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Fly Friendlier Skies With This Guide to Private Jet Travel

By: // Updated: August 29, 2020

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You’ve been there. Standing in a never-ending TSA security line, pleading with the desk agent to just ignore those extra few pounds in your checked luggage, or sitting elbow-to-elbow in the middle seat with a stranger talking your ear off. Flying used to be a glamorous experience, but in the last few decades, flights have made the journey into the least fun part of people’s travels.

It’s no surprise that people dream of private jet travel as an alternative. What is surprising is that chartering a private jet isn’t as expensive as you’d think. You don’t have to be loaded to afford private travel. In this article, we’ll break down the best ways to charter a private jet, how much it costs, and what you can expect during the process. And for those of you who are really done with commercial air travel, we’ll briefly touch on purchasing a private jet.


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How To Fly on a Private JetA woman walks up to a private jet with her suitcase

There are several different ways to fly on a private jet including chartering, ride-sharing, purchasing fractional ownership of a particular plane, using jet cards, and signing up for membership plans. The cheapest option will depend largely on how much you travel and where you travel, but here’s a breakdown of how each method works.

Chartering A Private Jet

A charter flight refers to an unscheduled flight that doesn’t belong to the network of commercial airliners like Delta and United. When chartering a jet, you rent the entire aircraft or book a seat on a flight that has been chartered by someone else. The latter is more affordable, but if you charter the jet yourself, you’ll be able to pick the departure, destination, people on board, and timing of the flight.

Charter flights typically depart from private airports known as FBOs so you don’t have to go through the main airport hub and the long security lines that come with it. You can just pull up alongside the jet in your private car or roll up in style in an Uber Lux or premier Lyft ride.

Onboard a private charter, you’ll step into a whole new flying experience. Before departure, you can choose meals from restaurants or tailor a menu to enjoy in-flight. Entertainment options are also dramatically better than commercial flights with most charters offering free Wi-Fi, high-quality sound systems, and satellite TV.

Snagging A Seat on Someone Else’s Charter Flight

For people who don’t travel often or are trying to get back home after a natural disaster or public health crisis like COVID-19 (2020 novel coronavirus), booking a seat on a chartered private jet can be the most affordable choice in relation to other private air travel options.

Here’s how it works: Someone charters a flight, but that jet may have empty seats available. With permission from the main charter customer, charter companies allow people to book those extra seats. Instead of renting the entire plane, you’ll just purchase one seat on that private charter flight.

While much cheaper than chartering the entire private jet, you lose some flexibility with this option. The flight time and destination are set by someone else and if the charter flight gets canceled, you’ll have to figure out another way of getting where you want to go.

Fractional Ownership

Fractional ownership is a private flying model where you can purchase a percentage of a private plane. This typically entails a large initial payment followed by annual dues. The idea is that you purchase a portion of one specific plane, and depending on the percentage of purchase, you’ll be able to fly a set number of hours. For example, a 1/16th share would typically buy you 50 flying hours. Most fractional ownership policies last for just 2-5 years and come with terms and conditions on over-flying, peak flying periods, and other restrictions.

For most people, fractional ownership will be more expensive than chartering a private jet or ridesharing on a private jet. If you find yourself flying constantly on one-way itineraries or from hard to reach areas like Greenland, fractional ownership might be a good bet.

Jet Cards

A jet card is sort of like a debit card or gift card for private flights. Most private charter companies offer some form of jet card. It works like this: You load a jet card or special account with a certain amount of money, and in return, you get a limited number of flying hours on the company’s charter jets.

You then purchase flights using the jet card or you can have money automatically deducted from the account. Flights are priced at fixed hourly rates and can be based on the flight time or miles traveled. In general, jet cards start with offerings of 10 hours of flight time and fees start at $50,000. The industry features various options, including capped rates, dynamic pricing, and program benefits that can affect pricing.

Membership Plans

Private jet membership plans work like country club memberships. You pay an initial fee and then yearly dues to maintain your membership. In return, you get access to private jets that can take you anywhere in the world. With a membership, you can schedule a flight with as little as four hours notice and will have access to extensive categories of different planes. Some membership plans offer a set number of flying hours while others charge fixed hourly rates per segment.

The Best Sites To Use When Flying PrivateA private jet flying through the clouds

Many private jet charter companies offer a variety of choices when flying private. We’ve broken the best sites down based on their main private flight products, but keep in mind that many of these companies offer a combination of jet cards, membership plans, and one-off private charter flights.

Best Charter Sites

Many of these sites focus mainly on providing charter service though some also offer purchase assistance and travel cards or memberships. They cater to personal travel and business travel needs, making it easy for you to get where you want to go. Here are some of the top charter sites for booking a seat or chartering a full flight.

Stratos Jet Charters

Stratos Jet Charters works with private plane owners and businesses to create a fleet of more than 5,000 jets. Customers can purchase flights using the jet card membership or on a pay-as-you-go basis. Its large network offers empty-leg segments, business jet flights, medical air transport, and cargo jet charter on planes ranging from light size Embraer Phenom 100s to massive Gulfstream G550s.

PrivateFlyThe PrivateFly homepage

PrivateFly boasts 7,000 aircrafts in its global network and a live pricing tool that makes purchasing seats or renting a full charter flight a transparent experience. Its special technology makes it easy to compare flights and prices. Just fill out the online request form and you’ll receive bids directly from aircraft operators. Compare the prices and aircraft details before choosing the one most appealing to you.

Best Fractional Ownership and Jet Card Companies

As mentioned, fractional ownership is a private flying option where customers purchase a percentage of a jet. While you’re not actually buying the jet — instead your buying time where you can use the jet — this private flight option offers flexibility. Some of the biggest names in private travel, including NetJets, started out as fractional ownership models. Here are some of the best options for people looking for jet cards or fractional ownership.

Flexjet

Flexjet is a private aviation and business aviation company that focuses on making private air travel friendly and personal. It offers jet cards, fractional ownership, leasing, and corporate flying solutions. Its fractional ownership plan is designed for people who travel 50 or more hours per year.

Flight hours can be purchased in 50-hour increments and you can book your next adventure with just 10 hours notice. Its aircraft fleet includes superlight options like the Learjet 75 LXi and midsize planes like the Embraer Legacy 450 up to ultra-long-range types of private jets such as the Bombardier Global Express.

NetJetsThe Netjets homepage

NetJets is the OG when it comes to fractional ownership of private charter jets. In addition to ownership, it offers rideshare options, leases, and a Marquis jet card. NetJet owners can purchase shares in a private plane starting with a minimum of 50 hours. Every flight you take guarantees a plane of the same quality or better than the one you own shares in.

Its light jet options include the Embraer Phenom 300 and the Cessna Citation XLS. In the midsize and super-midsize categories, you can fly on the company’s fleet of Cessna Citation Sovereign, Cessna Citation Latitude, Cessna Citation Longitude, and Bombardier Challenger 350 planes.

Looking for something bigger? The company has you covered with its large-cabin jets including the Gulfstream G450, Bombardier Global 5000, Bombardier Global 6000, and Bombardier 7500.

Jet LinxThe Jet Linx homepage

Jet Linx offers jet cards, private and business jet management programs, and private aircraft sales programs. Its jet card membership gives members access to local airports, flight concierge teams, and a nationwide aircraft fleet. The company operates in 18 locations including Austin, Washington, D.C., Boston, Atlanta, New York, and Denver.

Best Membership Plans

Membership plans come with added perks that other private flying options don’t. Members get discounts on flying hourly rates and other perks like member meet-ups and access to networking events. Many of these companies offer traditional charter options, but they hit it out of the park with their membership benefits. Here are some of our favorites.

Wheels Up

Wheels Up, founded by Kenny Dichter of Marquis Jet, offers three different charter membership plans with the cheapest option featuring an initial buy-in fee coming in at $2,995 and an annual due of $2,495. The highest membership tier — the Business Membership — costs an initial fee of $29,500 and has annual dues of $14,500.

The membership plan includes access to flights on more than 50 turboprop Beech King Air 350i planes as well as Citation X and Citation Excel planes. Its light jet category includes the Hawker 400 XP while long-range fleet options include the popular Falcon 2000.

Delta Private JetsThe Delta Private Jets homepage

Delta’s sister, Delta Private Jets, offers charter flights to SkyMiles members that accrue 2.5 million miles. Customers can also purchase jet cards and take advantage of on-demand charter flights. Plus, passengers can take off with as little as 10 hours notice on the company’s fleet of 70 aircrafts. Delta recently partnered with Wheels Up to expand its offerings.

XOJET

Part of the VistaJet family, this private charter service offers membership plans and pay-as-you-go options to help you reach your destination in style. For pay-as-you-go customers, you’ll purchase flights at non-member rates. Membership programs offer flight discounts, flexible cancellations, partner benefits, and priority access to planes.

How Much Do Private Jet Flights Cost?

Private jet flights vary in price depending on the trip route and the type of plane you’re renting. A charter flight on a light jet such as the Cessna Citation Mustang will cost about $4,000 per hour while a midsize jet rental will cost anywhere from $5,000 to $9,000 per hour. Heavy jets that are designed for long-haul travel can cost between $12,000 and $20,000 per hour.

Empty leg flights are a great way to snag significant discounts on private air travel. Most charter flights are booked as one-way trips. That means the return trip doesn’t have any passengers.

Some websites allow you to book seats on these trips. Most of the time, these seats are sold at a discount since the plane is flying no matter what. You can expect to pay an hourly rate from $1,300 to $3,000 on a low-cost small private jet rental. Large private jets typically cost between $8,000 and $13,000 per hour while international trips can cost upwards of $40,000.

Can You Afford To Purchase a Private Jet?A wealthy family gets out of a private car and into a private jet

Owning a private jet is one of the ultimate symbols of luxury. However, it also comes with high costs that may not make sense for the majority of people — even if they can afford one.

Private jet ownership makes sense for only a small portion of the population, particularly businesspersons who value time management. That’s because, for these individuals, time is money. Any time lost sitting on a commercial jet that could have been spent working is a loss. For people who just want to travel in style to their next vacation, renting a charter flight is a much more reasonable option.

For anyone really interested in purchasing a private jet, the process begins with deciding on the type of jet you need. This decision requires weighing the types of trips you take with how often you take them to find the most suitable plane. Once you’ve decided on a plane, think about whether you want to buy used or new.

New planes cost more upfront, but you’ll likely save money on maintenance costs down the road. However, used planes aren’t like used cars. They may only have been used once or twice, so do your research before making a decision.

Some of the previously mentioned companies, including Jet Linx, can help customers purchase private planes with less hassle and feature website pages listing current airliners for sale. Keep in mind that these companies also offer fractional ownership and other private flying options that might make buying a private jet a less desirable choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Now that you know all the options for booking flights on a private jet, here are some quick answers to the most common questions you may have about the process:

1. How much does a private jet flight cost?

Private jets vary in cost depending on the length of the trip and type of aircraft. Prices for a full private charter rental range from $4,000 per hour for a light jet up to $20,000 per hour for a heavy jet. Empty leg trips can be much more affordable with prices ranging from $1,300 for light jets up to $13,000 for larger aircraft.

2. What are the best sites for renting private jets?

There are dozens of sites you can use to purchase private air charter flights. Some of the most popular include NetJets, Jet Linx, Stratos Jet Charters, PrivateFly, Wheels Up, and XOJET.

3. What’s the cheapest way to rent a private jet?

The cheapest way to rent a private jet depends on how often you travel, where you’re going, and what type of plane you want. The cheapest way to travel private is by securing empty leg flights, which are often sold at a 75% discount.

4. Can I buy a private jet?

Yes, people can purchase private jets from Boeing, Airbus, and other manufacturers. You can purchase light planes as well as heavy jets. Private jet ownership makes the most sense for people who are looking to buy time rather than luxury.

Flying Private Isn’t Out of Reach

Private jet travel isn’t out of reach thanks to innovations in the jet industry, which now features options including chartering, ridesharing, membership plans, and jet cards. Whether you’re flying within the United States or looking to go global with trips to the United Kingdom or South America, flying private is a great way to get to your destination without the hassles of commercial travel. Get a taste of the first-class lifestyle and charter a private jet to your next wedding, business trip, or vacation.

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