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Jet card rates continue to decrease as deal making increases
After a tightening of terms and spiking prices, Jet Card policies are loosening up and flight cost is coming down according to Private Jet Card Comparisons.

The price to fly privately continued dropping during the final quarter of 2023 and published jet card pricing fell eight and a half per cent year-over-year, according to consumer buyer's guide Private Jet Card Comparisons. Moreover, the percentage of its subscribers who negotiated free flight hours increased by 39 per cent, and those who gained extra flight credits jumped by 67 per cent. There was also a big increase in subscribers who negotiated rate lock extensions.

The insights are based on North American jet card and membership programmes offering guaranteed availability and fixed/capped hourly rates.

"Not only have hourly rates come down, daily minimums, which impact shorter flights, have returned to pre-COVID levels, and subscribers are telling us they are having much more success negotiating additional free hours and flight credits, further reducing costs," says Doug Gollan, president and editor-in-chief of Private Jet Card Comparisons.

Still, it's not all roses.

"To take advantage of lower pricing, members need to be more flexible. The number of peak days, which often carry surcharges, longer lead time for booking and cancelling, and the ability for the provider to change the departure time are down, but still more than double the pre-COVID levels of 2019. The non-peak call out, the lead time a member needs to book at contracted rates, has gone from an average of just under 24 hours to nearly three days," Gollan adds.

At the end of December 2023 the average jet card hourly rate, which includes fuel surcharges and 7.5 per cent Federal Excise Tax, dropped to $10,754. That represents a 9.2 per cent decline from December 2022. Without turboprops, the average jet card rate was $11,030, down 7.7 per cent from Q4 2022. After peaking in December 2022, jet card rates declined throughout 2023. For example, light jet rates fell from $8,379 per hour to $7,298 per hour, a 12.9 per cent drop, and hourly prices dipped 2.7 per cent from September to December.

Overall, rates at the end of 2023 were 8.5 per cent lower than those at the close of 2022. Still, hourly rates were 27.9 per cent higher than in Q4 2020 when the CARES Act waived the 7.5 per cent Federal Excise Tax.

Looking back to the end of 2019, before the COVID pandemic generated record demand for private jets, hourly prices were still 21.4 per cent higher at the end of 2023. According to the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, while $8,860 would have bought you an hour of private jet travel time in Q4 2019, today it would cost $16,164.

While private flyers cite increasing prices as the leading reason for changing providers, they are still faring well, according to the CPI Inflation Calculator. In other words, private flight prices haven't kept up with the CPI.

Of course, hourly rates are just one part of what flyers pay. Daily minimums impact flyers with shorter flights since that is what they pay even if their flight takes less time. But there's good news here, too. After daily minimums increased from 86.2 minutes in 2019 to 103.3 minutes in 2021, they are now back down to 89.4 minutes. That's just 3.7 per cent more than pre-COVID.

Particularly good news is that light jet and midsize jet daily minimums are lower than in 2019. Light jet daily minimums went from 78.1 minutes in December 2019 to 87.9 minutes in December 2021. After falling to 75.8 minutes in Q4 2022, they dropped to 71.9 minutes at the end of last year. Midsize jet daily minimums took a similar ride, increasing from 83.7 minutes to 95.8 minutes before falling to 79.7 minutes.

While super midsize jet daily minimums remain slightly higher than their pre-Covid levels (96.5 minutes versus 95.7 minutes), they too are still down from their 2021 high of 111.5 minutes. Large cabin jets, however, remain nearly 20 per cent above pre-Covid levels.

When it comes to peak days, they are down from their high but still more than double what they were in December 2019. Peak days often carry surcharges and longer call outs to book and cancel. Virtually all jet card programmes can also move the departure time, in some cases, by as much as +/- four hours on peak days.

The average number of these high-demand days went from 22.8 days in 2019 to 55.7 at the end of 2023. They have now dropped to an average of 47.4; that's 108 per cent more than before Covid and the surge that caused nearly two dozen providers to suspend jet card sales to new customers.

To use their guaranteed rates, cardholders must book a specific number of hours before departure, or call outs in industry jargon. As demand surged, providers increased call outs as it took longer to secure customer flights. Sourcing was also hampered by supply chain and labour issues.

While the average call out was 23.2 hours in Q4 2019, by the end of last year, it had climbed to 64.7 hours. For the most part, providers are keeping that buffer. The call out window increased by 4.6 hours from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023.

While the rates in PJCC's analysis are based on published pricing, subscribers say they can negotiate free hours and flight credits more frequently. The percentage of subscribers who negotiated free hours increased by 39 per cent year-over-year. Those who were able to gain flight credits jumped by 67 per cent.

Moreover, providers were also more likely to grant rate lock extensions on the period that those contracted rates are guaranteed for. Subscribers who say they negotiated rate locks beyond what was offered increased by more than 500 per cent, perhaps indicating where providers believe prices are headed.

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