet Card Programs
Estimated Flight Hours Per Year 50-400 hours per year 1 – 25+ hours per year 25+ hours per year
Contract Commitment 3-5 years n/a n/a
Call Out Time 10-14 hours 24+ hours 24+ hours
Dedicated Aircraft or Multiple Options? Dedicated aircraft; upgrade or downgrade available Multiple options Multiple options

Fly Safer with Essex Aviation

If you’re in need of private aviation assistance, Essex Aviation Group is here for you. From private jet charter consulting to new aircraft acquisition to aircraft completion management, we offer a wide variety of services tailored to support the travel needs of each and every customer. Contact us today to let us know how we can help you find the private jet share option that’s right for you.

Ask These Questions Before Making Your Next Aviation Decision

Private aviation offers numerous benefits, but each service option comes with its pros and cons. Find out whether a membership/card program, charter, fractional or dedicated aircraft model is right for you — and how a private aviation consultant can help you make an informed decision — in this free eBook.