Flying private is a growing phenomenon, largely thanks to social media and iconic figures flying lavishly across the globe. Some fly private for comfort or luxury. Others use it to bypass TSA or avoid hasty cancellations. As a busy executive, you can conveniently visit multiple cities. Given the mystique about flying private and the numerous options when googling “private jet charter,” we asked Moshe Malamud, founder and CEO of M2Jets, for his best advice. After flying private for more than 15 years, Malamud established a successful on-demand charter service in 2010. Now, Malamud—who owns a fleet of luxury aircraft—shares seven essential tips if you’re thinking about making the leap.
1. Time the best deal.
Unlike commercial airlines, private planes are constantly moving across the world at a moment’s notice, Malamud explains. Although the price fluctuates, you could snag last-minute deals, understanding that aircraft operators want their planes in the air as much as possible. “The best deal is often available by booking a trip one to two weeks in advance,” he advises. However, if you are flexible with your travel schedule you can land an amazing deal by waiting for last minute openings as operators alaways want their planes flying and will discount last minute bokings depending on availability.
2. Don’t price shop.
Finding a great charter deal isn’t like bargain hunting on eBay. Clients tend to get themselves in a bind when cross-shopping with multiple operators or brokers. “It’s tough negotiating with the operator of a plane when other companies are calling him to charter the same aircraft for you,” cautions Malamud. Understand that with higher frequency of private charter, planes are busy and operators don’t always have high tolerance for bargain hunters.
3. ‘Empty legs’ aren’t what they seem.
Since the rise of membership-based companies like Jet Smarter, Surf Air, and Jet Quote, “empty legs” are becoming more well-known. This is when a plane flies to one destination with passengers, but returns empty.
Certainly, you could snag a bargain on an empty-leg flight, but Malamud warns: “You have about a 5 percent chance of finding an empty leg for the exact time, day, and destination you need. And they’re never free.” More frequently traveled routes like New York to Miami, Los Angeles to Las Vegas and London to Paris are typically easier to find one dead legs. However Boston to Utah or Moscow to Glasgow may prove more difficult.
4. Have realistic expectations.
In the last decade, private travel has become highly competitive, pushing down the price for consumers. But flying private is still flying private. A basic light jet typically starts from $2,000 to $2,500 per hour, with your heaviest plane, like a Gulfstream or Global, ranging between $6,000 and $8,000 per hour and up depending on the size and year of make of the aircraft.
“If you decide to step into the “1 percent” world, understand that chartering privately is a luxury expense—it’s left to the 1 percent for a reason,” Malamud cautions.
Owning, maintaining, and placing a flight crew on these toys is expensive. If you can’t afford it, fly commercial or try a shared jet option.”
5. You get what you pay for.
You wouldn’t walk into a Rolls Royce dealership and bargain for a $300,000 car. When flying private, you’re paying for convenience, safety, security, and luxury.
But if you can afford it, paying the right price to be on a safe and secure aircraft is well worth it. Private charter is about saving you time, discretion and luxury.
“A brand new car is more expensive but requires almost no maintenance. It’s the same with jets: older ones require more maintenance to meet strict FAA requirements,” Malamud advises. “That’s why we direct clients to newer, better-managed aircraft. Paying a better price for an old, outdated plane can be risky.”
6. Don’t waste your money on jet cards.
A jet card provides access to private planes for a flat fee, usually for a set number of hours. These cards are typically offered by brokers and marketing companies who don’t own their own fleet of jets, but rather are middle-men who by blocks of time from aircraft operators. Owning a jet card was once a status symbol: you were a member of an exclusive club that could have a plane available within hours, without owning it. Compare prices, availability, restrictions, aircraft type, or positioning charges, private charter will always guarantee you the best price versus jet card or fractional ownership.
However, with the expanded availability of private aircraft and a good broker network, it is significantly more economical to use pay-as-you-go charter services.
7. Know when to book a round trip or one-way.
If you’re chartering a plane with two to three overnight stopovers, it’s better to book a round trip. But if you’re staying for an extended period, you can’t expect an operator to have the plane sitting and waiting for you.
“Overnight stays bring significant expenses,” explains Malamud, citing ramp fees, crew expenses, and lost revenue from planes not flying. A good operator or broker should be able to find suitable one-way options that may be less expensive than a round trip and more economical if you have many overnights.