When An Upgrade Really Isn’t an Upgrade

Depending on the type of program you purchased or are considering, it is important to note the types…
Older Private Jet in Field

Depending on the type of program you purchased or are considering, it is important to note the types of games that companies in the jet card industry often play in the interest of keeping up their margins. After all, a true jet card model like would be found with Marquis Jet (a Netjets subsidiary), Sentient Jet, or Magellan Jets means that the company is responsible for paying the freight on its own empty legs in the system. In the case of the broker companies like Magellan and Sentient, who operate their businesses based upon the supply of aircraft from certified Operators, often the broker must return an airplane back to its home base or force-fly an airplane for a certain number of hours. The result of all of this? The constant demand on efficiency and fleet optimization. 

These, of course, are buzzwords for the industry, but how does this shake out for the end user? Are there any times where it’s detrimental? Let’s take a typical midsize jet customer at Jet Company ABC, and for a minute assume that the customer has purchased a program that caps the age of the aircraft to fit into a “new” category of jets. The buyer has done so expecting that their flights would all be conducted on aircraft of the same age category. After all, they were only comfortable with the newer model aircraft, or in some cases, depending on the customer, they may even have insurance requirements that demand it. But now let’s turn our attention back to the needs of the company—to operate the fleet as efficiently as possible and squeeze as much margin out as possible. Is this always going to be in the customer’s best interests?

But back to that customer demanding a newer category midsize jet from broker program Jet Company ABC. For starters, even if they stay in the midsize program they requested, they are still subject to get whatever jet suits the company best. They can get a Lear 60 or they can get a Hawker 800xp. Two DRASTICALLY different aircraft, but yet they both fit the newer category for that specific provider. One holds a fair bit of luggage, and the other barely can carry the overnight bags for the crew, yet the customer has no say. It can very easily be a flight that is to entertain high-end customers, but that won’t matter. The only thing that matters is margin. 

Now fast forward ever so slightly and the Member gets an email from his customer service representative— “Mr. Smith, we are pleased to offer you a complimentary upgrade to a Falcon 50!” A Falcon 50, not a Falcon 50EX. Well, now we are really in a bind, because Mr. Smith’s insurance requirement says he can’t be on an airplane older than a certain year, and yet here comes a 1988 Falcon 50. Why, you ask? Because that is what the company determined made THEM the most margin. It doesn’t matter that the airplane is from the Bush 41 Administration, as long as the company makes money. Sure, you can argue about it, but they will come back and remind you that “its an upgrade” and that age requirements don’t exist there. Well if that isn’t customer service, I don’t know what is.

Recommendation to the Buyer:

If you are considering one of the non-owned private jet card programs like Magellan, Sentient Jet, Jet Linx, or the like, ask the hard questions. Ask them to limit your program to exclude models that don’t meet your needs. For example, if you are constantly traveling for golf, try to exclude the Hawker 800XP. If you have requirements through your insurance agent, make those known, and lastly, make sure you are clear about what airports you will use. The brokered programs don’t offer you any form of assurance because they either have no Operational Control of the flight or because their business model is not predicated on your happiness.

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