The COMPLETE and REAL Private Jet Experience
Updated: May 18, 2020
While thinking of ideas for my next blog post, I started to browse the internet in search of a blog or article covering an in-depth look at what it's really like to fly on a private jet. I came up empty. So here we go. PS: I may update this with new information if any rules and regulations are altered as well as anything I missed.
Preface and terms to know
I need to start by noting that this post covers PRIVATE JETS with 19 seats or fewer, not turboprops, not piston props, not helicopters, not cargo planes. Those are all great and fun to fly in as well, but this post is focused on the PRIVATE JET experience and what to expect before and after. Also (I need to get this out of the way sooner than later), for those who may question my input on this subject: I've been a private jet charter broker for 9 years, have sold 1,000+ flights to over 200 different clients, and have personally taken 30+ flights on private aircraft.
Here are some important terms to know prior to reading:
Charter - a rental on a private jet
Ride Share - you pay for one seat and there is a good chance you'll fly with strangers
Jet Card - upfront payment in bulk for a fixed hourly rate on a specific aircraft or aircraft category
Fractional Share - similar to a timeshare - you pay for part of the private jet and you are allowed to use it X amount of hours per year
First, how will you even get to fly on a private jet?
The answer to that question has to be one of the following:
Know someone with a private jet
Work in the private jet industry
Know someone who works in the private jet industry
Charter a private jet on-demand or through a membership such as a jet card or a block hours agreement
Know someone with one of the products above
Ride share or purchase a seat on a private jet for one segment
Lease a private jet
Own a fractional share in a private jet
Own a private jet
NOTE: If you are seriously interested in chartering a private jet or purchasing a jet card, please click contact and list your needs & preferences in the form. I'd be happy to personally point you in the right direction.
Why would someone look to fly on a private jet?
There are several REAL categories or trip reasons for someone to utilize a private jet:
Leisure - holiday, vacation, funeral, sporting event (spectator), bachelor/bachelorette party, wedding, proposal, etc
Business - meeting, sporting event (as athlete), fundraiser, conference, music tour, movie shoot, promo tour, board meeting, exhibition, etc
VIP - royalty, diplomatic, political, etc
Medical - medical emergency, family emergency, evacuation, etc
What are some advantages associated with flying on a private jet?
For a CEO, it's proven that you'll boost your company's margins if you take a private jet to 3 meetings in 3 different cities in one day, as opposed to 3 cities in 3 days with a scheduled airline. If that time efficiency in the air will net you another $500k to your bottom line, then it's worth the $50k investment for a private jet (just an example). Time is money, and this saves a lot of time. Here are some other benefits associated with flying privately:
You choose when you want to depart.
You choose which airport you want to depart from and arrive to.
You don't need to arrive 1-2 hours before your scheduled departure. Industry standard is 20 minutes prior to departure. You'll board in a completely different area than a scheduled flight would.
You don't need to wait on a long security line. Most airports in the USA don't have any baggage security, so there is literally no wait. The rest of the world have security lines but they're very short and more importantly non-invasive!
You receive outstanding service on-board if you're flying in a large enough aircraft to support a cabin attendant (stewardess/flight attendant).
The catering is USUALLY better than a commercial airline. If you can get it at a restaurant, you can get it on a private jet.
Comfort! Generally speaking, a private jet is more comfortable than flying commercial first class for a similar route.
Discreet car to plane service. As a notable figure, your driver can drop you off right in front of your private jet to avoid paparazzi, fans, unwanted conversations, etc.
What are some disadvantages associated with flying on a private jet?
On to the fun stuff. It's not all glitz and glamour. Here are some disadvantages you can expect to encounter:
Mechanical issues. These planes are made to break. You'll experience delays if/when this occurs at the last minute.
Big birds fly first. When you're at a commercial airport, the big commercial aircraft always have the right of way, which could cause a delay to your flight while you wait for them to depart in front of you.
Crew duty issues. Crew duty is the amount of consecutive time that a pilot can work. This will affect your same-day round-trips when you want to stay in a certain location for a period of time which is unacceptable for the crew. Owning your own aircraft is one way to avoid this issue.
Deicing. Unlike flying on a commercial aircraft, you have to pay for your private jet to be deiced. The process involves deicing fluid which is very expensive. Your post-flight bill could be as low as $100 or as high as $50,000, depending on the size of the private jet and how icy the wings are. 99% of providers will pass this cost on to you, the customer. The only way to avoid this is to never fly from or to a cold destination!
WiFi. WiFi isn't always free. It's also not available on every private jet. When it's not free, it can be very expensive. Just like deicing, your bill could be as low as $100 or as high as $50,000 depending on usage and data rates associated with the private jet you're flying on.
Long haul flights with too many people. If you're going to fly on a 14 seat jet for 10-12 hours, please don't fill it with 14 people. That will be pretty uncomfortable and you'll wish you'd flown first class commercial. A 14 seat private jet won't be able to provide "beds" for more than 6 people, and a 10-12 hour flight will likely be a red-eye and will definitely require some sleep. One purpose of flying on a private jet is to experience enhanced comfort. This is one situation where I'd rather fly first class.
Private jets can't fly as far. Not counting VIP airliners, as of August 2019, no private jet can fly more than 14 hours. Depending on the regulation and which country the aircraft and crew are based in, you may not be able to fly more than 12-13 hours. Flying from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Dubai sounds more appealing on a commercial plane because you won't have to stop for fuel. You can also walk around easier and enjoy things such as a bar on an Emirates A380.
Which provider should you choose?
There are thousands of companies worldwide who can provide flights on private jets. When it comes to selling a charter as a broker, all you need to start your company is a cell phone, printer, and maybe a loan from a bank. With a significant lacking in FAA and DOT regulations, how do you find the right one? Google is usually the first and often the final step in the search process. You may also ask a fellow jet-setter who they use and which company they recommend. I won't list any companies here, but do your due-diligence and consider the following when doing your research in choosing a provider to handle your life:
How long has the company been in business and how many employees do they have?
Does the company have dedicated account managers or will you be speaking to a new person every time you call or email to inquire about a flight?
How swift is my account manager at responding to my emails/phone calls/text messages? Will he or she answer 24/7?
What products do they offer and where in the world can I use them?
Are there any legitimate online reviews of this company from an unbiased source?
Does the company have a due-diligence process in which they vet suppliers and ensure valid insurance and other legal FAA and DOT documents are in order? This is probably the most important! It's scary how many companies out there don't have a process for compliance or an emergency plan.
Is the company financially stable? It's possible to gather information like this with a little bit of networking.
Am I getting a good deal? If the company you're considering booking with is much less than others, you need to find out why. Just like all other industries, YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When it comes to private jets, if your provider is giving you insanely low pricing and undercutting the competition by a decent margin, it likely means that they're probably not investing as much as they should in crew training or maintenance. I don't want to add a scare tactic, but your life could depend on your decision. I'd recommend paying a bit more for a solid, financially-sound company with top-notch service.
The Booking Process
Depending on how you arrange a flight on a private jet, the process to confirm it will vary. You may need to sign a contract and submit a payment in full via wire or credit card for each flight, or you may be in a fortunate situation where you can simply send an email to book a flight if your money is already on account with the charter provider. For an on-demand charter, some companies require full payment upfront while others can secure the aircraft with a credit card authorization, allowing for payment post flight, or "credit". If you're invited on a private jet by a friend, then you obviously just show up and don't worry about a payment.
Which airport should you depart from?
If you are looking to fly from a major city, consider yourself blessed. You'll have multiple airports to choose from. You can fly from your main commercial airport or a private general aviation airport. Look on a map to see which is more convenient for you and your party.
How much does it actually cost?
This is ultimately the deciding factor for jet-setters. It would take a whole blog post to cover the costs of a private jet flight since there are so many influential factors, so I'll simplify it based on popular routes, mostly within in the US. (Initial pricing is based on the entire cost of the smallest private jet which can make it to each destination non-stop):
New York to Miami (one way) - $10,000 and up
New York to Los Angeles (one way) - $25,000 and up
Los Angeles to Las Vegas (one way) - $6,000 and up
Los Angeles to San Francisco (one way) - $5,000 and up
New York to Aspen (one way) - $20,000 and up
New York to London (one way) - $75,000 and up
Your flight is booked, where do you board the private jet?
Here is another term you should become familiar with, FBO. FBO stands for "fixed-base operator". This is essentially a general aviation terminal geared towards the handling, fueling, and boarding for private jets. 99% of the time, it will be a stand-alone building owned by a private company. You'll report to the front desk, provide them with the tail number (the airplane's license plate), and then the crew will come in to greet you, check your ID, and escort you to the aircraft. If you request a tarmac meet, your driver will drop you off right next to the plane where you'll meet the crew, and board the aircraft. The difference between a commercial terminal and an FBO is simply one of the best parts of the private jet experience.
What can you expect while you're in the air?
First, a take-off in a private jet is much quicker than a commercial jet and that should be one of the first things you notice. Once you're above 10,000 feet, the WiFi (if equipped) will kick in and you'll be able to log-on to the service with your device. If you're in a jet large enough, the cabin attendant will come out to serve drinks and food (if appropriate for time of day). If you're in a jet too small for a cabin attendant (midsize jets or smaller) you'll be on your own to serve your own food and drink. Sometimes the co-pilot will come back and take care of catering needs, but it's rare and you shouldn't expect it. ADVICE: Don't order hot catering if there is no cabin attendant. Sandwiches and fruit/cheese trays are the best for small jets as they're easy to self-serve. If the jet is large enough, the cabin attendant will prepare a bed for you to sleep and lay down completely flat.
Second, don't expect to have a raging party on a private jet once you're in the air. Movies and music videos have skewed the reality of what actually happens in a private jet. Sure, parties and fornication can occur in the air, but it's highly unlikely it'll happen on yours.
In Conclusion, The Golden Rule in Private Aviation
I've said it once and I'll say it again:
IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, IT PROBABLY IS
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
Consider spending a bit more if you're looking for a quality experience.
As a consumer, here are some DON'Ts:
Don't shop the trip to 18 different brokers if you're looking to charter a single flight. That will only hurt your chances of getting a better price in the long run. Shop it with no more than 3 companies.
Don't nickel and dime your provider on every single trip.
Don't be inappropriate, mean, disgraceful, or give the pilots a hard time. Do you want to upset someone who has your life in his/her hands? If you are rude to a waitress and then ask her to send your food back to the chef at a restaurant, will he/she spit in your food? It's the same mentality, just more life-threatening.