A private jet charter is cheaper than you think


You don’t need to be a Hollywood star to book a private jet charter.

Avoid the crowds and book a seat on a private jet. Image credit: extreme photographer/iStock
Avoid the crowds and book a seat on a private jet. Image credit: extreme photographer/iStock

If you dread the thought of reaching another busy airport after leaving the comfort of your Blacklane limousine and dragging your designer luggage through the crowds, you need to look at hiring a private jet.

For while everyone else is taking off their shoes at security and passing the time at duty-free, if you book a Blacklane airport transfer service and a private plane charter, you could spend an extra hour in bed before being whisked through the terminal to enjoy a glass of Dom Perignon in your hand-stitched leather seat.

Plus, you don’t need to be rich to enjoy a private jet charter. An array of new companies have set out to disrupt the private jet industry and make it more accessible with membership clubs that help you share the cost of a jet.

There’s also a range of apps out there to help you snap up seats on empty legs so maybe it’s time to cancel the business class flight and take the Cessna. Chartering a private jet may be more affordable than you think.

Lease a jet

Private jet rental is no longer just for pop stars. Thanks to a host of innovative startups, you can now charter the whole plane for yourself without breaking the bank.

California-based private jet startup Blackbird offers its guests three types of services – Reserve, which lets you book a seat on scheduled flights, Hitch, which helps you book seats on empty seats on small planes that take short-haul flights, and Charter, which lets you hire your own private charter jet for a minimum of 1,000 USD. Blackbird keeps its costs down by tapping into the regional airport network in the U.S., which doesn’t charge pilots as much to land. It covers California, Nevada, and Florida. Perfect if you’re in Palo Alto on business and fancy hot-footing it to Mammoth or Coachella.

Another option could be air taxi Linear Air.  While it doesn’t have any of its own planes, you can hail one using its site. You can find your nearest airport by typing in your street address and then you can choose a plane according to its number of seats. For a regular air taxi you get the entire plane, so you can then sell any spare seats to recoup some of your costs. It may not be the size of Oprah Winfrey’s Gulfstream jet, the largest plane on offer only has four seats, but a private plane rental can be as little as 400 USD per passenger. The company covers the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean.

Book a seat on a private jet

If you have previously Googled the cost of flying a jet to Europe, then passed the option by, JetClassis ready to come to your rescue. It offers flights for the price of a business class ticket, but guests get to travel on a business jet. There is no membership fee, you just pay for the ticket. According to their website, the team launched the company in response to the decreasing quality of business class options on short-haul flights around Europe. They thought they could do better – they offer Learjets, Hawker jets, and Cessnas to their clients. Seats on a scheduled private jet cost as little as 390 EUR. They cover many European cities, including Milan, Geneva, and Nice.

JetSuiteX in the U.S., backed by JetBlue founder David Neeleman, offers a similar experience. It also aims to make luxury flights more affordable by letting you buy a seat on a private jet rather than chartering the whole plane. It runs a seven-day service between California and Nevada, and flights can be as low as 29 USD each way. The semi-private plane gives you the chance to cut out the impromptu marathon through a large terminal before your flight and relax in the JetSuiteX lounge beforehand which offers free drinks, snacks, and Wi-Fi. You can just walk straight through the French doors on to the tarmac where your plane will be waiting.

Hire a private jet with your friends

If you want to fly with your friends you need to take a look at Victor, a UK company that has expanded to the U.S. Its app connects travelers to 7000 aircraft worldwide and allows you to compare prices and answer that burning question, “how much does it cost to rent a private jet?”. Through checking prices and filling each seat of a selected seven-seater plane, you and your friends can fly on a private jet for less than what you would each pay for the price of an economy ticket for the same journey. You also get points every time you fly that you can use against your next flight. It makes jet leasing easy.

If you don’t mind making some new friends you can use another app called Blade, which helps people charter a jet to their destination by crowdsourcing. The U.S.-based app enables you to find other guests who are also keen to fly to your intended destination and you can then all share the cost of the flight. If for example, you were planning to fly to the Hamptons, the app would advertise your flight and connect you to other like-minded souls. Finding people to fly to the Hamptons with you for Memorial Day doesn’t sound like a particularly hard thing to do. If your private jet-sharing moment smacks of being similar to a student outing, cast those thoughts from your mind, for Blade guests have the chance to relax before their flight in bespoke Blade lounges, looked after by crew decked out in Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon’s designs.

Hiring a private jet to transport your company team to an event could be an affordable option. Image credit: extreme photographer/iStock
Hiring a private jet to transport your company team to an event could be an affordable option. Image credit: extreme photographer/iStock

Join a private jet member’s club

Forget about joining the country club. The hottest membership around is a private jet club, where the best party is 30,000 feet above ground. These private jet membership clubs give you the ability to fly at a moment’s notice, you can arrive at the airport 15 minutes before take-off instead of two hours before, and access to glamorous flights for less.

If you fly frequently, Surf Air could be the club for you. It gives guests the chance to fly as often as they want within California or Texas in return for paying a monthly membership fee. You can arrive by car at its private air terminal, so you don’t have any lines, waiting, or stress and you can liaise with your dedicated membership manager about any changes you would like to make to your flight. Monthly memberships cost around 4000 USD or if you don’t want to join the club, you can snap up a seat for 500 USD, the price of an average business class ticket.

If you prefer the idea of owning your own jet, you should take a look at NetJets, owned by Warren Buffet. NetJets gives its members the chance to keep private jet cost ownership down by owning a part of a jet, rather than the whole plane. The amount that members pay then translates into flight time, so a 1/16 ownership at 600,000 USD gives you 50 hours flight time. So the question is how much is a private jet and are you actually saving any money? Jet management company Liberty Jets says you need to part with 1.15 million USD to buy a Cessna CJ1 525, then add another 583,463 USD for yearly running costs, and more the further that you travel. These prices make choices like those offered by NetJets sound rather reasonable.

You can also buy the Marquis Jet card for 25-hours flying time on a Hawker jet for 170,000 USD, giving you access to 5,500 airports. You just need to pencil in monthly maintenance, and fuel charges, and taxes for every hour you fly.

If you don’t want to part-own a jet, but want to be part of a membership club that has a bespoke feel, there’s Magellan Jets from the U.S. It lets you customize your membership according to how regularly you fly and whether you prefer to ride in a certain type of jet. Approximately 25 hours of flying is priced at around 8000 USD. You pay extra for premium catering and inflight Wi-Fi, which you can get for free with other companies. They also offer empty legs at a discounted rate to guests. This private jet app connects pilots to passengers so that the pilot’s return flight isn’t empty and the passenger can get a cheaper seat.

There’s one more interesting private jet membership club out there called Aura, which owner ZED Aerospace believes will revolutionize private jet travel in the U.S. Launching in 2019, the company plans to offer cheap airfares by flying Bombardier jets out of private airports within U.S. cities. For 100 USD a month you can become a keyholder, which gives you the chance to snap up a one- way ticket from as low as 280 USD. There are 29 luxury seats on each plane, but the most sought after of these seats will be the eight Wave class, which were designed by sleep psychologists and aero-medical scientists. There is also a “Book the Cook” experience, where you can arrange to have an onboard chef. In a press release, ZED Aerospace Founder Zander Futernick said Aura was intended to help you “to reimagine what air travel can be”.

Enjoy your time in the air. Image credit: andresr/iStock
Enjoy your time in the air. Image credit: andresr/iStock

Best private jets apps

As they say, there’s an app for everything, and this includes private jets. From choosing whether you want a Hawker or a Cessna, to checking the availability of planes at your nearest airport, the choice is yours through a range of private jet apps. And in some cases, these apps will even let you know if you can take your pet.

Blackbird Air

Blackbird’s app, enables people in the U.S. to take spare seats on charter and scheduled planes.

The app shows you in real time, which planes are available, alongside the price. The service focuses on trips you might consider driving by car. Passengers simply split the cost of the fuel and the airport fees with the pilot. Flights can be from 35 USD.

Available on Apple Store.

Fly NetJets

NetJets members can access the entire fleet of 700 aircraft, through the app. You can view upcoming flights, choose your plane, order in-flight dining, and check how much free flight time you have left. The app helps to bring the price of private jet cost, per hour, down. Available on Apple Store and Google Play.

Surf Air

The Surf Air app is backed by none other than Jay-Z and the Saudi Royal Family. Guests can book unlimited flights using the app if they pay a monthly fee of 1950 USD per month, or they can buy one seat at a time with the Pay As You Fly Option. It reminds you of upcoming flights, lets you customize your flight and share your itinerary. It has also joined with Coinbase so you can pay by Bitcoin.

Available on Apple Store.

Victor

Victor cuts out the middleman and connects you directly to the operator. You have access to more than 7000 private aircraft, giving you the ability to check availability and get a quote instantly. There are no hidden charges for your private jet charter. You don’t have to ask how much does it cost to fly private? This app makes it clear. It’s just a fixed booking fee and then the price of your flight. The app gives you everything you need for the flight, including the name of the captain and tail number of the plane.

Available on Apple Store.

Wheels Up

Fly private jet cheap with Wheels Up. The app lets you book flights, view upcoming trips, access special Hot Flights (where you can book empty leg flights at a fraction of the cost). It also features the Wheels Down programme, where you can access member benefits on sports and entertainment events at your destination.

This app was given five stars by users on Google Play. Also available on Apple Store.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Claire Turrell

Freelance journalist Claire Turrell has lived and worked in London, Dubai, and Singapore. When she’s not busy writing, she is riding motorbikes off-road in Cambodia, diving in Oman or learning Muay Thai in Thailand.