Want to Fly on a Private Jet? Now's the Time to Do It
The Pandemic Causes Air Fare to Drop: How Much Is a Private Jet?
Private planes are a mode of transportation that people love to hate. While reporting on an economic downturn in 2009, The Wall Street Journal noted how pundits were proclaiming that “private jets are evil, part of the indulgent, I’ve-got-mine greed and avarice that got the U.S. into this mess.”
More recently, Reuters detailed how Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has spent a year and a half trying to sell a posh Boeing 787 Dreamliner purchased by a previous administration, a craft he has portrayed as a flagrant violation of voters’ trust.
However, since the arrival of COVID-19 in December 2019, private jet companies have shifted their competitive focus. So, how much is a private jet? Suddenly, a flight on a private jet is…well, if not affordable, then within reach of a larger portion of the population. And not only is private jet travel suddenly less costly, it also opens up lots of getaway possibilities during the pandemic.
How Do Private Jets Work?
While simply buying a private jet might seem like the simplest way to fly on one, it’s also the most unattainable for virtually all of us. Not only can jets run in the mid to high eight figures, but you have to store it and hire personnel to fly and care for it. Fortunately, you have other options. Understand, though, that private jet pricing can be complicated, and some companies offer hybrid plans, which might make booking confusing.
Let’s start by discussing standard pricing. Worldwide jet charter provider Air Charter Service has published a rough guide depicting what a flight on a jet typically runs, showing that the hourly cost for smaller jets generally runs from $4,000 to $5,500, while larger crafts can reach $20,000. You see that pricing most clearly when booking on-demand charters ($10,000 to $50,000 for a domestic U.S. flight), which is the simplest option. It’s also one of the pricier options if you’re flying often.
Jet cards function kind of like a club membership, often giving you fixed-price flights after paying a fee or making a large deposit. (It’s not uncommon to pay $25,000 for 10 hours of guaranteed flight time.) But unlike fractional ownership (hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars depending on the portion of ownership), you’re buying into a flexible fleet rather than a specific jet.
If this all sounds pretty pricey, that’s because it is! However, there are ways to enjoy traveling by private jet at a more budget-friendly sum.
Can You Use a Private Jet for a Reasonable Price?
Many people fail to account for the fact that private jets need to return to their home airfield after reaching their ostensible destination. Because these return flights aren’t planned per se, they represent a loss of revenue for the owners. That led to the development of empty leg flights, which fill those return trips with paying passengers. You give up flexibility for such flights, but you also can pare three-quarters of the cost off of their price.
Another option involves something that we all do every time you buy a ticket for a commercial flight: You book a single seat. Typically, private-jet usage includes the whole aircraft. Some operators, though, allow you to pay for a sole seat and pass on significant savings — but even this can involve complications. Naturally, not every company allows this option, and some will require you to pay a fee and/or deposit first.
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced hotels and resorts to get creative in order to survive. One of the ways they’re doing so is by partnering with private-jet operators and offering bundled vacation packages. Travel + Leisure reported that MGM Resorts, Meadowood and Wynn Las Vegas have begun selling a kind of all-inclusive vacation bundle that includes private-jet fare for little more than the cost of a traditional airline ticket. Other flights (such as a getaway at the Ritz-Carlton in Miami’s South Beach) maintain a standard charter fare price but throw in other perks such as the option to rent an entire private floor of the hotel.
The best way to get any of these kinds of deals is to reach out directly to your hotel or resort to see if any of them are partnering with private jet companies. Additionally, check with specific jet operators, fractional-ownership companies, on-demand charters and jet-card sellers to see what deals they’re offering. Some reputable outfits include JSX, BLADE, XO, Delta Private Jets, Wheels Up, FlexJets, NetJets, Air Charter Service, Private Fly, Fly Victor and Air Partner.
Some of the Best Places to Travel Via Private Jet
In addition to some of the resorts mentioned in the previous section, you’ll find plenty of isolated getaways and locations that serve as the perfect escape during the coronavirus pandemic. A few disclaimers apply, though. First, these places will definitely skew toward expensive. Also, international locations may be subject to changing COVID-19 regulations, so check to see what laws apply before you book travel plans. Finally, even though remote areas pose less of an infection risk, understand that it’s not risk free.
With that being said, tropical islands provide great private jet travel opportunities. Resorts such as Sweet Bocas (Panama’s Bocas del Toro Province), The Ocean Club Bahamas, Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica and The Brando (French Polynesia) all offer entirely or semi-isolated vacation experiences all accessible by private jet.
Various estates, landmarks and historical sites have also combined safety measures with private air travel to encourage visitors. These include JL Bar Ranch & Resort (Sonora, Texas), the luxe country home/hotel of Blantyre (Lenox, Massachusetts), Miraval Berkshires Resort and Spa (Lenox, Massachusetts) and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort (Teton Village, Wyoming).
Sometimes, you don’t even need a place to go to. Some travelers have booked private planes simply to see autumnal foliage or to tour the Grand Canyon. If you have the budget and availability, private jet travel will open up the world to you — even a world on lockdown.