Air travel isn’t what it used to be. Gone are the days when you’d walk up to the ticket counter, purchase an individual seat on the next available flight, and head straight to a waiting airplane. Modern air travel is rife with extra obstacles from TSA checkpoints to baggage screenings at the gate.
As commercial air travel has become more complex and started offering fewer perks without fees, interest in private air travel has increased. You may have heard of private travel options like jet cards, membership programs, and chartered flights.
With so many options, things can get a little confusing. You may have questions like, “What is a chartered flight?” When you purchase a plane ticket, you’re buying a seat on a specific airplane. A chartered flight is when you rent an entire aircraft, rather than just one specific seat on a pre-arranged flight. In this guide, we’ll explain what a chartered flight means and show you the benefits of this form of air travel, plus what you can expect to pay to enjoy it.
- Benefits of Chartering a Flight
- Types of Charter Flights
- Costs of Chartering a Flight
- How To Charter a Flight
Benefits of Chartering a Flight
Chartered flights are completely customizable to your needs. The chartered aircraft takes off when you schedule it and departs and arrives wherever you want it to. This is unlike commercial flights where you have to pick a flight route that gets you to a major city as close as possible to your destination, and only during the times that are available to you. The increased flexibility of charter flights means you’ll save time when transiting to your destination whether you’re heading out on a business trip or family vacation.
This is perhaps the most well-known perk of a private flight. You’ll get a first-class experience every time you charter a flight. There are different types of private jets that offer different luxuries, amenities, and capabilities. These airplanes range from turboprop light jets that are designed for short routes to heavy jets like the Gulfstream G650 that are built for international long-haul travel.
Gone are the days of sitting cramped in the middle seat of a commercial flight with only your phone for entertainment and a few crackers to snack on. Private charter planes feature WiFi connectivity and unlimited food and drinks. You can even customize the menu or arrange to have food onboard from your favorite local restaurants. You can also lounge in comfortable, wide seats that allow you to stretch out or move about when in-flight.
If you’ve flown commercial airliners recently, you know that waiting is the name of the game. You wait at the check-in counter to check your bags, stand in line waiting to go through security and customs, and then wait some more at the gate for your group to be called for boarding. Most airlines today recommend arriving at the airport 3 hours before international flights and 2 hours before domestic flights.
With charter flights, you don’t have to wait. Many charter airlines allow you to book last-minute flights with as little as four-hours notice. Simply choose when and where you want your plane to depart and show up 15 minutes beforehand. Order an UberBlack or LyftLux and head to the private airport, also known as an FBO. Walk through the private terminal or get dropped off plane-side and board your flight without any hassle.
You don’t even have to schlep your bags around. The flight crew will load all of your luggage so you can just hop on board and start relaxing.
Types of Charter Flights
Now that you know what a chartered flight is, we’ll go over the different types. Not all charter flights are the same. While most provide the same basic amenities, there are a few different ways you can charter planes. Here are some of the most common.
A private charter, also known as an air charter, is when you rent the entire plane. A single entity — you or a business, for example — makes the purchase for the entire aircraft and can then use it themselves or offer seats to other individuals. If individuals are required to pay for their seat on-board, the flight becomes known as an affinity charter.
You can book a private charter to take your family and friends on an island-hopping vacation, or you can use a private business jet to conduct important business abroad. This is the most flexible type of charter for most individuals as you can select the flight route and don’t have to share the plane with other people unless you invite them.
A public charter is when a tour operator or agency rents a charter flight and then offers seats to the general public for purchase. These types of flights tend to be seasonal and are most common on popular routes. One example route is Germany to Mallorca where many Germans head for a vacation in the summertime.
These flights are also common during times of crisis including pandemics like the coronavirus COVID-19 situation, natural disasters, and political unrest. Governments or travel agencies may work with a charter operator to set up rescue flights in the form of public charters to bring citizens home in these situations.
Empty Leg Flights
Many private charters are booked as one-way trips. The plane must return to its hub in a process known as repositioning. Many charter brokers will offer seats on these repositioning flights at a significant discount. These flights are known as empty leg flights. Since the plane must return whether it has passengers or not, many airlines try to make some money by offering seats on these flights. It’s a great way to snag charter flights at a fraction of the normal price.
Charter flights are also ideal when transporting goods that may not be allowed on commercial aircraft or when they need to be sent to remote locations. Cargo charters are commonly used for humanitarian missions or after natural disasters to bring aid to hard-hit areas. They are also common in large industries where parts need to be shipped with little to no advanced notice.
Costs of Chartering a Flight
- Light Jet: $2,500 to $3,500 per hour
A light jet typically holds 4-8 passengers and can travel up to 2,300 nautical miles. Popular light jets include the Cessna Citation and Embraer Phenom 100.
- Midsize Jet: $3,000 to $4,000 per hour
A midsize jet can travel up to 3,500 nautical miles and carries 6-8 passengers. Popular options include the Beechcraft Hawker 4000 and Embraer Legacy 450.
- Super-Midsize Jet: $3,500 to $5,000 per hour
A super-midsize jet has an occupancy limit of 8-10 people and can fly up to 4,200 nautical miles. The most sought-after, super-midsize jets include the Bombardier Challenger 300, Cessna Citation X, and the Dassault Falcon 50EX.
- Large Jet: $5,000 to $7,000 per hour
Large jets can carry anywhere from 9-19 passengers depending on the layout. These planes can cover a lot of distance and typically max out their range at 7,800 nautical miles. Popular large jets include the Embraer Legacy 650 and the Gulfstream G2.
- Ultra Long Range Jet: $7,500 to $12,000 per hour
Ultra long-range jets are ideal for long-haul travel and international trips. In the ultra-long-range category, you’ll find charter flights on the Bombardier Global 8,000, Gulfstream G650ER, and even a Boeing VIP Dreamliner.
How to Charter a Flight
There are several different ways to charter a flight. Some are more expensive than others, but they also tend to offer increased perks or flexibility — when it comes to chartering, you get what you pay for. Booking a charter flight online has never been easier, thanks to dozens of companies that focus entirely on private flights.
The main way you can book charter flights is by using an air charter service. Companies like WheelsUp, XOJET, NetJets, Jet Linx, and Delta Private Jets all offer charter flights. Some of these air charter services offer entire jet rentals along with membership programs, jet cards that entitle you to a certain number of flying hours, and shared charter flights. The companies also enable you to pay a fixed hourly rate dependent on flight time. You can select from flights on a specific charter airline or choose your preferred class of charter aircraft during booking.
Flying Private on Chartered Flights
While chartered flights aren’t cheap in any sense of the word, they can be more affordable compared to traditional private travel. If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, check out empty leg charter flights where you can snag seats at significant discounts. There are also membership programs where you can pay an initiation fee and yearly dues to access deep discounts on hourly rates. While chartered air travel isn’t for everyone, it can be useful for people who prioritize spending time over spending money.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.