Fliers with flexibility should sign up for empty-leg email lists of companies like Magellan Jets, who regularly send out emails selling discounted flights from, say, the plane of a corporate exec who flew to Los Angeles but is looking to offset his cost of getting the plane back to New York. “I wouldn’t say that the cost of flying private has gone down, but there are new ways of pricing charter that makes it more accessible,” says David Zipkin, co-founder and VP of Tradewind, the service known for semi-private flights in the Northeast and Caribbean. “In our case, we save people money with our shared charters, and we also sell discounted empty legs.”
The key words here are prop planes, turboplanes, and light jets. Prop planes like the Cessna Caravan are popular because they're roomy (the seats are like business class, and often configured face to face). More popular these days are planes like the six- to eight-seater Pilatus PC-12, and KingAirs, which fly faster and feel more like jets. And then you get into light jets like Learjets, Embraer Phenom 300s, and Citation CJ3s, and Hawkers, all of which are sleeker and more streamlined, and can fly for four to five hours, for slightly longer trips.
The very light jet (VLJ) is a classification initiated by the release of the Eclipse 500, on 31 December 2006, which was originally available at around US$1.5 million, cheaper than existing business jets and comparable with turboprop airplanes. It accompanied a bubble for air taxi services, exemplified by DayJet which ceased operations on September 2008, Eclipse Aviation failed to sustain its business model and filed for bankruptcy in February 2009.
Paul Cappuccio, who lives in Greenwich, Conn., and is the general counsel for Time Warner, flew to Miami on Blade most weekends last winter and plans to do the same this year. “It’s such a relaxed way to fly, an elegant experience and so hassle-free,” he said. While not necessarily budget-friendly, Mr. Cappuccio said that Blade hits the sweet spot on price. “It’s not all that much more than a full-fare first-class ticket, but a small fraction of what it would cost to fly on a chartered private jet,” he said.
Monarch Air Group provides on-demand air charter services to and from Miami on a regular basis. Through select joint venture agreements, we charter an impressive range of aircraft, from single-piston to heavy jets. Whether you are flying for business or pleasure, we will provide the maximum level of reliability, flexibility and luxury. Every client is a VIP, so just let us know your schedule, budget, and special requests.
Diener recommends checking out FlyVictor.com, as it compares the cost of private jet travel across different airlines. He says that JetSuite.com is the best known for last-minute deals. You may also want to consider having a broker do the heavy lifting for you, says Trance; brokers typically work on commission, so ask them what their commission is before booking and how you pay it, and tell them your all-in price tolerance ahead of time.
Because the cost of a high-end modern private aircraft may be tens of millions of dollars, lending for aircraft purchases is accompanied by a security interest in the aircraft, so that the aircraft may be repossessed in event of nonpayment. It is generally very difficult for borrowers to obtain affordable private unsecured financing of an aircraft purchase, unless the borrower is deemed particularly creditworthy (e.g. an established carrier with high equity and a steady cash flow).
Over the past several years, global economic conditions led to record levels of pre-owned private aircraft listed for sale, ranging from smaller, propeller-driven airplanes to the largest, most advanced, and most luxurious intercontinental business jets. This truly resulted in a ‘buyer’s market,’ with purchasers able to select from a high number of quality aircraft, often for comparatively low prices.
The most economical option is chartering, which doesn't require any cash upfront (other than a deposit) through companies like Tradewind, Sentient, and Solairus, (which we took home from North Carolina). Of course, there are the old standbys like NetJets and Marquis, who sell fractional ownership (like 1/16th) of a single jet for upwards of $100K. One step down from that, pricewise, is the jet card, where you buy a set amount of hours from a company like Nicholas or Private Jet Services, and can use those hours for different planes. Then there are membership models like WheelsUp, where you pay $17,500 as an initiation fee to fly in their fleet, and then a $8,500 annual dues fee starting the second year. It's like a country club—only you're guaranteed access to a KingAir350i or Citation Excel / XLS instead of a golf course.
Lastly, don't be afraid to ask about safety: Any reputable operator should have safety information prominently featured on their website, and won't mind answering questions about their pilots, such as how many hours they have flown. (At least 250 hours, which is what it takes to get a commercial license; NetJets mandates at least 2,500 hours; Wheels Up, mandates 7,000 hours for a captain and 4,000 for a first officer.) Gollan suggests fliers ask if the pilot has any health issues, and feel free to ask if the operator (or plane itself) have any accidents or incidents in its history.
And typically, you can’t just buy one discount ticket on these planes; they’ll want you to pay for the whole cost of the plane, so you’ll need to find a group to go with you to get the most savings. Plus, if you want to save big, you likely won’t get a brand-new primo jet, as these tend to cost more. And finally, there’s the issue of safety: Private chartered planes tend to get in more crashes than commercial jets — though they are still far safer than cars. Most small-plane accidents were due to pilot error, so call the private jet company to determine how many hours of flying experience your pilot has.
When it comes to small planes, weight matters. Don't be surprised when your contact emails you for all passenger weights, and when the pilot organizes seating by weights. (You don't want the three biggest people on the right side, for instance.) Similarly, don't expect to bring two weeks of stuff for a weekend, and definitely mention if you're planning on bringing golf clubs or skis. If they don't fit, check out ShipSticks or LuggageForward, which sends your equipment beforehand for a relatively small fee.
A public charter is one in which a tour operator rents the aircraft and advertises and sells seats to members of the public, either directly or through a travel agent. In the case of public charters, the flight must be filed with the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the tour operator must supply a charter prospectus. The tour operator also must assume a legal responsibility to provide the transportation service, and must abide by DOT requirements for the protection of the clients' money. Public charters often operate only seasonally, and are often sold as part of a vacation package deal, although spare seats may be offered at bargain prices.
Once you've got a price quote, it's worth the effort to call around and get three or four other quotes. Prices vary widely, and one of the most important things to know is that you will often be paying for the plane to get to you, also known as the repositioning fee. Additional charges, common to a lot of flights, include airport charges. At New Jersey's Teterboro, it's $100, while some airports with higher density have an added fee. There are also takeoff fees to consider.
Aircraft charter brokers have entered the marketplace through the ease of setting up a website and business online. Aircraft charter operators are legally responsible for the safe operation of aircraft and charter brokers require no economic authority and are largely unregulated. The Department of Transportation requires that air charter brokers disclose to the consumer that they do not operate aircraft and cannot use terms like "our fleet of aircraft", "we operate", "our charter service" and others.