Modern air travel can be a challenging and frustrating experience involving long lines, cramped seats, mediocre inflight service, and annoying fellow passengers. Upgrading to business class or first class can help ease those difficulties to some degree, but many of these issues persist no matter where you're sitting on the plane. Because of this, the idea of flying aboard a private jet has become the dream for many, representing the ultimate in terms of luxury and status.
For decades, the idea of chartering a private jet has been viewed as an amenity reserved only for the rich and famous. After all, operating even a small private aircraft costs thousands of dollars, making it an extravagant expense out of the reach of the mainstream traveler. But today, thanks to increased demand and expansion in the industry, chartering your own jet is now within the range of more people. On top of that, modern technology has managed to demystify the process to a degree, allowing those with a big enough bank account to charter a flight almost as quickly as they order an Uber.
Flying aboard a private jet is still a pricey option, but if you have the cash, it is a travel experience unlike any other. This is everything you need to know to charter your own private jet.
The Benefits of Flying Private
Anyone who travels with any frequency probably already recognizes many of the benefits that come from flying on a private jet. Those benefits include a much higher level of convenience, of course, as a private aircraft can set its own flight plan, allowing it to come and go according to the passengers' schedule. This is in sharp contrast to a commercial flight, which typically arrive and depart at about the same times each day. If you're not on the plane when its time to go, it isn't likely that the airline will wait for you. When flying private, the pilot can alter or delay the plan as needed, making it easy to change your schedule at the last minute.
The flight experience is a very different one as well, with far fewer people on the aircraft. Usually, everyone on the flight is traveling together and know each other, although occasionally, a charter might pair travelers heading in the same direction to save money and time. The aircraft typically has a spacious and comfortable cabin, providing plenty of room for individuals to stretch out, relax, and rest. Inflight meals and drink service are usually included, offering a higher level of quality than a typical commercial flight.
Other benefits include increased privacy for groups and families that are traveling together and the ability to schedule a flight on even a few hours' notice. Flying a private jet also allows travelers to skip the lines at the airport—including security—and go directly to their aircraft, often stepping out of a car and right onto the plane itself. This means you don't have to be at the airport hours ahead of your departure time, nor battle other passengers for overhead compartment space. And contrary to popular belief, private aircraft are often safer and faster than flying commercial too.
One other benefit of private jets that shouldn't be overlooked is their ability to fly to more locations than commercial aircraft. The larger planes used by the airlines are too big to land at many places, but smaller, more nimble jets don't have those same restrictions. As a result, you can charter a flight to more than 5000 airports around the world, which is more than ten times that of most commercial airlines. This dramatically opens up the possibilities of where you can go.
Types of Charters
When it comes to chartering a private jet, travelers now have several ways to approach the process. The most common of those options is to pay on a per-flight basis. In other words, you book a flight and pay for it in full before embarking on your trip. This is a simple and straight forward way to go for those who only want to fly private from time to time, which each flight handled individually. This approach offers the highest level of flexibility and service, but can also be the priciest if you break down the cost of a single flight.
Another option that is less common, but still available, is to buy a membership with a private charter company that provides "all you can fly" status. This gives you the ability to schedule a flight on short notice and take advantage of a fleet of aircraft that are operated under the umbrella of a single company. This type of charter typically requires a monthly or yearly fee, on top of hourly charges for the use of the aircraft as well, making them an excellent choice for the well-heeled traveler who is on the go regularly. Examples of this type of membership include Wheels Up, XOJet, and Jet Linx.
A third option is to lease a charter jet, but this is also a costly option that is out of the budget for the vast majority of people. Leasing mostly only makes sense for those who have plenty of cash and like to travel on a semi-regular basis, but don't need to own a private jet of their own.
Before You Charter Your Flight
Before you connect with a private jet charter service, there are a few decisions to be made. Before starting the process of scheduling your flight, you'll want to decide on both your departure location and destination. Most booking agents, charter brokers, or even websites will start with that fundamental question. Of course, you'll want to have at least a rough idea of when you will be traveling, and whether or not this will be a one-way trip or you'll want return service.
Beyond that, however, you'll also want to have a pretty good idea of how many passengers will be on board the aircraft and how much luggage they'll be bringing. This will have an impact on the size of the plane required, although travelers can always upgrade to a larger aircraft—for a price— should they choose. Generally speaking, you won't necessarily need to know the names of each individual who will be on the flight when booking, but knowing the approximate group size will be necessary.
You may also be asked about the level of services and amenities that you want on board the aircraft we well. For instance, would you like a flight attendant to serve food and drinks? Is onboard Wi-Fi a must-have? What kind of snacks and beverages should be stocked on the plane? Do any of the passengers have special needs? Do you require ground transportation before or after the flight? These are all things that a charter company can readily provide, although they will generally add to the overall cost of the flight.
How to Book Your Private Jet
Once you've made all of the essential decisions, it's time to book your flight. Thankfully, there are dozens of companies across the planet that can help fly you to just about any destination imaginable. Often you can book directly with those companies—either online or by calling one of their agents—or you can use a charter broker to help facilitate the connection.
A charter broker is someone who works with both private jet companies and potential clients to make the best match for all involved. The broker will help you decide which company provides the best service for where you want to go and on the dates that you want to travel. They'll also help you select the right size aircraft to fit your needs and can help you decide whether or not any of the additional amenities are worth paying for. Usually, these brokers work on a commission, so they don't always add expense out of your pocket. On the other hand, because they get paid based on the sale, they have a vested interest in steering you towards the more upscale experiences.
Thanks to the internet and mobile devices, these days it is easier than ever to charter your flight without the need for a broker should you choose. Contacting a private jet company directly is typically a straightforward affair, with the booking process taking place online in a seamless manner. This works well for experienced travelers who know what they want and expect from a charter jet. However, first-timers may find it helpful to talk directly to a company representative to get their questions answered.
Region private charter companies can be found in just about every corner of the globe. There are also plenty of private jet companies that operate worldwide too. For instance, Jets.com can connect travelers with available aircraft quickly and conveniently. Meanwhile, companies like VistaJet, PrivateFly, and XO have gone to great lengths to make the booking process as painless and easy as possible.
How Much Does It Cost to Fly Private?
The biggest question: How much does it cost to fly aboard a private jet? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to that as there are many factors to consider, including the take-off and landing locations, the length of the flight, the size of the aircraft, the number of people on board, extra amenities, and so on. If you're chartering a jet from Los Angles to Las Vegas for four, it will be relatively inexpensive compared to flying from Dallas to Rome with the whole family.
That said, Air Charter Services, a private jet and cargo company, estimates that it costs roughly $1,900-$3,000 per hour to fly on a relatively small turboprop aircraft designed for up to six people. Jumping up to midsize jet (up to nine passengers) is likely to run $4,000 to $8,000 per hour, while a larger private jet with seats for 14-19 people will cost anywhere from $8,000 to $13,000 per hour. Air Charter lists the actual cost per hour for each of its airplanes here, although other companies may offer varying rates.
While those flights are quite pricey, the costs can be mitigated somewhat by flying with additional passengers. Splitting the cost amongst more people helps to bring the price down to a more manageable level. It is also possible to get a better rate on a last-minute flight as well, provided an aircraft is available. For charter companies, idle jets don't make any money, so often they are more willing to cut a deal under the premise of making a reduced income is better than making no revenue at all.
Up, Up, and Away
As you can see, chartering a private aircraft is almost as easy as booking a flight on a commercial airline these days. For most, the most significant obstacle to experiencing this type of travel is the cost, which remains prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of people. But those looking to splurge a little, and experience luxury travel at its finest, there are few better ways to explore the world. Just a word of caution, though. Once you have flown this way, it is hard to go back to the more traditional airline experience.