T he use of private jets is becoming more popular amongst senior multinational corporate travellers and high net worth individuals. Chartering an executive jet can be an effective alternative to travelling in first or business class on commercial airliners...
While corporate jets may be out of reach for your average traveller, there are many benefits of using these types of private aircraft. Let's take a moment to consider the average business class flyer on an international commercial flight. Firstly, their flying times are at the complete mercy of the timetable published by the scheduled airline. They will probably check-in online the day before and fiddle about selecting a seat and printing out a boarding pass.
On the day of travel they have to get transportation to the airport, often arriving 2-3 hours before departure. Flying from a major airport, they may have to deal with possible queues and congestion at check-in/baggage drop-off (if checking luggage), security and passport controls. Perhaps there'll be a quick chance to relax at an airline lounge before our harried traveller heads out to the gate to board the flight - assuming no delays or even cancellations.
At the final destination our business traveller friend has to wait for luggage (hopefully not gone astray) and then queue for a taxi for the trip into town.
The business travel private jet alternative
On the other hand, private jet passengers have the option of flying in/out of smaller airports - closer to both their homebase and destination - which can save a significant amount of stress and time. And in the business world, time is money.
In the US there are some 5,500 airports open to private aviation - compared with just 500 served by commercial airliners. It's a similar story in Europe - 3,000 possible airports compared to 300 used by airlines. In addition, only about a third of the airports used by airlines will have anything resembling a significant route network.
There are around 7,500 private jets in the US and 2,500 jets in Europe. The private jet market is forecast to rise significantly in the rest of the world - consider there are currently 600 private jets in Russia and only 200 in China.
Business jet flyers can arrive at an airport as close to 15 minutes before departure - clearing security and immigration quickly, with pre-clearance often in effect. On arrival, a waiting car can whisk them off to their intended destination.
A major selling point of business jets over airlines is that they allow an individual or group of people to visit multiple destinations in a single day - saving the need for hotels. This is often not possible with commercial airlines, particularly if the visit locations are slightly off the beaten track.
For example, a group of London based executives need to visit clients in Ljubljana (Slovenia) and Nantes (France). They can fly London-Ljubljana early in the morning, then Ljubljana-Nantes in the early afternoon before heading back to London in the late evening. Trying to do this trip by scheduled airlines could take up to 3 days!
Private jet passengers also have the flexibility to change plans at the last-minute - perhaps extend a business meeting or fly to an unplanned destination.
Comfort on board an executive jet is top notch with excellent seating and plenty of personal space - although lighter jets can lack some headroom. High quality food and beverages can be ordered for consumption on board - you get to eat and drink when you want rather than wait for meal service. Larger jets will have galley facilities and a cabin attendant can look after you.
Business jet passengers are generally well rested and arrive in good shape at their destination. Additionally, they can be more productive with their time on board should they wish to work. Companies using business jets tend to improve morale amongst travelling employees - they can feel more valued and spend less time away from home.
The business jet is a private environment - passengers can hold meetings with important clients or make telephone calls/emails without worrying about others. Using private jets is also low profile - you may not want your competitors to know when, where and with whom you are travelling.
Flying on a business jet is generally more secure than flying on a normal 'public' airline as the passengers retain more control over security. Private jet operators often employ ex-military personnel for security of the passengers and aircraft.
Safety standards in the private jet industry can be more rigorous than the commercial aviation sector. Executive aircraft fleets in service are generally much younger in age than those of their airline counterparts. Many of the pilots have an air force background and have to undergo intensive and ongoing training.
Private jets are not only used by business travellers - they are frequently used for a variety of logistical tasks - such as humanitarian aid flights, air ambulances, evacuating people from high risk areas, military support flights and carrying government officials and VIPs.
The use of private jets has been criticised by some quarters, particularly environmental campaigners. You could of course choose to not travel and use video conferencing for preliminary discussions. However, nothing beats the personal face-to-face contact when doing important business. Many private jet companies will offer carbon offset programs to make flights carbon neutral.
Executive jets can provide companies and individuals with an affordable business travel solution and a real alternative to commercial scheduled air travel.