Business travel by air is part of corporate America regardless of why you are on the road. Trade shows, sales calls, conferences and marketplaces make road warriors out of many managers and CEOs. There are many drawbacks to flying commercial airliners-long lines, no flexibility and smaller seats with no legroom to name a few-and consequently, many business travelers are considering private charter jets as a viable alternative.
Advantages of Private Jet Charters
There are many reasons to consider chartering a private jet for business meetings, the biggest of which is convenience.
- Luxury: Charters have larger seats, ample legroom and better amenities.
- Food: As commercial airlines have cut back on food service, many people bring on their own food that can be pungent. On a private charter, you can arrange to have your favorite food and drinks ordered ahead of time.
- Time: Arrive at the airport minutes before your departure and fly directly to your destination with no layovers. This helps to bolster productivity as well, as you can finish or refine projects onboard your flight, network with colleagues and talk to suppliers and customers in privacy.
- Flexibility: If you charter a jet, your schedule is more flexible and you can schedule a flight back home on the same day. Avoiding overnight stays saves time and money. Furthermore, when chartering a jet, schedules can be changed before take-off and even mid-flight if necessary. Best of all if you are running late, charter jet schedules can be adjusted to accommodate.
- Privacy: In many ways, a charter jet is like a conference room where staff can perfect business presentations and negotiation strategies without the worry of being overheard or interrupted.
- Stress Reduction: Forget about waiting in lines, lost luggage and late arrivals or departures.
- Company Image: Arriving in a charter private jet is impressive and will project an image of a well-run corporation that values time and its staff.
Downsides of Private Jets
Chartering a private jet for the first time can be challenging because charter jets come in many sizes, shapes and styles. There is also the question of supply and demand, the accreditation of pilots and finding the right plane to fit your business timeline.
- Confusing: Charter companies usually have a fleet of jets available and those that are designed for business travel have a smaller number of passenger seats.
- Workspace: Smaller business charter jets may have limited workspace and limited access to Wi-Fi.
- Cost: A number of private charter jet companies allow you to choose your own airplane for an additional fee. Private charters can cost significantly more than a commercial flight.
- Availability: A popular jet that is highly rated and recommended may not be available to reserve for charter for your desired timeframe. The most requested charter jets and routes are often more expensive too.
- Location: Many charter jet companies have planes located throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Consequently, your jet of choice may not be available in your location when you need it.
Business and Leisure Travel
Charter jet travel for business is different from charter jets commissioned by a tour operator for a large leisure packaged tour. Charter jets rented by corporations are smaller than commercial jets and usually seat between 7 and 15 travelers. Group tour charter jets for leisure travel usually utilize a full size commercial plane and leave from major hubs.
Leisure travelers are more price sensitive and have a greater attraction to packages and specials. In some cases, a private charter contracted and sold by a tour operator to a popular destination is less expensive.
Common motivations for flying private charters for business include greater convenience, comfort, privacy and productivity. The gains in productivity can help off-set typically higher fees of private charters. These aircraft typically have larger seats too. Business travelers can expect the charter to revolve around their schedule, not the schedule of the charter company. Business travelers can choose the time they want to fly and they have the ability to schedule several stops in one day, extend the time they need the charter if they are running late. They can fly a more direct route to their destination too.
Private jet charters for business land in smaller airports with shorter runways unlike larger commercial leisure travel charters that leave from major airports. The real advantage for business charter jets is that they have access to many more airports than commercial charters for leisure tour groups.
Questions to Ask
Your business dates are set, and you have decided to book a charter jet. In order to make sure you are getting what you paid for and to find out if there are any hidden costs or surcharges, there are a number of questions that you should ask before booking.
- What are the minimum standards for sourcing pilots?
- Does the charter company use a stringently certified network of aircraft and do they exceed FAA Part 135 pilot and crew standards?
- If you have special food needs, is special catering available and at what cost?
- Many charter jets lag behind in regard to Wi-Fi because of the additional cost of adding the communication equipment. Is Wi-Fi guaranteed on your flight?
- Does this charter come with a flight attendant? Is that fee included in the overall cost of the charter?
- Does the charter have a private lavatory and/or a separate full bathroom? If not, is there an additional charge for particular levels of bathroom privacy?
- Does the charter welcome pets on board (most do) and is there an additional charge for the pet? Is a reservation necessary to bring a pet onboard?
Flying With a Jet Card
A jet card is like a debit card that allows business travelers to prepay for flights at a fixed hourly rate that also guarantees availability. Most jet cards are sold for dollars calculated by the number of hours. The main advantage is you get to lock in a rate.
Shop Around for Charters
There are many levels and pricing structures offered by jet cards as well as a number of planes available for private charter. All companies charge a federal excise tax of 7.5% for a jet card; some include this fee in pricing and other companies send a separate bill. Most jet cards cover specific jet types or categories. There are a number of companies that sell private jet cards or offer prepaid charter programs. It may cost $150,000 for 25 hours of travel, for instance.
- Air Partner Inc., in business since 1961, offers a 20% discount on qualifying round-trip travel, flight credit that never expires and availability within 12 hours. With this company you will only pay for the time you fly. Submit a charter request to receive a quote.
- Clay Lacy Aviation calculates pricing based on the size of the aircraft. A light plane for six to eight passengers is $2,600 to $3,500 for 2,100 to 2,300 nautical miles and a large plane for nine to nineteen people flying up to 7,800 miles is $5,100 to $7,000.
- Delta Private Jets offers rates as low as $5,100 an hour with card levels as low as $100,000 and no hidden fees. Rates are locked in for two years. A two-hour flight from Boston to Bermuda would cost $10,200. A three-hour flight from Chicago, Illinois to Sun Valley, Idaho would cost approximately $15,300.
- Flexjet offers a special program for those who fly fewer than 50 hours a year without an upfront investment. Note that additional charges may be levied on heavy travel days.
- Jet Linx Aviation offers rates as low as $500 an hour on empty legs.
- JetSuite membership levels start at $50,000 and go to $400,000. Typical costs for planned flights plus airport fees range from $3,875 for a Phnom 100 to $7,200 for a L650 depending on your membership level and flight plan.
- Magellan Jets offers bespoke corporate services and has a website where you can search for quotes and availability. Pricing from New York City to Orlando starts at $15,470.
- NetJets offers a series of programs that range from those who fly over 50 hours a year to those who fly as little as four to six hours a year, depending on the aircraft.
- Nicholas Air offers the Rise Card starting at $200,000, going up to $500,000 for 15, 30 and 60 hour cards. There is a one-hour daily minimum, one fee that includes fuel and pilots, and guaranteed availability. Members enjoy 50% off empty leg trips.
- Private Jet Services Group (PJS Group) offers hourly rates at a fixed price for 12 months and no hidden fees. The light elite is $5,380 an hour ($134,500 annually, all inclusive) and the mid-elite level is $7,211 hourly ($180,275 annually inclusive). A two-hour flight from Seattle to Palm Springs would be approximately $10,760.
- Sentient Jet offers jet cards that begin at $142,300 and go up to $191,450 per year. Rates are locked in for a 12-month period.
- Star Jets International LLC. offers five levels on their sky card program, starting at $50,000 and going up to $1 million.
- Straightline Private Air offers rates starting under $2,000 per hour. In addition, members of Exclusive Resorts that join Straightline at the $50,000 level get $52,500 in their account or a 5% boost. A five-hour flight from New York to Scottsdale would cost approximately $10,000.
- Concord Private Jet offers a jet card program that starts at $4,300 per hour for a base aircraft, including a fuel charge but not including the Federal Excise Tax (FET) of $322.50; the 25-hour price is $107,500. For a mid-size jet, the hourly rate is $5,400 plus $405 for the FET and the 25-hour price is $135,000, plus $10,125 for the FET.
- XOJET offers an entry-level membership card for $50,000 for those who fly 25 hours or less each year. There is a recurring $250 monthly fee to maintain membership.
Are Charter Jets Cost Effective?
At first glance, private charters are more expensive than flying first or business class on a commercial airline. Rates for private charters start around $2,000 an hour for turboprop aircraft and go up to $7,600 per hour for larger aircraft with more spacious cabins. There are several ways to save on charter jet flights if you do your research. If you are not traveling in a group, private jet charters may not be reasonably affordable.
If a corporation is flying a small group to a remote location or wants to visit several locations in one day, the pricing for a private charter could be comparable to purchasing up to ten first or business class tickets on a commercial airliner. As you have the ability to land in several destinations in one day, you can avoid hotel fees and additional flights. Time savings are significant. You can save more money by avoiding holidays and other heavy travel times.
There are over 5,000 airports in the United States that private jets can use as opposed to only around 500 airports that commercial planes can use; this gives you access to more destinations.
If another customer rents a private charter for a one-way flight, you can oftentimes book the "empty leg" flight for the return trip at a discounted rate. This only works if the timing is right and you have a prepaid jet card.
The Cost of Convenience
If you are want to avoid long waits in airport security and save on travel time, booking a charter jet may be a good option for your company. Make sure that you compare the cost of chartering a jet against the cost of business or first class travel on a commercial airline for your group. If you travel often and decide on a jet card, make sure you comparison shop; there are a lot of options to choose from. In general, look for guaranteed availability even during peak periods, guaranteed hourly rates, potential hidden fees, safety records and pilot accreditation.