The choice of providers for aircraft and crew can make or break the reputation of a jet card company. We spoke with four major jet card firms, all of whom use third party aircraft operators, to learn more about how they make their decisions and what criteria are most important.

Air Partner

One of the pioneers in the market, Air Partner has provided private jet and group charter services since 1961. Their customers include Fortune 500 companies, governments and private individuals. In addition to air charter broking and remarketing, the group also provides consulting, training and emergency planning.

- How many providers/operators do you work with for your membership/jet card programs?

Air Partner utilizes a worldwide network of audited operators representing more than 5000 approved aircraft globally. As many of our missions are complex in nature with often unique logistical requirements and time constraints, our screening and qualification process is quite stringent and is completed on a regional and global scale. The Air Partner team dispatches more than 40,000 flights per year or one every 12 minutes.

- How do you choose the providers you work with?

Since safety is our first priority, Air Partner only selects providers of aircraft that have passed an internal review and comply with our strict safety policy. If a preferred operator, pilot, or aircraft does not meet 100% of our standard, then they are not Air Partner Certified and will not fly Air Partner clients. There are no exceptions.

In addition to ensuring that each trip meets our safety standards, we measure operators’ performance during every charter, including non-flight business dealings in terms of perceived trust and levels of custom service offered.

Financial stability is key area for evaluating service providers as indication for their reliability.
By coordinating feedback from our global office network and using data from external sources, our Quality Management Division can make decisions using the most accurate and up-to-date information for every provider we work with.

- How do you assess them & what criteria do you use?

Air Partner's Safety Management System will not allow contracting until all operator paperwork is in place. This robust and constant vetting process of operators considers operational safety, financial stability and group experience as equally key factors. Among the factors reviewed are: company age, fleet age, fleet ownership, country of registration, published safety records, etc. Further, as a public traded company, Air Partner is audited by Deloitte and Touche bi-annually for compliance to our rules and procedures.

This Safety Management System (SMS), in addition to national safety expectations from the European and American Civil Aviation Authorities, systematically promotes airlines that suit at least one of the following: Wyvern Wingman or Registered expectations, ARG/US Platinum or Gold Plus rating, IS-BAO certification, IOSA certification, and the Air Partner Standard.

The Air Partner team adheres to a detailed checklist for each trip for every client, from the booking stage to the post-flight follow up. All aircraft, operators, and crews contracted by Air Partner in the United States are ARG/US or Wyvern approved, without exception. Further, Air Partner maintains a database of all documentation relating to providers, and the system will automatically flag any documents that have expired. Our Safety Management Division constantly monitors the network of providers for any deviations in status and/or rating. Internally, all providers are rated A, B, C, or D (do not use) depending on the factors mentioned above, as well as real feedback from actual trips. This system is paramount in making the Air Partner vendor list the most complete and comprehensive in the industry today.

As trusted advisors to businesses, armed forces, governments and regulators across all sectors of aviation, we help to advance best practice, shape safety thinking and drive continuous improvement to safety performance through our consulting, training and outsourced services. This is conducted through our consulting arm, which includes Baines Simmons, specializing in aviation regulation compliance, risk and safety management. Clockwork Research, providing consultancy in fatigue risk management division; and SafeSkys, focusing on environmental and air traffic control issues.

- What criteria do you use for the aircraft?

Air Partner continuously monitors and records all our associated flights. Flight statistics (including on-time performance) are analyzed, and information is published internally in order to assist the group when proposing options to the client. The Quality Management Division gathers all relevant information from safety rating providers and holds records of on-time performance of aircraft. This information provides a comprehensive overview of operator and aircraft reliability. Above-average maintenance of each aircraft is required, with detailed attention to conditions of the interior, exterior, and avionics.

The age, type, and refurbishments of aircraft are also considered when referring to the operational reliability of a proposed aircraft. For the Air Partner JetCard program, we use any aircraft manufactured 2000 and newer, and 1994 and newer for JetCard Sterling.

- What criteria do you use for the crews?

Air Partner’s Quality Management Division evaluates all air charter operators and crew used based on safety, operational performance, and financial stability, maintained by our Safety Management System (SMS). Should our standards not be fully met, Air Partner will not use a substandard crew or aircraft.

For every charter, we only offer aircraft with 2 pilots, in which we ensure a minimum requirement of 4,000 hours for the captain and 2,000 hours for the co-pilot. On average, crew members usually exceed 8,000 flight hours. The crew must meet the Air Partner Standard for crew total time, training, and time in type. Additional factors that are considered when selecting crews include consistency of performance, level of training and experience, professional / personal background, along with recent and historical flight records.

- Do you have some examples of things you really focus on, or where you would say no to an aircraft or crew?

Risk mitigation is a primary focus for maintaining our safety standards, and special attention is given to a variety of factors when choosing aircraft and crew for each trip. Our specialized team analyzes the aircraft and crew, while also considering the skills of crew, airport complexity (i.e. shorter runways, mountainous areas), required slots availability, ATC delays, adverse weather conditions, and other performance characteristics.

Although crews must meet the Air Partner Standard when booking, last-minute changes may occur with crews, and at that point, the Air Partner team will cancel the contract with an operator and find a suitable alternative.

We monitor punctuality and performance in terms of scheduled/actual departure and arrival times. Post-flight analysis and feedback is routine.

- Any additional info.?

To ensure a successful, consistent and reliable experience for our clients for each and every trip, Air Partner maintains overall service control of all aspects of the client experience. From internal data to ARG/US Trip Cheqs (using real-time data), Air Partner’s processes include pre-flight to flight tracking, monitoring, and logistics, along with consistent up-to-the minute communication related to all functions of each trip, passenger manifests, etc. to post flight audit and follow up.

Air Partner is also the only air charter broker certified ISO 9001:2008 compliant for commercial airline and private jet solutions worldwide. ISO 9001 is the most widely used and internationally recognized framework for good business and quality management. This certification demonstrates that Air Partner’s policies, processes and procedures are best in class and meet or exceed quality management and customer requirements. Compliance with ISO 9001 recognizes Air Partner’s consistent level of quality in the service it provides to its customers. Air Partner’s certification currently covers offices in the UK, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

Magellan Jets

Since its founding in 2008, Magellan has gone on to become an industry leader in the jet card membership sector, offering personal and corporate cards, as well as access to helicopter charters and specialized services such as air ambulance.

- How many providers/operators do you work with for your jet card programs?

The Magellan Jets Preferred Network (MJPN) includes operators that exceed our established standards, have demonstrated the ability to integrate safety and service into their company culture, and share our mission to deliver uncompromising quality to our clients and members. There are currently 18 operators in the Magellan Jets Preferred Network (MJPN). We will use other operators if they can pass our proprietary screening process. We conduct an average of one site visit per month and we have an ongoing audit process that proceeds at a pace of three operators per week. Magellan Jets also uses proprietary technology to monitor, in real time, the availability of more than 40 operators that meet our basic criteria.

- How do you choose the providers you work with?

Operators are constantly applying to be part of the MJPN. Magellan Jets also gets referrals. It is extraordinarily difficult to get on the Magellan Jets operator list and also harder to stay on the list. With the ongoing pilot shortage, we are often surprised at how even the largest operators with the best reputations will temporarily make it on our “Does not meet standards” list. Magellan Jets uses hard science and technology as well as thoughtful application of core values to ensure success in the low-volume, high-value space.

- How do you assess them & what criteria do you use?

Magellan Jets conducts itself as though it is the gold-standard of U.S. FAR Part 135 operators, but without the burden of having to support on-fleet operations by operating aircraft. This means that we are operating a world-class safety management system (SMS) for the entire private aviation industry, as well as a one-of-a-kind, proprietary quality assurance system (QAS) that guarantees that the standards set forth by our clients and members are upheld on every single mission. Applying SMS to the entire industry on behalf of our customers is exceedingly difficult, but we operate an infrastructure capable of identifying and tracking the key elements: Safety policy, safety risk management, safety assurance, and safety promotion at all the operators. We do not disclose the methods we use to track client and member preferences against the performance of our operators but will say that leaders of MJPN operators think the feedback from our QAS system is extremely useful in maintaining the continuous improvement of operations. Magellan Jets uses the safety benchmarks established by the Air Charter Safety Foundation as a baseline assessment. From there we apply the requirements set forth by clients and members. The result is the highest possible level of “customer-first” criteria available – in many cases exceeding even the criteria maintained in individual flight departments.

- What criteria do you use for the aircraft?

Magellan Jets identifies and tracks the following criteria for aircraft: Age, maintenance and refurbishment schedule, type of maintenance system used, the percent of maintenance performed by mechanics employed by the operator versus employed by third parties, the experience of the mechanics that work on the aircraft, and service bulletins and airworthiness directives affecting the aircraft. Magellan Jets also uses proprietary technology and processes to track the dispatch reliability of specific aircraft and the performance of the aircraft against the standards established by individual clients and members.

- What criteria do you use for the crews?

Magellan Jets identifies and tracks the following criteria for crews: Years of experience, total time, total time in type, criminal and professional history, DOT and FAA records, flight physical records, recency of experience, quality and type of training provided by the operator, training records, social media presence, and representation by third-party labor groups and/or employment contracts. Magellan Jets also uses proprietary technology to track the dispatch reliability of individual crewmembers, customer service performance, ability to communicate and resolve issues, and the performance of crewmembers against the standards established by individual clients and members.

- Do you have some examples of things you really focus on, or where you would say no to an aircraft or crew?

Within the last six months, operators have failed to meet Magellan Jets standards in the following categories, listed in order of most frequently to least frequently: Aircraft appearance and/or dispatch reliability, crew experience, poor crew scheduling practices, insufficient number of crew members for the number of aircraft on the certificate, poor communications, generally poor dispatch reliability, and unprofessional conduct on or off duty. Presently, the ongoing pilot shortage has us hyper-focused on understanding exactly how an operator trains and schedules its crew members, how many current and qualified pilots are assigned to each aircraft, and the recency of experience of specific crew members in specific aircraft and seat assignments. Generally speaking, too few of the aforementioned items signals an operator that is in distress financially – a warning sign of possible safety issues. Magellan Jets is also concerned when there is a pattern of customer service issues as service issues are an early warning sign of safety issues.

- Any additional info.?

Magellan Jets does not think of our programs as “Jet Cards” – they are Memberships. We provide what others cannot. Behind the scenes, Magellan Jets is operating a technology-enabled Safety Management System on every operator that meets Magellan Jets standards, as well as maintaining a proprietary quality assurance system designed to delight our clients and members on every flight. In front of the curtain, we listen carefully and ask questions to look for alignment in values. We have observed that the industry is starting to chase a model that reduces private aviation to a mass-market commodity and we are respectfully opposed to that movement. We interact with prospects, customers, and vendors in a way that guarantees our core values as a company match with the core values of the individual human beings we work with. Because of this attention to and focus on individual human values and needs, we are confident that we will continue building meaningful relationships – one-by-one – that result in safe, satisfying, and rewarding purely private experiences.

Sentient Jets

Sentient Jets was founded in 1999 and bills itself as the inventor of the jet card. Called “the Uber of private jets” by Harvard Business Review, Sentient has invested millions of dollars in its safety program and is known for its partnerships with major events like the Kentucky Derby.

- How many providers/operators do you work with for your jet card programs?

Sentient Jet works with a very select group of Operating Partners in the US through our Sentient Certified Network. Because we are so selective and thoughtful, we only work with about 30-35% of all FAA Part 135 jet operators in the US. This is a dynamic group maintained through Sentient’s proprietary monitoring program, which continuously audits internal Safety standards, Sentient Certification standards, and operating, and service delivery performance.

- How do you choose the providers you work with?

Sentient Jet’s dedicated Field Operations team, led by Paul Yandrisevits, is responsible for the health of the Sentient Certified Network. Once the Field Operations team has worked with and qualified a potential Operating Partner for eligibility, the Safety department led by Charles Starkowsky takes over to complete our proprietary and comprehensive due diligence process.

Without exception, every Sentient flight utilizes an Operating Partner that has successfully completed the Sentient Certification process. This includes the full series of due-diligence on not only the Operator but also the aircraft and crew, all of which are entered into Sentient’s continuous Safety Monitoring Program. This is done on both a daily and per flight basis including issuing our clients the Sentient Certified Flight Report on each induvial crewmember offering full transparency.

- What criteria do you use for the aircraft & crew?

We employ a multi-faceted approach. When an Operating Partner can successfully pass an audit and achieves Sentient Certification, that does not mean all of its aircraft and crews are automatically approved. In fact, each aircraft and each crew member undergo the due diligence process individually. Only those meeting Sentient’s criteria achieve Sentient Certification.

Based on information gained from our own internal audits and inspections as well as collection and review of FAA and DOT documentation, Sentient focuses on areas such as aircraft maintenance histories, aircraft certifications, background checks and previous experience and performance histories of each crew member. We also seek out evidence of any aircraft maintenance or service interruptions, or possible enforcement actions on a crew member that might preclude their eligibility for Sentient Certification.

All certification and continuous safety monitoring data is tracked at Sentient. Therefore, even if an aircraft might move from one operator to another or if a crewmember changes place of employment, their records remain readily accessible to Sentient.

- Do you have some examples of things you really focus on, or where you would say no to an aircraft or crew?

Safety is paramount. We never sacrifice on Safety when it comes to selecting an Operating Partner. However, safety is not the only criteria. Because we treat Operators as partners, we take a comprehensive look at their culture, their business practices, their reputation and ability to service our clients.

Additionally, we have a team of dedicated Aircraft Inspectors across the US who are responsible for ensuring the aircraft we have certified maintain their quality and meet our stringent standards. We do this so that Sentient can ensure a constant high level of aircraft quality and service to our clientele.

- Any additional info.?

The Sentient Operations team prides itself on a unique but comprehensive approach to building and maintaining our Operating Partner Network. We constantly strive to do business with our Operating Partners the right way, understanding that a strong relationship ensures we can continue to partner together in the future.

XOJet

XOJet boasts four membership programs and a charter service as well as a recently-added brokerage program. The company, and its fleet of super midsize jets, was recently acquired by VistaJet Global.

- How many providers/operators do you work with for your membership/jet card programs?

We currently have 123 approved Preferred Partners worldwide, and are continuously working to expand.

- How do you choose the providers you work with?

Demand plays a large part. It is also based on geography and cabin class, mission type.

- How do you assess them & what criteria do you use?

We look for Arg/US Platinum/Gold, Wyvern Wingman, ISBAO, Air Charter Safety Foundation approved operators.

- What criteria do you use for the aircraft & crew?

We restrict Arg/US Gold operators to aircraft 25 years and less. We will approve aircraft 20-25 years only if they are ADS-B compliant. We have no age restrictions on operators with third party audits by Arg/US, Wyvern, ISBAO, ACSF.

All crews must pass Arg/US or Wyvern Wingman requirements.

Do you have some examples of things you really focus on, or where you would say no to an aircraft or crew?

We audit many of the preferred partner operational documents and then each aircraft/crew individually. We forego approval on aircraft that do not meet our insurance requirements or crew that does not meet the minimum baseline established by Arg/US or Wyvern.

- Any additional info.?

We require insurance standards of $25m for light equipment, $50m for mid-size, and $100m for large cabin.

“We find that pilots and operators within the industry appreciate our commitment to high safety standards,” said Dan Ramirez, Director of Safety at XOJet. “We continue to build a demand ecosystem where these assets look to be part of our enterprise as we maintain and grow our network of high-caliber clients with high-quality trips.”

SherpaReport Notes

All four of the above companies are large established players in the jet card or membership space. Magellan, Sentient and Air Partner each use a network of vetted third party partner operators to supply their aircraft. XOJet has its own fleet of super-mid Bombardier Challenger 300 and Cessna Citation X jets and also uses 1,500 aircraft from its partners. Other jet card and membership companies such as NetJets, Flexjet and Wheels Up have their own fleet of aircraft. In other words, there are a variety of sourcing models:

  1. 100% third party preferred partners
  2. Mix of third-party preferred partners & owned fleet
  3. 100% owned fleet (sometime referred to as a "closed fleet")

When you are looking at buying a jet card or membership, we recommend you always ask who is supplying the aircraft and what are the criteria for selecting those aircraft and their crews. As a personal preference you may want to fly on a consistent fleet of 100% owned aircraft, or this may not be part of your criteria - there is no right or wrong model - but you do want to be sure the provider has good systems and procedures to provide a safe, timely, well managed service.

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