Sometimes it seems like review sites and ratings for products and services have taken over the world. Travel booking sites have thousands of hotels, each with reviews by folks who’ve stayed there and plentiful pictures. The same holds true for restaurant reservations and food delivery. When I recently bought $25 filters for my air conditioner, I was able to read customer reviews about dozens of sites.
Yet, if you book a private jet charter costing tens of thousands of dollars and want to know what the interior of the aircraft looks like, you are reliant on pictures from brokers and operators.
How can you make sure the quality of the private jets you charter match the photos you see on the … [+]
Let’s just say, they’re not always recent. Some of you might even say there have been times the pictures you saw weren’t even of the same airplane you ended up boarding! And yes, Argus, Wyvern and IS-BAO provide safety assessments. However, they don’t cover operational performance or if it’s time to reupholster the seats.
Earlier this month U.K.-based charter broker Victor became the latest player hoping to give you a bit more confidence that what you see is what you will get.
While not aircraft specific, its Client Preferred Operators must have a minimum 90% customer satisfaction rating for both airplane quality and service onboard. Private jets from these operators are identified by a star icon with each quotation to the client. Additionally, the operators must demonstrate low levels of technical and flight recovery issues.
Both elements are critical. While a worn cabin might be annoying, a last-minute mechanical cancelation can result in paying thousands of dollars extra for a replacement aircraft. As you probably know, with most on-demand charter, if your aircraft goes tech and the substitute jet costs more, you have to pay the difference, at least if you want to fly right away.
Victor’s requirements to be a top-rated operator include having performed at least 10 flights for it with feedback from at least five customers over a rolling 48-month window.
Its move follows the July launch of “premium” charter broker FXAIR by Directional Aviation through its OneSky Flight group that includes Flexjet, Sentient Jet and PrivateFly.
“Best plane at the best price, not the cheapest plane at the cheapest price,” said Greg Slow, FXAIR’s president, in speaking about how his approach will be different than the market at large.
While it’s not uncommon for broker websites to boast access to over 10,000 jets, Slow said he will be selling out of a pool of around 1,200 aircraft from “the world’s safest and most proven operators.” Those airplanes are vetted to make sure cabin photos match reality, the company says.
Victor and FXAIR are not alone. Thomas Flohr, the founder and chairman of Vista Global Holdings, used a press conference during the industry’s biggest trade show last Fall to unveil “quality tiers” at his XO brokerage unit.
Classic, Premium and Luxe designators would help charter customers better understand the relationship between what they pay and what they will find when they show up at the FBO.
Classic aircraft were described as, “The most affordable and most practical way to go private.” The Premium label would mean an “industry-leading collection of in-demand newer aircraft that include light jets to ultra-long-range planes, all of which have modern cabins and WiFi access.”
At the highest level, the Luxe designation would provide “the pinnacle of charter…the newest planes,” from super-midsize jets through ultra-long-range options.
When I went to write this article, I could only find a reference to Luxe. Asking what happened to the lower tiers, a spokesperson told me, “Based on customer feedback, we are focused on making our experience more detailed than simply three tiers, rather providing assessments on specific aircraft options and operators versus broad service categories for class-based options. The only badge we kept is for Luxe that goes with specific aircraft and operators that are extraordinary.”
It’s often difficult to find much third-party feedback about brokers and operators, let alone ratings on specific aircraft. Of 86 leading private jet charter brokers I researched, only 49 have Facebook ratings, mostly with only a few reviews. Only 10 were rated by Trustpilot, and just 14 by the Better Business Bureau. About a quarter have Glassdoor reviews, which might give you feedback on what it’s like to work there, but won’t tell you much about the cabin or operational dependability of the airplanes being sold.
I’m Editor-in-Chief of DG Amazing Experiences, a weekly e-newsletter for private jet owners and Private Jet Card Comparisons, a buyer’s guide comparing over 250 jet card programs from major players like Flexjet, Jet Linx, NetJets, Sentient Jet, Wheels Up, VistaJet, and XO to newcomers like FlyExclusive and boutique brokers. You’ll also find performance profiles of popular private jets, from turboprops King Air 350, Pilatus PC-12 and HondaJet to the Phenom 300, Challenger 300 and 350, Gulfstream G450, G550, G650, G700, Bombardier’s popular Global Express family, the iconic Learjet and S-76 helicopter used by both Queen Elizabeth and Donald Trump. There’s a free guide explaining various options and even a guide for first-timers and specifically what you need to know before chartering. And before you fly, find out what’s an FBO. You’ll also find a Deal Book, cataloging M&A activity and launches by key players. I’ve spent my working career in travel and luxury media, for 14 years at Travel Agent magazine, where I began as a reporter, then covered the airline industry as Aviation Editor and ended up rising to Group Publisher. In 2000 I started Elite Traveler, a consumer lifestyle magazine distributed globally aboard private jets, where I was President and Editor-in-Chief until 2014. In 2007, I co-authored of “The Sky’s the Limit: Marketing to the New Jet Set.” In 2014 I wrote “23 Ways to Create More Sales Opportunities 25 Minutes,” and in 2016 I co-authored “Secrets of Selling to the Super Rich.” Verb named me as one of the Top 25 Digital Luxury Experts to follow. For more private aviation and news on jet cards, private aviation memberships, and fractional ownership, visit Private Jet Card Comparisons’ news updates.