Until recently, I thought that renting a private jet was 1) only something corporate execs did and 2) limited to domestic destinations. And then I met a private flight attendant who had just returned from an African safari.
“We flew from New York to Kenya with a wonderful family,” she told me. “The plan was that we would wait for them while they enjoyed a week at an exclusive bush camp, but when we arrived in Nairobi, they informed the pilot and me that they had booked a safari for us, too. It was separate from theirs – and probably not as deluxe – but we had a great time.”
Then she gave me a quick summary of the perks of private jet travel and I realized how perfect it would be for authentic luxury travelers:
- Breeze through the airport: Private plane passengers are exempt from TSA rules about limiting liquids and won’t be asked to take off their shoes, submit to scanning, or remove certain items from their hand luggage.
- Save time: No need to arrive early and wait in lines.
- Go direct: private jets provide access to ten times the number of airports served by commercial airlines (5,000 vs. 450), delivering travelers closer to their destinations and eliminating the need to change planes en route.
- Fly with Fido. Pets are welcome on board private aircraft.
- Laugh out loud: No need to keep your voice down if you’re traveling with friends and family.
- Dine in the sky: Flight attendants prepare meals on larger planes and passengers can order in or BYO their favorite food on smaller craft.
- Travel with your luggage: Strict weight limits don’t apply and passenger have access to their baggage while on board. Imagine being able to carry holiday gifts and sports gear “too big for the overhead bin.”
- Enjoy the view: Private charters are not always bound by the same restrictions as commercial flights and can often fly over a sight at a lower altitude. Also, due to the customized nature of the experience, multiple flyovers and detours may be possible.
- Snooze in the sky. Larger jets have sofas that make into beds and fully-reclining seats.
I double-checked this info with Jet Source, a jet charter company at Palomar Airport in Carlsbad, California. They agreed and also added that passengers have the option of being dropped off at their destination or having the plane wait to bring them home.
“Our clients with homes in Cabo (Mexico) want us to come back and pick them up after a few weeks, but often our Hawaii passengers want the plane to stay with them so they can do inter-island flights. Ditto in the Caribbean. Also, folks with health issues prefer that the plane stays nearby.”
Schubach Aviation’s spokesperson added “The main reason people charter is to save time. We fly passengers to Aspen, Mammoth, Vail, Tahoe and other popular ski destinations that don’t have direct commercial flights from San Diego. We can get skiers to Kalispell in 2 ½ hours. That trip would take 6+ hours flying commercial with a change of planes.”
The cost of renting a private jet
Private jet charter rates are determined by the size of the aircraft and the number of hours flown (not the number of passengers). Turboprops, the least expensive, carry 3-6 passengers and can cover up to 1,000 miles ($1100 – $1500/hour). Light jets carry 4-6 people ($1800-$2200/hour); mid-size planes hold 6-8 ($2500-$4000/hour); heavy (long-range) jets carry 10-18 people ($3500-$7000/hour). Fuel surcharges and the optional cost of catering and the services of a professional flight attendant are in addition.
For example, the flight time from New York to London is about 6.5 hours in a heavy jet and with international fees and catering the cost would be between $90-120,000 roundtrip. I know. That’s a lot, right? But for 14 passengers, the per person cost would be similar to the cost of a First Class ticket on a commercial airline. However, the per person cost rises dramatically when the 10-18 seat jet has only two passenger which, I was told, “happens frequently.”
Best bargains for renting a private jet: empty legs
Forget the weird images these two words conjure up. When it comes to renting a private jet, “empty legs” are jets without passengers flying back to home base or to another airport. According to Magellan Jets, 32 percent of private aircraft in the sky are flying empty because previous passengers only needed a one way flight. Jet charter companies make these empty legs available at reduced prices.
The best deals seem to be from JetSuite. This jet charter company is trying hard to be the Southwest Airlines of private jet travel. The last-minute one-way Suite Deals they offer on Facebook and Twitter are a bargain if you can be flexible about when you fly and are traveling with others with whom you can share the cost.
Example: I just looked at the JetSuite page on Facebook and they are offering eight flights on various routes tomorrow at a price of $536.43 for the whole plane (3-6 seats depending on the route and type of aircraft). If you and five others happen to want to fly from Asheville, NC to Cincinnati, OH – you’re in luck. $536.43 for six seats is a bargain.
In addition to offers from individual jet charter companies, Magellan and other sites list the empty leg options from multiple companies. Just be sure to read the fine print and understand what’s included and any possible extra fees.
In addition to the companies I’ve already mentioned, Flexjet is known for providing great service.
Depending on your circumstances, renting a private jet might be a great option. What traveler today wouldn’t love to avoid the hassle of flying on commercial airlines? Using smaller regional airports instead of huge ones jam packed with other travelers would be an added bonus.
This sounds like authentic luxury travel to me.
Have you traveled on a private jet? Please use the comment form below to share your experience and tips with other authentic luxury travelers.