What to Expect When You Fly on Private Jets

Private plane travel is liberating. Here's what to know

Inside a private jet
••• Relax and enjoy the view from your private jet. ©Getty Images

The "Flying Private" Jet Experience

Many luxury travelers are on board with Anthony Tivnan when he says, "Flying private jets is better than even first class on commercial flights." Tivnan is president and co-owner of Magellan Jets, a Boston-based private jet charter company.

“I started Magellan to give passengers ultimate flexibility, convenience, and comfort with their flying," he says. "That's what private jet companies can guarantee." Trip planners at all flying-private jet companies walk clients through every aspect of their flights so they get the private plane experience they want and need.

"And with private jets, it's you -- the passenger -- and not an airline who is calling the shots," says Tivnan. Here, he answers TripSavvy's questions (and yours) about the private jet flight experience.

How do you know which private jet to fly? "Your jet company will consult with you in detail about your flight plan, your needs, your group size, and your baggage. This way you'll be sure to end up with just the right size jet for your needs," says Tivnan.

Do private planes fly faster? The answer is: that they fly at about the same speed as commercial jets. But "you often get there sooner because your route may be more direct," says Tivnan. "And you will save a huge amount of on-ground time with private jets' bare-bones check-in and negligible tarmac time."

Private airport or commercial airport? "Whether you get a better travel experience from a private airport or a commercial airport all depends on your plans," says Tivnan.

What are the advantages of a private airport? Many. You can show up 15 minutes before takeoff, and you get "ramp access" from your car. Check-in and security procedures are minimal. There's no baggage weigh-in or x-raying your bags (and when you land, no baggage pickup). Wait time on the tarmac is zero: your crew closes your aircraft door and you take right off.

What are the advantages of a commercial airport? 
Sometimes it's closer to your city destination, such as Logan Airport in Boston, LaGuardia Airport in New York, and City Centre Airport in Toronto. For passengers (and whoever is pitcking them up), commercial airports are generally easier to find. They may offer high-end lounge or VIP facilities, similar to hotel club lounges, while private airports tend to have simple departure lounges.

What will your private jet's seats and seating configuration be like? "Private jet seats are nearly always cushy, comfortable, leather recliners," says Tivnan. "The seats are modular and can be modified on most jets. Configuration is highly customizable. Ask for what you'd like." If you want to sleep on your flight, don't assume that your jet will have deep-recline seat. Request a jet with seats that recline to at least 154º, or a jet offering "fill-in mattresses" that form beds out of facing seats. More options: you can ask for two lavatories and a shower, and a seating area for chatting, lounging, a presentation, or a poker game.

Next: how will you spend your time on your private jet flight?

Are private jet pilots and crews more experienced? In a way, yes. Explains Tivnan, "Private pilots are subject to the same professional standards as commercial pilots. Pilots and crews are attached to specific aircraft. It's their place of work. They know everything about that jet. Your crew will have a pilot, co-pilot, and at least one flight attendant. You may request additional crew or special personnel such as a masseur, secretary, bartender, etc."

Are private jets safer?  "Private jets are at least as safe as commercial planes," says Tivnan, "and often more." Private planes held to the same air safety and maintenance regulations as commercial jets -- and private jet companies often opt to observe even higher maintenance standards. Private jet fleets are typically younger than commercial. And then there's the peace-of-mind security factor: you know who and what is aboard your jet.

Are there baggage restrictions on private planes? Good news. "There are no baggage restrictions on private planes," says Magellan Jets' Anthony Tivnan. The only baggage limit is that the item has to fit onboard, a with smaller aircraft such as Citations, this may be a factor. 

What can you pack when you fly private? Security regulations of commercial aviation do not apply. On a private jet, you can pack or stow almost anything that fits. Liquids are OK, all you want, from Champagne to perfume.

Firearms are OK. Yes, guns. But when you board you must unload them and give them to your flight attendant to stow in the hold. Pets are fine if flying domestically. If not, the destination country's policies apply to pets jetting in on private aircraft. If the runway is short, very heavy items such as movie equipment or golf clubs may present a weight issue.

As with all aspects of private flight planning, ask in advance.

Do the same customs procedures apply to private jets? "Customs are definitely streamlined on international private plane flights," says Tivnan. "There are no lines and no red tape, though you do need to make the usual customs declaration if you're bringing in alcohol and so on. You give your passport to your pilot, and you get it back in moments. Often, customs and security are over and done with before you know they've taken place," he says. "Your passport may or may not be stamped. If you want or need it to be stamped in, make that request." (TripSavvy.com's advice: it's almost always a good idea to get your passport stamped to prove that you are, or were, legally in that country.)

Do private passengers have a say on flight plans and routing? "Flight plans on private jets are highly customizable, within air-traffic limitations," says Tivnan. "Working in advance with your flight coordinator, you can arrange your ideal flight plan. You can make one stop or hit several on your route. You can stop nearly anywhere, for anything, from a few hours to as long as you need," he says. "You can follow the great view of, ​say, Chicago or the Grand Canyon.

You can stop where you have to, or want to, for a meeting, event, shopping, dinner, a concert, a game," he says, adding, "Your jet consultant will let you know if your requested plans start costing you significantly more."

Who decides the food and drink on a private flight? "Inflight dining is the client's call," says Tivnan. "Many passengers really have fun with it."  Magellan Jets (and other flight charter companies) send passengers extensive menus in advance. Private jet caterers are top-notch, and choices are vast. You'll have options like sushi, steak, gourmet pizza and burgers, lox and bagels, fresh seafood, salads, pasta, you name it. Preferences such as vegetarian or organic menus are accommodated.

Flights can also be catered by restaurants within driving range of your departure airport.

Cooking facilities on planes may be limited to reheating, so dishes that travel well are usually best.

Private jets almost always offer a full bar, snacks, and soft drinks. "The bigger the jet, the bigger the bar," notes Tivnan. And many passengers bring their favorite Scotch or wine.

What's the entertainment like on private jets? "Inflight entertainment is pre-ordered as well," says Tivnan. "You can make special requests for music, games, live entertainment, poker decks, whatever. Tell your provider what you have in mind." He adds, "Your jet company will have a movie database, and your jet is likely to have a good-size screen."

Is it easy to get work done on a private jet? "Today's private jets can function as airborne executive suites," says Tivnan. "You can anticipate a satellite flight phone and a good wifi signal, but it's good to double-check. You can use your mobile phone throughout your flight and should be able to as long as you're not over the middle of an ocean.

What does private jet flight cost?

"There are various types of plans for private jet use," says Tivnan. "Some jets are fractionally owned by a number of clients."  But the trend in private jet plans is what Magellan Jets provides: "on-demand" charter use, typically by the hour. You don't pay for time you don’t use or if you change your plans in advance." Jet fuel is included in the rate.

All the same, private jet travel is not cheap. But "it often works out to less than flying commercial first-class," says Tivnan. "And private jets' convenience, comfort, and privacy are in a class by themselves.

"Private jet passengers fly where they want, when you want, along with their families, friends, and pets. And they fly with so much more freedom, convenience, and comfort."
Here on TripSavvy, read more on Magellan Jets' "on demand" private charter flights. Check out Magellan Jets' website and follow them on Twitter (@MagellanJets)

Love aviation? Read More about flying, here on TripSavvy: what it's like to fly business class on the luxurious commercial Emirates Airline; see if it's worth the upcharge to fly premium economy seats and how to score one cheap; learn Model India Hicks' inflight beauty tips; find out how to pack carryon-only and look good anywhere you go.