Photo by Lisa Bronitt/Shutterstock
JSX (formerly JetSuiteX) allows travelers to purchase seats on short-haul West Coast private jet flights.
If you don’t have several million dollars laying around to buy one, there are a growing number of options for chartering a private jet or purchasing individual seats on a private flight, ride-sharing style.
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We have all had a commercial air experience (or several) that had us daydreaming about how much it might cost to fly on a private jet and skip the security lines, the crowds, and the cramped seats of flying with the masses.
There is, of course, the option to go all out and buy a private jet. Depending on the age, make, and model, private jets cost anywhere between several hundred thousand dollars, for an older used model, to tens of millions of dollars, for a state-of-the-art private jet with all the bells and whistles. Add to that how much it costs to operate and maintain the aircraft, which can be up to several million dollars per year, and we’re looking at quite the investment.
Dream quashed? Not necessarily. From private jet charter services to companies that sell individual seats on private planes, private jet travel is more accessible now than ever.
While purchasing one’s own private jet is not feasible for most, the cost to charter a private jet may be a more viable alternative, not least because a growing number of companies are offering private jet charter services.
According to private jet charter company Air Charter Service, you can expect to pay between $1,300 and $3,000 per flying hour for a turboprop or smaller jet plane, which typically seats four to six passengers; between $4,000 and $8,000 per flying hour for a midsize jet, which typically accommodates up to nine passengers; and between $8,600 and $13,000 per flying hour for larger private jets, which usually seat from 14 to 19 passengers.
Air Partner recently introduced fixed-rate transatlantic pricing of $15,650 per hour to charter a jet for a minimum 10-hour, long-range flight between the United States and Europe. To access the company’s charter flights, you must first become an Air Partner JetCard member (there are two levels of membership), which enables you to charter a variety of private jet models. Sample pricing for a transatlantic private jet charter (with an average of 12 seats) is $101,365 for a round-trip flight from White Plains, New York, to Zurich, Switzerland.
“As an industry, we are experiencing the democratization of private aviation,” Stephanie Chung, president of private jet company JetSuite, recently said. She cited the shift away from whole aircraft ownership toward shared and membership models as one of the reasons why private jets have become more accessible. The company, which is backed by Qatar Airlines, includes Zappos founder Tony Hsieh as a board member; JetBlue founder David Neeleman was previously on the board. Among other aircraft, JetSuite flies the Embraer Phenom 100, a sleek and fast business jet built in the United States.
“The private jet experience has become more practical by allowing people to pay for just the flight hours they need,” Chung says.
Indeed, beyond charter options, a growing number of companies are offering travelers the ability to book a single seat—similar to how you would on a commercial flight—on a public charter private jet flight.
One of the more prominent examples is JSX (formerly JetSuiteX). Launched in 2016, the public charter air carrier is a subsidiary of JetSuite. Current routes connect Los Angeles, Orange County, the Bay Area, and Las Vegas, with Phoenix coming soon. One-way fares start as low as $69 on 30-seat planes, and passengers board directly at the private JSX hangars. The carrier recommends arriving 20 to 30 minutes before your flight is scheduled to take off.
There are free nibbles and beverages on offer in the plush, Wi-Fi-equipped waiting lounges, and the planes are outfitted with cushy leather seats with tray tables that are a respectable distance away from your knees. Flight attendants offer complimentary snacks and drinks, such as toasted coconut chips, Perrier, and local craft beer.
JSX flies the Embraer E135 aircraft, a shorter version of the exceedingly common Embraer E145 Aircraft operated by many U.S. regional airlines.
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There are also private jet startups emerging that are based on a membership model. One of those is JetSmarter, an app that allows passengers to ride-share on existing chartered flights. After paying a $2,500 membership fee, users can request their desired flights and dates; the app alerts other users who can then purchase seats. It’s like the private jet version of Uber Pool.
For example, JetSmarter offers flights from New York to Miami aboard a Bombardier CRJ200 with 16 seats. On a recent search within two weeks of the flight, there was only one seat left for a Thursday morning flight. But for the next day, eight of 16 seats were left, priced between $2,000 and $3,000 for a one-way ticket. In contrast, a search for similar dates and destinations with Delta Air Lines yielded first-class fares between $1,500 and $1,800 one-way, which come with the added hassle of dealing with the airport terminal and arriving early for security lines. Private jets operate out of separate terminals, where passengers can typically walk up to their departure area some 20 minutes before take-off.
Another private jet membership service is Surf Air, which flies between Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Lake Tahoe, and San Francisco. For $2,500 per year, you can access à la carte private jet flights starting at $500 per flight, and for $1,950 per month you can unlock an unlimited flight plan.
In the battle to be the “Uber” of private aviation, one company has a leg up, albeit possibly in name only: UberJets. Unrelated to the ride-sharing company, UberJets offers an app to help find and book charter aircraft between multiple destinations. Like many aviation tech startups, it doesn’t own or operate a fleet of aircraft but serves as an intermediary.
The UberJets app also allows users to find so-called empty-leg deals. In such cases, a private jet has dropped passengers on a one-way leg and would otherwise return to its home base empty. Instead, the jet-set can benefit from flying the return leg home at a discount. But it involves chartering an entire jet, so it’s pricey: An empty-leg flight from California to New York could cost $20,000. A recent search with the UberJets app yielded a one-way leg at around $8,500 between New York and Fort Lauderdale for a private jet seating six.
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