If you’ve ever spotted a private jet in flight or on the tarmac, you’ve probably wondered which celebrity it belonged to. The fact is that many jets are chartered, not privately owned by a fat cat or pop star, and they’re mostly used for business, not lavish vacations. It’s a world shrouded in mystery, so here are five myths about private jets.
“Yes, it helps if you want to own a Boeing 757 in executive configuration like his, but that is not a reality for 99.9% of the population,” says Mark H. Lefever, president and chief operating officer of Avjet, a broker and adviser.
The answer is “no” if you want to charter.
A round-trip flight in a private jet can cost as little at $6,000, says Kevin O’Leary, president of Jet Advisors, which offers advice on private aviation options. “The typical charter costs for a light jet are $3,000 per hour with a two-hour per day minimum,” O’Leary says. “This would allow a passenger to fly from New York to Washington, D.C., and back in the same day for about $6,000. A round-trip flight between New York City and Naples, Fla., would likely cost around $30,000. So if you fill the seven seats typically found in a light jet, that is $4,300 per person. These prices are still higher than the first-class airline tickets, but you don’t need to be ‘The Donald’ to afford them.”
Before you reach for your credit card, there are even cheaper deals to be found, according to Doug Gollan, editor-in-chief of DG Amazing Experiences, a newsletter for private jet owners and passengers. Gollan points to JetSuite Suite Deals, which are posted daily and start at about $500.
“Last week, for $536, you could have flown the next day from Tyler, Texas, to Dallas,” he says “They post the specials for the next day on their Facebook page.” The company recently began offering private jet flights to Cuba, with one-way prices for up to six passengers for $11,152 from Key West (JetSuite says it’s the responsibility of each passenger to secure his or her own permission to travel to Cuba, which is allowed by the U.S. government only under specific approved categories).
“You can also reach out to the multitude of charter brokers who don’t typically own planes but source aircraft that are available for charter, and then get five friends and divide the costs,” Gollan says. “Under these circumstances, you might be able to do a Los Angeles-to-Aspen trip for around $2,500 a head. “
Still interested in owning your own jet? O’Leary says, “The purchase cost can be a little as $500,000 with annual operating costs at an additional $500,000 or more. The major concern is with unexpected repairs. A major engine repair or scheduled overhaul on just one engine could easily cost $300,000.”
Lefever says this isn’t true. Private jets have the ability to land at many more airports than commercial aircraft and to change flight plans very quickly.
“Private jets have the option of waiting it out or choosing an alternate airport,” he says. “The best example is LAX-SFO, a common flight that has delays due to weather in the Bay Area.”
A private jet, he says, “can file a new flight plan and go to Oakland, which isn’t much farther to downtown San Francisco than the SFO airport,” with minimal delays.
“There are various ways to compare the stats, but more passenger fatalities have occurred on scheduled commercial flights than on both charter and private jets” in the past 15 years, Lefever says.
Comparisons of accident rates per hour operated show less of a discrepancy, but the reality is that both are extremely safe and safety is always the No. 1 concern for both, Lefever says.
Gollan says, “I used to fly regularly on NetJets, and my pilots were former 747-400 captains for United Airlines and chief pilots for Fortune 500 companies. Most of the major fleet operators that own and operate their aircraft have spotless records. Most of the fleet on the charter market is used by the owner and chartered when he or she is not using it, so obviously owners want maintenance and pilots at a high standard.”
No, you can forget about security lines, taking off your shoes and emptying your pockets. You won’t find metal detectors or body scanners. O’Leary says that often “there is no TSA or pre-flight checks required. The pilots may check the ID of the lead passenger; otherwise, you will be loaded and on your way within minutes of arrival at the airport. At some private airports, you can actually pull your car up to the aircraft, unload and have valet (service for) your car, so you could be in the air within minutes.”
That silver blip sailing by your window on a transcontinental flight? Chances are it’s a private jet.
“The fastest passenger jets in the sky are private, depending on the model of jet flown,” Lefever says. “Private jets also fly above the commercial airlines and a lot of times the weather and turbulence that they incur.“
Some private jets have the ability to fly above the weather up to 51,000 feet, and “a couple private jets fly near the speed of sound,” O’Leary says. “The flexibility to fly in and out of smaller airports that are often closer to the departure point and the destination airport makes the actual speed secondary to the private jet’s access to nearly 10 times as many airports in the United States. That makes the door-to-door speed significantly faster when traveling privately.”