If it seems like it’s getting more difficult to choose between the many private aviation companies, that’s because they’ve been responding to customer demand to make their membership benefits and lifestyle perks increasingly more flexible and compelling. Today we take a head-to-head look at Sentient Jet and NetJets, two of the industry’s longest-standing and largest businesses.

History & Background

Billing itself as “a more thoughtful way to fly,” Sentient Jet was founded in 1999, and claims to be the originator of the jet card concept. As the story goes, the idea was developed by an entrepreneur and jet owner who was exasperated that his management company wasn’t generating enough charter hours to justify private ownership. Sentient was later bought by private-investment firm Directional Aviation, which gives Sentient the ability to share and glean industry knowledge from Directional’s large portfolio of aviation companies.

Sentient, which Harvard Business Review has called the “Uber of private jets,” has made a multimillion-dollar investment in its safety program, requiring independent operators—the top 20% in the United States—to pass a certification process considered more rigorous than the industry standard. Operators are tested annually, and each aircraft, pilot, and flight is certified. Sentient uses 15 years’ worth of proprietary data to inform its safety oversight program.

The company is also known for its high-end partnerships with events like the Kentucky Derby, Ski World Cup, and celebrities like restaurateur and TV personality Bobby Flay. Its newly developed app allows clients to book in real time and chat with Sentient’s command center 24/7.

NetJets, founded by three retired military pilots in 1964 as Executive Jet Aviation, is the granddaddy of private business jets and fractional jet ownership. Since its inception, it has grown from a fleet of ten Learjet 23 aircraft to 10 types of planes and nearly 700 aircraft worldwide—the world’s largest private jet fleet, all of which it operates itself.

Richard Santulli, a mathematician and former executive with Goldman Sachs, purchased the company in 1984. After poring over 22 years’ worth of pilot logbooks, he crafted an innovative new model of fractional aircraft ownership. NetJets was renamed in 1984 and acquired by Warren Buffet, a NetJets share owner, in 1998, who added it to the Berkshire Hathaway umbrella. In addition to fractional aircraft ownership, NetJets also has several jet card programs.

NetJets Global cabin

Aircraft

Sentient provides access to 1,000-plus aircraft from about 160 operators, and never ventures outside of these Sentient Certified planes. The company categorizes their fleet according to four sizes and two age classes, Preferred (model year 2000 or newer) and Select (model year 1999 or earlier). As a cardholder you choose a category of aircraft and then Sentient will select the specific plane and model for each trip. Examples of the planes include:

Light, Preferred Class
• Raytheon Beechjet 400A—up to 7 passengers; 38 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,173 km range. With speeds ranging from 476 to 518 mph, this nimble jet is a top choice for business travelers.
• Cessna Citation Encore—up to 7 passengers; 69 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,122 km range. Built to climb faster to altitude, for a more comfortable ride and additional range.
• Cessna Citation M2—up to 4 passengers; 46 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,871 km range. With its powerful twin Williams FJ44 engines, it can reach an impressive cruising speed of 460 mph.
• Cessna CJ2—up to 6 passengers; 65 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,011 km range. This speedy and adaptable jet takes just 17 minutes to climb to 37,000 feet.
• Cessna CJ3—up to 7 passengers; 65 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,276 km range. A service ceiling of 45,000 feet allows this jet to fly far above commercial airliners.
• Cessna CJ4—up to 8 passengers; 77 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,556 km range. With its added speed, range, and size, the CJ4 is all about business productivity.
• Bombardier LearJet 40—up to 7 passengers; 15 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,897 km range. A smaller-cabin jet that features a speedy and smooth ride.
• Bombardier Learjet 45 Series—up to 7 passengers; 65 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,897 km range. Able to fly into and out of small rural airports and landing strips, and with a top speed of 533 mph, the Learjet 45 is a favorite of the busy executive.
• Hawker 400XP—up to 7 passengers; 53 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,173 km range. An economical executive jet for short- and mid-range trips.

Light, Select Class
• Hawker Beechjet 400—up to 7 passengers; 57 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,173 km range. Like the 400A, this jet boasts impressive cruising speeds for short-range travel.
• Cessna Citation II—up to 7 passengers; 77 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,253 km range. More powerful engines and increased fuel capacity mean the Citation II can fly faster and farther than its predecessors.
• Cessna Citation S/II—up to 7 passengers; 77 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,386 km range. The straight-wing design allows for easier takeoffs and landings, making this aircraft a favorite of pilots.
• Cessna Citation Ultra—up to 7 passengers; 67 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,333 km range. The Citation Ultra’s speed and range make it one of the all-time best-selling business jets.
• Cessna Citation V—up to 7 passengers; 67 cubic feet baggage capacity; 2,253 km range. An upgrade on the Citation II with a plusher interior and more efficient and powerful engines.
• Bombardier Learjet 31 Series—up to 7 passengers; 30 cubic feet baggage capacity;
• Bombardier Learjet 35—up to 7 passengers; 40 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,540 km range. This jet features a long range coupled with low fuel consumption.
• Hawker Beechcraft Premier I Series—up to 7 passengers; 77 cubic feet baggage capacity; 1,609 km range. Designed to go head-to-head with the Cessna CitationJet series, the Beechcraft Premier I can be flown single-pilot at speeds up to 518 mph.

Midsize, Preferred Class
• Gulfstream G150—up to 8 passengers; 25 cubic feet baggage capacity; 4,707 km range. Considered one of the fastest and most economical midsize business planes with coast-to-coast flying capabilities.
• Hawker 800/800XP—up to 8 passengers; 48 cubic feet baggage capacity; 4,546 km range. A generous cabin, amenities, and midrange flight capability make this a popular choice for business travelers and celebrities.
• Hawker 850XP—up to 8 passengers; 50 cubic feet baggage capacity; 4,400 km range. A more luxurious upgrade of the 800XP.
• Hawker 900XP—up to 8 passengers; 50 cubic feet baggage capacity; 4,385 km range. Able to land on short runways and runways in less-than-ideal condition, the rugged 900XP doesn’t skimp on cabin comfort.

Midsize, Select Class
• Bombardier Learjet 55—up to 7 passengers; 60 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,460 km range. The jet’s classic design and speed make it a top choice for VIP and executive transportation.
• Bombardier Learjet 60—up to 7 passengers; 48 cubic feet baggage capacity; 4,104 km range. Contoured seating, writing tables, and interior soundproofing give this jet a quiet, comfortable ride.
• Gulfstream Astra—up to 8 passengers; 64 cubic feet baggage capacity; 4,707 km range. Often used for VIP transportation of foreign air forces and for light cargo.
• Cessna Citation Excel/XLS—up to 7 passengers; 79 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,441 km range. Offers the amenities of a midsize-cabin jet with the ability to fly into and out of smaller airports.
• Cessna Citation III—up to 8 passengers; 51 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,138 km range. With a top speed of 530 mph, this jet is ideal for larger groups traveling longer distances.
• Cessna Citation VII—up to 8 passengers; 79 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,138 km range. A spacious cabin with flexible seating configurations make this one of the most requested midsize business jets.
• Hawker 700—up to 8 passengers; 40 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,621 km range. Rugged and dependable, the Hawker 700 is known for its stand-up cabin and comfortable, flexible seating options.

Super Midsize, Preferred Class
• Bombardier Challenger 300—up to 9 passengers; 106 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,552 km range. Spacious and comfortable, this jet is capable of flying transcontinental distances.
• Cessna Citation Sovereign—up to 9 passengers; 135 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,069 km range. Known for its short-field performance, the Citation Sovereign is the second-largest of the Citation line.
• Cessna Citation X—up to 9 passengers; 104 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,310 km range. This is one of the fastest midsize jets, with a top speed of 604 mph.
• Dassault Falcon 2000 Series—up to 10 passengers; 134 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,431 km range. As Dassault puts it, “It’s a big cabin jet without the big cabin costs, offering more aircraft at a cost of operation normally associated with smaller jets.”
• Dassault Falcon 50EX—up to 9 passengers; 115 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,149 km range. A quick jet that flies high, the 50EX features fold-out work tables between facing seats for ultimate business productivity.
• Gulfstream G200—up to 9 passengers; 150 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,794 km range. The luxury interior, generously sized cabin, and upgraded audio system make the G200 a favorite of VIPs and celebrities.
• Hawker 4000—up to 9 passengers; 115 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,047 km range. Known for its smooth and quiet flight, this jet boasts a 6-foot cabin height and an intercontinental range.

Super Midsize, Select Class
• Cessna Citation X—up to 9 passengers; 104 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,310 km range. This is one of the fastest midsize jets, with a top speed of 604 mph.
• Dassault Falcon 50 Series—up to 9 passengers; 115 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,150 km range. The Falcon 50’s three engines make it a great choice for short-field trips.
• Hawker 1000—up to 9 passengers; 50 cubic feet baggage capacity; 4,385 km range. The Hawker 1000 was developed from the 800 series. It has a longer fuselage and is optimized for intercontinental flights.

Heavy, Preferred Class
• Bombardier Challenger 604—up to 12 passengers; 115 cubic feet baggage capacity; 7,081 km range. With its reduced weight and powerful engines, this jet is ideal for long-range trips.
• Bombardier Challenger 605—up to 12 passengers; 114 cubic feet baggage capacity; 7,400 km range. An intercontinental business jet with flexible seating and the widest cabin in its category.
• Embraer Legacy—up to 12 passengers; 240 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,994 km range. Known for its fast and quiet ride, the Legacy also boasts some of the largest cargo capacity in its class.
• Dassault Falcon 900 Series—up to 12 passengers; 127 cubic feet baggage capacity; 8,340 km range. Great short-runway performance and a generously sized cabin distinguish this jet.
• Bombardier Global 5000—up to 13 passengers; 195 cubic feet baggage capacity; 10,452 km range. Designed for premium comfort, this large-cabin aircraft is a popular choice for transatlantic trips.
• Bombardier Global Express—up to 12 passengers; 185 cubic feet baggage capacity; 11,080 km range. Special attention to space, luxury, and technology give this jet an edge in long-range business travel.
• Gulfstream G450—up to 16 passengers; 169 cubic feet baggage capacity; 7,781 km range. Advanced sound suppression in the cabin makes the G450 a good choice when uninterrupted work and rest are needed.
• Gulfstream G500—up to 16 passengers; 175 cubic feet baggage capacity; 9,630 km range. This jet is capable of traveling at Mach .90, combining speed with long range.
• Gulfstream G550—up to 16 passengers; 170 cubic feet baggage capacity; 12,051 km range. Able to travel long ranges nonstop while also capable of taking off from and landing in short-field, high-altitude airports.
• Gulfstream G650—up to 16 passengers; 195 cubic feet baggage capacity; 12,964 km range. Known for having the lowest-pressurized cabin altitude of all business aircraft.
• Gulfstream G550—up to 14 passengers; 226 cubic feet baggage capacity; 11,975 km range. A descendent of the Gulfstream V, this is an ultra-long-range business jet.

Heavy, Select Class
• Bombardier Challenger 600—up to 12 passengers; 115 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,149 km range. A comfortable, reliable wide-body aircraft with transatlantic performance.
• Bombardier Challenger 601—up to 12 passengers; 115 cubic feet baggage capacity; 6,195. Another wide-body jet with a spacious cabin built for business productivity.
• Gulfstream III—up to 14 passengers; 157 cubic feet baggage capacity; 6,679 km range. Often used for military and government transportation, the Gulfstream III features a sizable cabin, full galley, and enclosed private lavatory.
• Gulfstream IV-SP—up to 13 passengers; 169 cubic feet baggage capacity; 7,242 km range. Another great choice for intercontinental flights.
• Gulfstream IV—up to 16 passengers; 169 cubic feet baggage capacity; 7,161 km range. Another jet commonly used for military and government transportation, it can achieve a cruising speed of Mach .80 and a maximum speed of Mach .88.
• Gulfstream GV—up to 16 passengers; 226 cubic feet baggage capacity; 10,943 km range. The choice of high-profile entrepreneurs like Mark Cuban and the late Steve Jobs, this jet is used for a variety of government and military operations both in the United States and abroad.
• Embraer Legacy—up to 12 passengers; 240 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,994 km range. Known for its fast and quiet ride, the Legacy also boasts some of the largest cargo capacity in its class.
• Dassault Falcon 900 Series—up to 12 passengers; 127 cubic feet baggage capacity; 8,340 km range. Great short-runway performance and a generously sized cabin distinguish this jet.
• Bombardier Global Express—up to 12 passengers; 185 cubic feet baggage capacity; 11,080 km range. Special attention to space, luxury, and technology give this jet an edge in long-range business travel.

NetJets offers four sizes of aircraft in its own fleet of 700 planes. The average age of these aircraft is around 7.5 years old. The aircraft are configured to NetJets own specifications and include:

Light Cabin
Known for their speed and ability to land on the shortest runways and at the smallest, most remote airports, NetJets’ Light Cabin aircraft include:
• Cessna Citation Encore—up to 7 passengers; 69 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,122 km range. Built to climb faster to altitude, for a more comfortable ride and additional range.
• Embraer Phenom 300—up to 6 passengers; 74 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,196 km range. One of NetJets’ most requested aircraft, thanks to its comfortable interior.
• Cessna Citation Excel/XLS—up to 7 passengers; 79 cubic feet baggage capacity; 3,441 km range. Offers the amenities of a midsize-cabin jet with the ability to fly into and out of smaller airports.

Midsize Cabin
NetJets’ midsize-cabin aircraft offer additional space for work and comfort, and are capable of flying longer distances.
• Hawker 900XP—up to 8 passengers; 40 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,153 km range. Nicknamed the “spacious conference room in the sky,” the Hawker is known for its comfortable cabin and speed.
• Cessna Citation Latitude—up to 7 passengers; 100 cubic feet baggage capacity; 4,937 km range. This midsize jet measures 6 feet in cabin height and has the largest cross-section in NetJets’ midsize class.
• Cessna Citation Sovereign—up to 8 passengers; 100 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,219 km range. Able to fly longer ranges in high elevations.

Super-Midsize Cabin
Extended ranges, speed, larger passenger capacity, and flexible seating configurations make these jets the top choice for transcontinental business travel.
• Cessna Citation X—up to 8 passengers; 72 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,476 km range. This nimble aircraft is reputed to reduce cross-country travel by up to 35 minutes.
• Bombardier Challenger 350—up to 9 passengers; 106 cubic feet baggage capacity; 6,047 km range. One of the longest flying ranges of all private jets.

Large Cabin
The top choice for global flyers, these aircraft—staffed by a NetJets flight attendant—can transport up to 14 passengers for up to 14 hours. Large Cabin aircraft flights also featured luxury food service.
• Dassault Falcon 2000/2000EX—up to 10 passengers; 134 cubic feet baggage capacity; 5,429 km range. This aircraft mixes business with pleasure, offering flexible conference and club seating and a comfortable large-cabin feel.
• Bombardier Challenger 650—up to 11 passengers; 115 cubic feet baggage capacity; 6,833 km range. Considered a world-class large-cabin jet, the Challenger 650 provides optimal comfort and mobility during coast-to-coast and even intercontinental flights.
• Gulfstream IV-SP/G450—up to 13 passengers; 169 cubic feet baggage capacity; 7,242 km range. Another great choice for intercontinental flights.
• Bombardier Global 5000—up to 13 passengers; 195 cubic feet baggage capacity; 10,452 km range. Designed for premium comfort, this large-cabin aircraft is a popular choice for transatlantic trips.
• Gulfstream G550—up to 14 passengers; 226 cubic feet baggage capacity; 11,975 km range. A descendent of the Gulfstream V, this is an ultra-long-range business jet.
• Bombardier Global 6000—up to 13 passengers; 195 cubic feet baggage capacity; 11,632 km range. Known for its transpacific performance, this speedy jet has long range.

Availability

With the Sentient 25-Hour card, you can be in the air with as little as 10 hours’ notice. They specify 21 peak days each year which have a 5% surcharge and a 72 hour notice period for obtaining an aircraft.

For NetJets Owners, 4 to 6 hours’ notice is required, and there are 15 peak period days (with 48 hours’ notice required during peak).

The company also offers several card programs, including its original Marquis Jet Cards and a newer Elite Jet Cards. For Marquis Jet Cards, 10 hours’ notice is required for booking, and there are 30 to 45 peak days (with 120 hours’ notice required during peak). FET is excluded from the overall price, and flights are subject to a fuel surcharge.

Elite Jet Cards are offered in 25-hour blocks on its two Citation light jets. Minimum booking notice is 24 hours, and there are 45 peak days per year, also with 120-hour minimum booking notice. It’s important to note that a 25% premium is assessed for hours on peak days, unlike with the Marquis card, where you’re charged for actual flight time only. Elite pricing includes FET and fuel.

For all three of the NetJets programs, downgrades are guaranteed, and upgrades are subject to availability, within 24 hours of making a request. Card program members can also expect extra fees for international flights, ground transportation, and other miscellaneous charges.

Hours, Memberships, and Pricing

As its name implies, Sentient’s 25-Hour Jet Card provides 25 hours of flight time with all-inclusive pricing, including fuel and FET. Hourly rates are locked in for 12 months from the date of purchase. They also offer 15% efficiency discounts on qualifying round-trip travel.

Sentient is more transparent about pricing than many of its competitors.
• Light, Preferred Class starts at $147,275
• Light, Select Class starts at $131,800
• Midsize, Preferred Class starts at $196,250
• Midsize, Select Class starts at $176,275
• Super-Midsize, Preferred Class starts at $249,275
• Super-Midsize, Select Class starts at $227,050
• Heavy, Preferred Class starts at $350,325
• Heavy, Select Class starts at $285,825

In addition, Sentient provides member perks like special pricing on luxury jewelry and in-store purchase at Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as free nights at partner hotels and private gallery tours. VIP access to parties during the Kentucky Derby and a variety of golf tournaments, including the Masters, are also offered to card holders.

A NetJets fractional membership gives you an undivided interest in a chosen aircraft. Prices vary according to the type of jet and size of share, with the minimum available share offering a 1/16 interest equivalent to 50 hours’ of flight time each year. There’s a one-time acquisition cost, plus a monthly management fee and an occupied hourly fee for fuel, maintenance, catering, and landing. At the end of the ownership term, which is usually 5 years, NetJets offers a guaranteed buy-back option for you to sell your share back to them.

NetJets Marquis Jet Cards are made for people who fly fewer than 50 hours per year. Prepay for flight time on the aircraft of your choice, and you have access to it for 25 hours at a time over 18 months, with the flight time deducted from your card balance. Pricing starts in the neighborhood of $165,000.

A variety of lifestyle benefits are also available through NetJets. In addition to several members-only events, such as poker tournaments, NetJets offers members private parties and tours at events like Art Basel, the Masters Golf Tournament, and the Super Bowl. Prefer a live performance? NetJets also hosts private concerts with top pop stars like Katy Perry, offers global medical support, provides complementary car rentals and luxury accommodations with some of the world’s top resorts, and exclusive vacation packages to far-flung locations.

Terms

Hourly rates are fixed for 12 months at Sentient Jet, and funds never expire. A NetJets’ fractional ownership has a minimum term of 36 months, while its Marquis Jet Cards max out at the 18-month mark.

With their extensive aircraft options and flying capabilities, ease of short-notice booking, and impressive assortment of lifestyle perks, NetJets and Sentient are well positioned in private aviation. Which one you choose will depend more on your travel needs—and travel wish list—and the types of extras you’d like to enjoy with your membership.

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