If you have disposable dollars to spend on air travel, you’ve probably wondered: what’s the best way to fly?
Owning a private jet is a desirable option, but fractional ownership or even a private charter might meet your needs for a snippet of the cost. Sure, you may run into the occasional scheduling issue, but at least you won’t have to contend with the security lines on a commercial flight.
Below, we’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of air travel to help you find the right option for your individual needs.
Chartering a private plane is much easier and more accessible than it was once. Today, you can organize a private flight from almost any airport to nearly any destination. You simply schedule your flight with a charter company, choose your desired passengers, walk into the terminal, and board your plane without the hassle of a security pat down or lengthy wait for your luggage.
With a private charter, you have the flexibility to decide when and where you want to depart. However, this does depend on availability, as the charter company has complete Operational Control (in contract with the FAA) and supplies both a pilot and crew members. With that said, any reliable charter company should be able to make arrangements to meet your exact scheduling requirements. And you should be able to pull up on the tarmac and board in minutes with no delays.
Private charters are usually priced at an hourly rate based on your destination and the size of aircraft you choose. As the distance and passenger numbers increase, so too does your price (as you will need to charter a larger plane). For instance, a turboprop plane can travel up to 1,700 miles with 4 to 9 passengers and costs between $1,300 to $1,800 per hour. These type of aircraft can take you around the States and to exotic destinations in the Caribbean. For any longer international travel (e.g. to Europe or Asia), you’ll need to charter a heavy jet which will set you back $4,500 to $7,500 per hour.
Private jets are a worthwhile investment for high-net-worth individuals, especially where the privacy and safety of VIP passengers are a concern. Likewise, businesses that prioritize the productivity of their senior executives find the convenience of jet ownership appealing. After all, you have complete Operational Control over the aircraft and can not only dictate when and where you want to travel, but also choose your own pilot and crew members. If you’re suitably qualified, you can even fly the jet yourself. You can also arrive closer to your destination by using airfields that aren’t accessible by commercial aircraft. For instance, there are only 503 airports that serve commercial flights across the US, but over 5,000 airfields open to the general public!
However, you do have to consider that owning a jet is a big investment, and it can also be very limiting if your circumstances change. You won’t be able to upsize (or downsize) if you need to travel further or add more passengers–so it’s important that you assess both your current and future needs. Another factor to consider is your responsibilities as the owner of an aircraft. As you have complete Operational Control, you’re solely liable for the safety and regulatory compliance of the jet and passengers for every flight. Therefore, you need to educate yourself and ensure everything is compliant and up-to-date, such as aircraft maintenance and insurance.
So, just how much does a private jet cost? Prices varying significantly–often starting around the $1 million mark for a second-hand turboprop and easily reaching $60 million for a heavy jet (e.g. Gulfstream G550). Add on customizations, and it’s safe to say that you need a lot of capital! In addition to the purchase price, you will also need to take into account the private jet operating costs such as ongoing maintenance, fuel, insurance, and hangar storage–all of which can add up to millions of dollars per year.
If it’s not feasible for you to outlay millions of dollars, or you simply want to avoid the additional headache that comes with owning your own aircraft, you might want to consider fractional jet ownership. Fractional jet ownership allows you to purchase shares in a fleet of aircraft from a company, which is then directly translated into flight hours (usually in the vicinity of 50 to 400 hours annually). Companies that offer fractional ownership usually have a range of different aircraft available and generally, allow you to utilize smaller or larger planes when needed.
The key benefit of fractional jet ownership is that you can simply pay for what you use. If you only need to fly 50 hours a year, you ultimately end up paying less. Shares are typically based on 800 hours of flying time. For example, a 1/16 share (50 hours) in the Phenom 300 Platinum Edition jet will cost you $550,000. On the other hand, if you’re a regular flyer, fractional jet ownership cost can be significant (the more you use, the more you pay) and it may be more economical to look at a private charter or even jet ownership.
If money isn’t an issue, owning your own private jet is undoubtedly the most appealing option, but for everyone else, flying first class on a commercial flight offers a luxurious way to travel without blowing the bank. While not as impressive as private planes, the amenities for first-class passengers are truly something special—from ensuites with showers to personal inflight chefs and generously sized seats — but you still have to deal with security lines and go on someone else’s schedule.
Generally speaking, a first-class ticket from New York to Los Angeles (one-way) will set you back between $750 to $2800. For solo travelers, this is the most economical option, although for larger groups, chartering a private plane may be more cost-effective.
It gets a little more complicated when flying overseas. Longer trips call for larger planes that can travel longer distances–and as such, the price of your ticket increases. For example, the average first-class ticket from New York to London has an asking price of $10,000 to $19,000. Chartering a heavy jet across the Atlantic will cost upward of $60,000 one-way. Therefore, if you have to buy several first-class seats for an international flight, you’re probably better off chartering a private jet.
What happens when you’re looking for an aircraft for a short period of time? For example, you want to spend three months exploring the South Pacific Islands, but you get terribly sea sick. Or, you have a frantic years’ worth of meetings scheduled in different locations throughout the United States. Well, your best bet is to dry lease an aircraft.
Leasing an aircraft simply means transferring possession without transferring the title. In other words, the aircraft is transferred to you (the lessee)—but the owner (aka the lessor) retains the legal title. This means you gain complete operational control over the aircraft for a specified period of time, similar to the owner, although you cannot sell the aircraft.
The term “dry” simply means no crew. Under this type of lease, you have the freedom to schedule flights whenever and wherever you want– you can fly the jet yourself, or hire your own pilot and crew. It’s also your responsibility to ensure the pilot is adequality qualified and the aircraft adheres to all regulations.
Renting a private plane is essentially the same as a lease, but for an even shorter term. It’s generally reserved for flight schools that have additional planes for training purposes. The person renting the plane would typically need to be a pilot or in the process of trying to become one.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the seemingly endless array of possibilities in private aviation—even before you’ve decided on your next destination. However, the most important consideration is your individual needs. Sometimes the convenience, comfort, and privacy of possessing a private jet is worth the additional cost. Other times, flying first class on a commercial aircraft or dry leasing is a more financially feasible option.
Although, after reviewing all your options, chartering a private plane has the potential to offer the best of both worlds—appealing to the need for convenience, comfort, and privacy—while also remaining reasonably affordable.
Get in touch with us today if you have any questions or need assistance booking your next trip.