With Record Demand, Here’s How To Have The Perfect Private Jet Experience
Flying privately brings many advantages. You set your schedule. You pick the airports. You choose the type of aircraft – from ultra-long-haul private jets to turboprops ideal for short hops. You end up saving time and arrive at your destination ready to play, get down to business or just relax.
However, the surge in private jet travel to record levels is putting a considerable strain on the system, much of it beyond providers' control.
Delays are being caused by fuel shortages, in some cases due to lack of drivers, back-ups in maintenance, driven by labor and parts shortages, as well as air traffic control. Caterers face supply chain issues as well. Oh, and ground transportation. One large private jet operator says while flights are up 30% over 2019 pre-pandemic levels, complaints about car services and rental cars are up over 300%!
Still, you won’t find fisticuffs and the shouting matches that seem to be part of the airline experience these days. You also won’t be crowded standing on snaking lines to check-in, at security, or working your way through the crowd for priority boarding.
If you are flying privately, to help get you wheels up as smoothly as possible, here are my recommendations:
Book as far in advance as possible
This helps your provider procure the best aircraft for your flight and arrange a backup if there is a mechanical.
Check the buying power of your provider
Before you sign the contract for an on-demand charter, ask your broker what type of volume they have with the charter operator they are using. Charter operators tend to take care of their best customers first. A broker driving a lot of business to the operator has more clout to ensure their customers are taken care of. It’s not unheard of that an operator will pull an airplane from the customer of one broker if there is a mechanical or other issue with the jet assigned to a more significant customer. That means a re-quote with short-notice pricing often up to 50% more.
Don’t fly on Peak Days
In addition to surcharges, jet card programs can move your departure time by up to six hours in either direction. Most fixed-rate jet cards guarantee service recovery at no additional cost if there is no available aircraft, which could mean waiting until the next day, particularly on peak days.
Avoid flying Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays
If you can travel on lower-demand days, you will likely find better pricing. More importantly, you will be less likely to face delays. Stay away from Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays if you can. At some resort and second-home airports, private flights during August were more than 100% higher than 2019’s pre-pandemic levels.
Be accurate about the amount of luggage and pets when you book
Providing your provider accurate information about luggage and pets is critical as this impacts the type of aircraft you will need and they will source for you. Each operator files its own rules regarding how it handles pets with the FAA. They are then required to adhere to those rules. Your provider is booking your trip based on the information you provide, so if you say you have two Boston Terriers, don’t expect to fly if you show with four large Belgian Sheepdogs. If you have pet carriers, have the dimensions available. Some large carriers don’t fit through the door of certain private jets.
The same goes for luggage. Provide as much detail about all of what you are bringing with you as possible. If you show up with a Peloton bike, it may not fit. What’s more, the maximum takeoff weight for a private jet is calculated by including passengers, pets, baggage and fuel among other factors. Adding luggage may mean a fuel stop, something you will have to pay for additionally, or it could mean having to ship luggage.
Limit your catering orders in secondary markets
In secondary markets where there aren’t dedicated kitchens, fewer local caterers are serving private aviation. Find out who is doing the catering for your departure airport and if they have experience in private aviation catering before you order. Limit catering special requests for specific brands of juices or boutique waters. Order your catering when you book the flights, hopefully as far in advance as possible.
Caterers are suffering from the same shortages as restaurants and grocery stores. And while some providers will still accommodate requests for high-end restaurants in major cities, staying with sandwiches, wraps and fruit plates is probably a smarter move.
Book ground transportation at the time you book your flights
While most private aviation providers are happy to assist with ground transportation, if you can’t find suitable ground transportation, chances are your provider won’t be any more successful. While that may not deter you from having them give it a crack, keep in mind their support staffs are already stretched.
Track your inbound aircraft for delays
Your provider will sometimes give you a tail number when you book on-demand or within 24 hours for both jet cards and if you are booked with a floating fleet operator. You can track your tail number on services like FlightAware by entering your tail number. While your provider should be keeping you up to date regarding delays, it makes sense to check on your own. Delays in refueling, air traffic control, or passengers who show up with too much baggage on the preceding flight can lead to your flight being delayed.
Reconfirm with your provider before you head to the airport
Make a call to your provider before you head to the airport. Floating fleet operators will sometimes switch aircraft for operational reasons, so your provider can let you know about any last-minute changes, including using a different FBO.
Know the FBO
The FBO is the place you go to board your private flight. Have the its phone number in case you get lost. Passenger entrances at private jet terminals can sometimes be hard to find. In some cases, Google Maps isn’t accurate. They are often on opposite ends of airfields, so it can easily be a few miles between FBOs. At some busy airports, the same company may have multiple locations. Don’t let your driver leave until you’ve confirmed you are in the right places.
Arrive at least 30 minutes before scheduled departure
While you avoid TSA and long-security lines, if you show up a bit early for your private flight, you might be able to leave a bit early. Either way, when you arrive at the FBO, you will need to check in at the front desk and have your pilots paged. If it’s busy, you may need to wait a few minutes. By showing up 30 minutes before departure, the worst case is you have a few minutes to freshen up before boarding. Lavatories on small jets can be a bit cramped, so it’s always a good idea to use the facilities in the FBO if possible.