Private jets can offer some great advantages over standard scheduled airlines – you can fly in privacy and comfort and set your own flight route and schedule.
The simplest way to fly in a business jet is to undertake a private jet charter – literally renting an aircraft for a set date, time and route.
Ad-hoc jet charters are certainly the best option for very light users of private jet aircraft, say 10 hours or 2-3 short return flights per year. Those requiring a greater amount of hours also have the choice of block hour jet cards and fractional aircraft ownership.
There are 2 basic ways of arranging a private jet charter:
1. Using an air charter operator – this is a licensed operator which has an aircraft fleet stationed at a home base or at multiple bases. They can vary from large operators with wide fleets to smaller operators with perhaps 1 or 2 aircraft.
2. Using an air charter broker – these are companies (or individuals) who act as an agent between the aircraft operator and the customer. They charge a commission on the charter but will have access to wholesale prices – so charter rates should be more or less equivalent to what an operator charges. The largest broking companies have a wealth of experience and global networks of aircraft available.
What are the costs of hiring a private jet?
Obviously this will depend on passenger numbers, how far you need to fly and the type/size of aircraft being chartered. The cheapest charter planes are turboprops and very light jets (VLJs) for shorter hops; the most expensive are heavy jets and jet airliners for intercontinental flights.
As a guideline, the approximate hourly cost of renting an aircraft is as follows:
Turboprop (4-8 pax) $2,000 / €1,800 / £1,300
Very Light Jet (2-6) $2,200 / €2,000 / £1,500
Light Jet (6-7) $2,500 / €2,200 / £1,700
Midsize Jet (7-8) $3,200 / €2,800 / £2,100
Super-Midsize Jet (8-10) $4,500 / €4,000 / £3,000
Heavy Jet (10-19) up to $9,000 / €8,000 / £6,000
Jet Airliner (8-50+) up to $24,000 / €21,000 / £16,000
For example, using a VLJ, a London to Paris trip costs around £3,400 one-way or £4,400 day return. For such short journeys also consider cheaper turboprop aircraft – these are slower but will be fitted to the same level of comfort as a jet.
A trip from London to Cannes in a VLJ would be approximately £7,000 one-way or £8,400 day return.
Within the US a flight from the north-east to Florida will set you back about $21,000; a trans-continental trip (New York-Los Angeles) can cost up to $35,000 one-way.
A flight from London to New York on a heavy jet can cost $120,000 / €110,000 / £80,000 one-way; a flight from London to Los Angeles will cost $155,000 / €140,000 / £100,000 one-way.
The charter cost is per aircraft – so by filling all the seats you bring down the effective cost per person.
Probably the most cost-effective way of using a private jet charter is to make a day return. This is because for one-way charters the aircraft will have to return empty to its homebase airport – so the charter customer always needs to pay a supplement for the so-called empty leg.
Return trips with overnight stays will also be more expensive as the crew and aircraft need to be accommodated.
Getting a Charter Quote
Contact a reputable charter operator or broker and specify exactly where and when you want to travel. State the number of passengers and how much luggage you will bring.
Remember that there are many more airports available to private jets than standard commercial flights – the operator or broker will be able to advise you on the best airport options convenient for your destination. Bear in mind that smaller airports often have lower landing fees than major city airports.
A private jet terminal is known in the industry as an FBO (Fixed Base Operator).
For example, London has a number of dedicated private jet airports – such as Farnborough (EGLF / FAB), Blackbushe (EGLK / BBS) and Biggin Hill (EGKB / BQH). Flying from these airports where operators are based will be significantly cheaper than choosing London Heathrow, Gatwick or London City.
Flying to the south of France? Then Cannes (LFMD / CEQ) happens to be cheaper to land than nearby Nice (LFMN / NCE).
You will also need to specify whether you want catering provided on-board, cabin crew and whether ground transfers are needed.
From a well connected broker you should receive an all-in quote quite quickly – within minutes in some cases or within a couple of hours at the latest. The quote should include all landing and crew fees plus any applicable taxes. Find out the terms in the event you need to cancel or change the flight.
If you accept the quote then the full up-front payment needs to be be made.
Note, if you are flying in winter you may be charged extra if the plane needs to be de-iced – charges vary across different airports and you will be invoiced after the flight.
You should always find out the name of the actual aircraft operator. Check the age/type of aircraft used, the safety record of the company and ask for references.
Booking Empty Legs
It is thought up to a third of private jet movements are empty legs – when an aircraft needs to position or return to its homebase without passengers. These flights are also known as ‘deadheads’ or a ‘backhauls’. Operators will try to sell any available empty legs to paying passengers for a reduced rate – often up to 75% less than the standard private jet charter rate.
Empty legs are generally offered at the last minute so you need to be quite flexible. One thing to consider when booking empty legs is that you are reliant on the original charter going ahead.
Empty leg flights are available worldwide though obviously they are much easier to find for popular private jet routes – particularly between major business centres and also to high-end tourist destinations (Florida, Caribbean, Mediterranean, ski resorts).
Example prices: VLJ operator Blink quotes Jersey to London for £1000 on a Cessna Citation Mustang for up to 4 passengers. Renowned charter broker Air Partner quotes Florence to Luton at £3,000 on a Hawker 800XP with 6-10 passengers.
US Broker Studiojet quotes Teterboro (New York) to Van Nuys (Los Angeles) at $20,000 on a Lear Jet 60; London to New York could range between $50,000 and $85,000.
Major charter operators
UK: Blink, London Executive Aviation, TAG, Gama Aviation and BookaJet. Europe: Abelag, VistaJet, Comlux and Privatair. US: Clay Lacy Aviation, EJM, Landmark and TMC.
Major charter brokers
Air Partner, Air Charter Service, Chapman Freeborn and Hunt & Palmer. PrivateFly and FlyVictor are online platforms that offer jet charters and empty legs.