Making the Right Choice: Fractional Jet Ownership
vs. Jet Card vs. Charter

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Oct 3, 2023

15 min read

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    If you are going to fly private but won’t be buying a private jet on your own, you have three options:

    With unique benefits to each model, deciding between fractional jet ownership vs. charter vs. a jet card is not always easy.

    What approach to flying private works for your budget, travel habits, and personal preferences? Whether you are a frequent flier valuing consistency and freedom above all else or an occasional traveler with a more flexible schedule, understanding the nuances of each strategy can guide you to the best choice for flying privately.


    Fractional Jet Ownership Overview

    Fractional jet ownership makes private jet ownership accessible by breaking down full aircraft ownership into ‘fractional’ shares. 

    Most fractional programs offer ownership with shares as small as 1/16th of a jet, increasing to 1/8th to 1/4th and up to a full share. The capital expense and operational costs are then divided among several owners.

    Fractional Jet Ownership

    How does fractional jet ownership work if you aren’t solely responsible for managing the administration of an aircraft? A management company like Volato tackles it. 

    For a nominal monthly management fee, everything is taken care of, including hangarage, insurance, safety inspections, maintenance, repairs, crew scheduling, and more. Fractional owners enjoy lower costs to fly (occupied hourly fees) compared with the equivalent charter rates.

    As a fractional owner, most programs equate your share size to a limited number of flight hours per year. But at Volato, we do things a bit differently. 

    No matter the size of your share, you’ll benefit from unlimited access to our fleet and a portion of the revenue from your aircraft. 

    Jet Card vs.Charter

    Chartering a Private Jet Overview

    Private jet chartering is the conventional way to fly privately. Instead of purchasing all or part of a private jet, you book individual trips. Under most circumstances, all arrangements are handled by a broker. 

    Charters are offered by operators who own a large fleet and handle the management, maintenance, and administration.

    If you fly a handful of times a year, chartering offers the most cost-effective and hassle-free access to private jet travel. The type of jet, the specific operator, in-flight services, additional airport fees, fuel surcharges, and demand will all influence the occupied hourly fees.

    For the short flights on the smallest type of jet (very light jets), you can expect prices to start at around $6,000 per hour. Just like with commercial flight costs, charter rates are highly variable.


    Jet Card Programs Overview

    Jet card programs sit somewhere between the charter option and fractional jet ownership. Much like chartering, you do not own the aircraft. 

    Instead, an operator is in charge of all things fleet management. But, unlike chartering a flight, these programs are designed around pre-purchased blocks of time. Every hour flown is deducted from this block, like a gift or prepaid credit card. 

    Jet Card Programs Overview

    The benefit of a jet card is securing better occupied hourly rates than chartering, plus none of the administrative hassle of owning a private jet outright. Many cards come with member perks that don’t come with charter flights.

    The Volato Insider program, designed as a simple draw-down deposit, locks in preferred rates around our most highly trafficked City Zones. For a deposit as low as $50,000, you benefit from our lowest national charter rate with capped prices when you fly within or between your city zones. No black out dates, no repositioning fees — just flying.

    Comparative Analysis: Fractional Jet Ownership vs. Charter vs. Jet Cards

    The differentiators between fractional jet ownership vs. jet cards vs. charters revolve around capital costs, operational costs, and how each program functions. 

    How it Works

    Jet fractional ownership

    By purchasing a fraction of an aircraft, you share in the costs associated with jet ownership. Jet management, maintenance, and administrative considerations are handled by the operator and rolled into a monthly management fee. 

    Many programs limit the number of hours you can fly each year and other jet ownership benefits by the share you have purchased. Not so with Volato. We are the only program with unlimited hours and a revenue share for every level of ownership.

    Private jet charter

    By chartering a private jet, you do not own the aircraft. Instead, much like a commercial flight, you book it in advance, typically through a broker. 

    While comparatively much more discrete and flexible than public flights, charters will still have some restrictions on scheduling depending on aircraft availability, market demands, and operator availability. The charter operator maintains all management over the aircraft.

    Jet Cards

    With a jet card program, you prepay for flight time in advance. But at Volato, we’ve done things a little differently. With the Volato Insider Program, we guarantee the lowest charter on our most highly trafficked routes, no blackout days, and no hidden fees. Each flight draws down the original investment until no deposit remains.

    Jet card programs often come with additional program benefits.

    Costs

    Jet fractional ownership

    The costs associated with fractional jet ownership are the highest, but this approach comes with the most freedom, discretion, and access than other options. 

    Costs include:

    • The upfront share purchase
    • Monthly management fees
    • Occupied hourly fees
    • Additional costs like fuel surcharge and airport fees

    Occupied hourly fees are substantially lower than with charter or jet card options.

    As an example, the first year cost of fractional jet ownership for 1/16th of a Volato management HondaJet is approximately $830,400, including:

    • Purchase Price: $549,000 
    • Occupied Hourly Fee: 50 hours x $4,200 an hour = $210,000
    • Management Fee: $5,950 a month

    Private jet charter

    The cost to charter is more affordable on a one-off basis, but on an occupied hourly basis, it’s the most expensive of the three options. The size of the jet, operator differences, market demands, flight time, and fuel surcharges all impact the price. 

    Charters usually start at over $6,000 per hour (HondaJet, designed to accommodate four people or less). For example, flights from Teterboro, New Jersey, to Martha’s Vineyard are priced at roughly $7,200

    Chartering is a perfect access point to the executive jet experience if you rarely fly private.

    Jet Cards

    Jet cards offer more affordable occupied hourly rates than chartering — and without you taking on the investment required for a fractional share of an aircraft.

    Every program and every operator structures its jet card pricing differently. The Volato Insider Program is like a jet card but better. Our program lets you enjoy capped rates on highly trafficked routes in and between our eight City Zones and get dynamic rates right across the US on our HondaJet fleet.

    Access and Availability of Aircraft: Fractional Jet Ownership vs. Charter vs. Jet Cards

    Access and availability of private jet flights vary depending on ownership model, membership program, or charter operator. Ownership provides the greatest access and most availability and chartering the least.

    Benefits

    Jet fractional ownership

    With an ownership program, you get to fly privately with essentially no limitations, especially with Volato. There are no limits on the amount you fly based on share size. 

    And, because you get access to the entire fleet, not just a single jet, you’ll never encounter downtime for maintenance or inspections. At Volato, you’ll get guaranteed access with as little as 48 hours’ notice. 

    Private jet charter

    Ultimately, charter works around your schedule, with some limitations based on jet availability. The benefit of chartering is the ability to switch jet size and departure location without ever having to think about fleet management logistics. 

    Jet Cards

    Jet card programs bundle private jet travel to make travel costs more predictable and affordable. You are no longer beholden to market prices driven by fluctuating demand and jet availability. Instead, you reap the benefits of locked-in prices.

    Limitations 

    Jet fractional ownership

    Compared with full private jet ownership, fractional ownership has minor limitations. For starters, you’ll still need to give notice before walking onto the tarmac and flying off your next destination. Second, your tax benefits are based on the share, not the total value of the jet.  

    Private jet charter

    Chartering private flights will always be limited to the available operators and jets for your preferred schedule and departure airport. 

    There will be times when there may not be any flights available on your chosen schedule or within your price range. The other limitation is that chartering is the most expensive option compared to an occupied hourly fee.

    Jet Cards

    While the hourly cost is locked in, so too is the jet type and, depending on the program, the travel region. Unlike chartering, you won’t have complete freedom to choose what size of jet you fly on. 

    The Volato Insider Program is also designed around our most popular routes. So, it only makes sense for executives whose typical travel patterns are centered around our seven city zone centers.


    Which One is Right for You: Fractional Ownership or Charter or Jet Card?

    Jet Cards Private Jet Charter Fractional Ownership
    Initial Investment Medium (Pre-payment for hours) Low (Pay per use) High (Purchase a share of a jet)
    Cost Structure Fixed rate per hour Variable, based on market rates Fixed and variable
    Availability Guaranteed (based on card terms) Not guaranteed, depends on availability Guaranteed (based on ownership agreement)
    Consistency High (same provider and aircraft type) Medium (can choose different aircrafts, different operators) High (access to a fleet)
    Flexibility Medium (limited to specific aircraft type) High (choose per trip) Medium (guaranteed with Volato)
    Additional Costs Few (most costs covered) Many (pay for additional services) Few (covered in management fees)
    Booking Process Simple (quick booking process) Moderate (requires quotes and negotiations via a broker) Simple (dedicated support)
    Ideal For Frequent travelers seeking convenience Occasional travelers seeking flexibility Frequent travelers seeking a consistent, elite flying experience

    FAQs

    Is it better to charter or own a jet?

    The decision between buying your own private jet vs. chartering ultimately boils down to your circumstances and travel preferences. Private jet ownership is the most expensive option and not feasible for every executive traveler. 

    Chartering is the more affordable option. But chartering leaves you at the whim of market prices and jet availability and offers more limited access than if you were to purchase a jet outright or invest in a share.

    Can you sell fractional ownership?

    Yes, selling a whole or a partial share is always possible. Every purchase agreement and fractional ownership program is structured slightly differently. 

    Contact the operator directly for more information on how to exit your agreement and specifics on selling your share.

    What are the typical costs associated with fractional jet ownership?

    The costs associated with fractional ownership are broken down into three components:

    • Purchase price
    • Management fees
    • Occupied hourly fees

    Costs ultimately depend on the jet type, share size, the program, and hours flown. With Volato, a typical first-year estimate for a 1/16th share of a HondaJet breaks down as follows:

    • Purchase Price: $549,000 
    • Occupied Hourly Fee: 50 hours x $4,200 an hour = $210,000
    • Management Fee: $5,950 a month
    • Total First-Year Cost of Fractional Jet Ownership: $830,400*

    *not including any additional fees

    How does fractional ownership compare to chartering in terms of flexibility?

    Fractional ownership affords a high level of flexibility in scheduling and access. With Volato, that means booking up to 48 hours in advance for destinations within the contiguous United States and 72 hours for nearby countries. It also means access to our entire fleet, so you never need to consider fleet logistics, maintenance downtime, or crew concerns. 

    If you charter, it is still markedly more flexible than any commercial flight, but there may be times when you face limitations on aircraft availability and departure scheduling options. Chartering requires booking much earlier to lock in your preferred jet and departure time.

    What are the key considerations when choosing a jet card program?

    First, think about the program’s structure and how it aligns with your travel habits. Is it based around blocks of time with no destination restrictions, or is it built around centralized zones for travel within specific regions? 

    Second, consider the practical aspects, such as whether the jet card has blackout dates during peak travel times, the range of airports serviced, and the potential repositioning fees. 

    Third, consider the private jet model included in the program and whether the jet card has an expiration date.

    Furthermore, check if the jet card is refundable and if you need to pay additional fees like fuel surcharges, airport chargers, etc. 

    Are there any tax benefits associated with fractional jet ownership?

    Fractional jet ownership includes a few benefits come tax season. First, owners may be able to deduct from bonus depreciation in the first year and/or Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) depreciation over the next five to seven.

    Secondly, owners who have financed the purchase of their share may be able to deduct the interest of their loan.

    Additionally, if the jet was purchased for business-related travel, you may be able to deduct the operating expenses as a business expense.

    Keep in mind that tax laws vary by jurisdiction and the specifics of each ownership agreement. Connect with your accountant to best understand the possible tax benefits for you and your business.

    How do I decide between chartering and using a jet card for occasional private jet travel? 

    For the genuinely occasional private flier, chartering is likely the best option. It may be more expensive per hour, but there is no additional investment beyond the flight cost. Rarely will you face major scheduling issues, but you will need to have more flexibility the closer you book to takeoff time.

    If you plan to fly more than 10 hours a year, a jet card is the next step up. Offering consistency, more freedom, and better prices, it’s the best option for executives who fly several times a year.


    Not Sure the Best Way to Fly Private? Let Volato Help 

    Still not sure which option works best for you? Let Volato help you narrow down your choices.

    From fractional ownership starting at 1/16th share to the Volato Insider Program to charter options on our fleet of modern jets, when you are ready to fly private, Fly Volato.

    Disclaimer: This post is intended for informational purposes only. Volato is not responsible for omissions or inaccuracies in such information, or for data that is no longer accurate due to delay, change in law, rules, or regulations.

    The choice is clear.

    Contact our team today to learn more about our jet share, jet card, aircraft management, and charter programs.

    Contact our team today to learn more about our jet share, jet card, aircraft management, and charter programs.

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