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Private Jet Market Grapples With Surge in Get-Me-Away Demand

What’s causing problems are jet cancellations. “Most of these jet cards, if the operator cancels it because of a mechanical issue, they guarantee you a replacement aircraft at no cost,” Mr. Gollan said. But if the jet operator cancels because it doesn’t have a jet, he said, “your broker could say, ‘Sorry we lost this plane, but we have three new quotes.’ Instead of paying $18,000 to go up to New York, you could pay $28,000.”

Your choice at that point? Get a refund and fly commercial or pay the extra and go.

“Jet operators have been inundated with requests,” said Gregg Brunson-Pitts, founder and president of Advanced Aviation, a boutique jet broker. “We have had to be creative.”

Since the lockdown was loosened last year, charter prices are up 15 percent, but customers are not balking, Mr. Brunson-Pitts said. Yet in the rush to fly private, he said, would-be fliers needed to ensure that their broker is working with reputable jet owners who properly maintain the planes and train the pilots.

Jet cards are supposed to provide more of a guarantee. Fliers have already paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for the hours and want the plane when they want it, usually on relatively short notice.

But those, too, have been in high demand. Even higher prices didn’t cool interest.

“After a couple of price increases that didn’t slow down sales to a pace that we were comfortable with, we halted jet card sales altogether and went to a wait list,” Mr. Gallagher of NetJets said. “We could have tested that price elasticity further, but I didn’t want the perception of a money grab in a hot market. We saw how the demand was building in the summer.”

Kenny Dichter, chairman and chief executive of Wheels Up, another provider, said he didn’t see the jet card market cooling. “People are putting money down for travel into 2022,” he said. “The demand we’re seeing now is the result of the stubbornness of this Covid crisis.”