Secret's Out! Booking a Private Flight Isn't as Pricey as You Probably Think

Because you're worth it

JSX private jet

Courtesy of JSX

Let’s face it, commercial flights these days feel a little like a game of roulette. Our spirited return to travel has brought along a lot of baggage—soaring prices, hellish airport lines, airline meltdowns, passenger meltdowns, and limited onboard snacks and drinks.

But a growing number of travelers are finding an easy way around the mounting hassles of traveling with commercial airlines. They’re flying private, they’re not looking back—and many of them aren’t paying as much for the privilege as you'd think.

Earlier this year, TripSavvy reported that the private jet industry soared to new heights in 2020, and the trend doesn’t seem to be touching down anytime soon. According to Argus International, June 2021 saw the highest number of private flights taken in the U.S. since 2007.

So why the relatively sudden and sharp uptick in private aviation?

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that flying privately with minimal people (and possibly only people in your personal circle) has many perks compared to traveling with hundreds of strangers on a major airline. The anxiety of current travel was likely a catalyst for travelers to finally explore their options.

In the past, flying privately was mostly reserved for business travel or wealthy leisure travelers who could shake off the cost of the required yearly membership fees and high whole-plane charter rates. These days, you don’t need a pricey membership to snag a seat on a private plane—heck, you don’t even need to rent out the entire plane.

VistaJet

Courtesy of VistaJet

For VistaJet, a private global charter jet service, the proof is in the bookings. The company says they’ve personally experienced a 184 percent increase in total flights compared to 2020 and a 135 percent increase compared to 2019 (we include pre-pandemic numbers here to give context for the overall growth).

“When I took my first flight with VistaJet, I expected luxury and professional service, and I got it,” Jill Miller of Your RV Lifestyle told TripSavvy. “A friendly yet professional stewardess saw to my every need, from endless glasses of Moët to the delicious food (which was as per my preflight order specifications. There was plenty of room to stretch out and relax, and no one else was around to constantly bump into me or disturb me, which is one of the worst things about flying commercial.”

Miller acknowledged that flying privately can be expensive but encourages travelers to give weight to the extra savings you might find by being able to leave from your local airport, cutting down on transfers and time, and checking bags. “Even choosing the fly-share option, similar to Lyft and Uber, is a lot better than flying commercial, especially for domestic travel.”

In addition to its traditional membership model based on a fixed by-the-hour subscription fee, VistaJet now also offers an “On Demand” service akin to a rideshare approach that allows occasional travelers to book seats on a private jet on an as-needed basis, no membership required. “On Demand” fliers may not miss or even notice the absence of some of the members-only perks. 

Even still, VistaJet says it typically rents whole jets out for $12,000 to $17,000 per hour—depending on the size of your crew and Points A and B, it might not be as expensive as you think to go whole hog on your next vacation.

Canadian traveler Colleen Tatum said the first time she’d ever heard of “real” people chartering private flights was when her husband hitched onto a last-minute private jet with his friends. The group had enlisted the private plane to follow their favorite team, who was playing out of town for the Stanley Cup Finals. “I was shocked how relatively accessible it was cost-wise compared to commercial,” she said. “Once the cost was split with the 20 or so passengers, it was really quite affordable.”

Tatum says the revelation prompted her to book a private jet for a family fishing trip. The area was remote, and there were no nearby commercial flights that could get them there. She now recommends going private, especially for larger groups. “Extended family travel, company travel, even a fun weekend away with friends—once you divvy it up, it’s often a very similar cost,” she said. “You set the schedule, skip the long security lines, and enjoy your group while en route.”

I was shocked how relatively accessible it was cost-wise compared to commercial. Once the cost was split with the 20 or so passengers, it was really quite affordable.

Other private jet companies have taken cues from the sharing economy and forgone the membership route completely—making private flights even more accessible to the everyday person.

JSX, for instance, is a regional private jet service that offers short hop-on, hop-off flights to and from destinations on the west coast and along the belly of the United States. Passengers book single tickets, travel between private airports, and stretch out on jets sporting 30 spacious business class-type seats. (You don’t even have to worry about getting stuck in the middle seat because there are none.)

Tickets for JSX flights include two checked bags, onboard snacks and drinks, and contactless check-in service. Plus, you skip the crowded terminals, long lines at security, and bag drop. But here’s the kicker: prices start at just $119 one-way. Right now, that’s cheaper than most Southwest flights.

Another book-by-the-seat regional private jet company called Aero operates off a similar model. Depending on when and where you fly, a seat on a private Aero jet may only set you back about $1,000—just a few hundred more than first-class with a major airline. Again, while weighing the options, consider that private flights save on wait times, cut down on exposure to hundreds of other travelers, and offer top-notch amenities such as single-row first-class style window seats, airport lounges, snacks, and drinks, and two or three checked bags.

If you’re not sure where or how to find the best private jet company for your next flight, consider hopping onto JetASAP, where you’ll get free access to private jet companies waiting in the wings. The app matches confidential travel requests with available private jet charter services and connects both sides for free, so you can book.

This is how Robert Mannheimer, a resident in Palm Beach, Florida, first dipped his toes in the world of flying private. Like many travelers right now, Mannheimer didn’t feel quite comfortable flying his entire family commercially after the holidays. He saw an ad for JetASAP and decided to give it a try. “I was extremely impressed with the ease of use and simplicity of the fundamental design of the app,” he told TripSavvy. “Enter your dates of travel, departure, and destination, number of travelers, and off you go. No need to get on lengthy calls with brokers or services.”

Like the other private jet convertees TripSavvy spoke with, Mannheimer was sold on the intimacy of the experience, as well as the seamlessness, how much time it saved being able to avoid the main airport, and being able to travel on your own schedule. “The experience of flying privately can’t be beat.”

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