Between jammed terminals, seemingly endless security lines, crowded flights and the fiendish hub-and-spoke
system, private jet travel has become more and more attractive. There are many ways to go, and which one you
choose will depend on your budget as well as how much flying you plan to do.
How it works: Charter customers pay for and get the whole plane for the trip, whether
there's one passenger or seven. Response time varies widely from several hours to a day or more. The hourly fee
includes charges for the time you're in the air ("wheels-up"), taxi time, wait time, overnight time and airport
fees. If you're only going one way, you pay a good deal more per leg than if you're turning right around.
Ownership costs: None. Chartering is à; la carte private jet travel; you pay as you
Recurring Costs: Rates vary tremendously depending on the airplane you book, from around
$2,000 per hour for a small jet to more than $10,000 per hour for the largest and fastest private jets.
Pros: No airline security, cattle calls, hub-and-spoke nightmares or liability. Charter is
great for those who don't fly much or want to get their first taste of private air travel.
Cons: There are hundreds of charter operators, so knowing which to call isn't obvious. The
right plane is often the plane they have.
Top Providers: Executive Jet and Jet Aviation are two of the largest; to search for a
service by region, visit jetcharterhub.com.
Membership (Jet Cards)
How it works: Most jet membership services are charter brokers, or middlemen arranging
services with charter providers. (They vet the charter companies and use their buying power to get members
lower rates.) Jet cards are also offered by fractional companies, which fly their own planes. A jet card is
like a gift card: You buy one with a certain amount of money or number of hours on it and as you fly, the card
is debited. The cost is the same whether you're alone or with an entourage.
Ownership costs: The least expensive jet card (from Blue Star Jets) is $50,000, good for
around fifteen hours of wheels-up time. $100,000 is a typical starting amount.
Recurring costs: None. With a jet card, like a debit card, everything is paid for up
Pros: Membership offers tremendous ease of use. The typical jet card holder wants a simple
flying experience with great flexibility, including the ability to use another service if desired.
Cons: The age and quality of the equipment can be uneven unless you go with a card from a
fractional company or a top charter broker.
Top providers: Charter brokers: Blue Star Jets, Jet Aviation, SentientJet
Fractional-owned: JetPass, Marquis Jet, SkyJet, Vector JetCard
How it works: Fractional customers own a piece of a particular plane, along with several
other customers (though you might never fly in that actual plane). When you want to fly, simply make a call as
little as four hours in advance. Shares are sold in increments from one-sixteenth to one-half, though the
majority are either one-quarter or one-eighth (a one-eighth share gives you about 100 hours of annual flying
time). The fractional provider maintains and staffs the airplanes.
Ownership costs: From less than $500,000 for a one-sixteenth share in a small jet to more
than $10 million for a quarter share in a big one. A one-eighth share in the popular Hawker 400XP costs about
Recurring costs: Once you've bought a share, there's a large monthly management fee as well
as an hourly occupied fee. The seven-seat Hawker 400XP, for example, costs about $11,000 a month plus $1,500
per occupied hour.
Pros: "Frax" are famous for top-notch customer service and an excellent safety record. They
also give you fast response time, new or near-new planes and guaranteed professional crews.
Cons: Flying fractional on a per-hour basis is very expensive. Plus you're locked in for
the length of your contract.
Top providers: CitationShares
How it works: Just as the name says, you own the whole airplane and all that implies:
staffing, hangaring, maintaining, operating, insuring and more. Private owners of business jets tend to use
professional management companies to take care of all of these details, which is great but adds to the cost.
Many private owners charter out their airplanes (through their management company) when not using them, which
helps offset the big costs.
Ownership costs: A new private jet currently costs anywhere from $4.5 million to $50
million. Used jets can be had for $1million or less, but maintenance then becomes a bigger cost.
Recurring costs: The purchase price is just the beginning. Annual costs of owning a jet
range from as little as $500,000 for a smaller plane to as much as several million a year for the biggest
Pros: Pride of ownership. Your usage is nearly unlimited, and there are no concerns for
wait time, taxi time or overnights. With a top-of-the-line jet, you can outfit it exactly as you want it.
Cons: It's by far the most expensive way to fly. And if your plane is in the shop, you'll
need to charter or obtain flight time some other way.
Top providers: Bombardier/Learjet
Dassault Falcon Jet
Very Light Jets (VLJs)
How it works: Hitting the market this year, this new breed of superlight jet uses
scaled-down engines and simpler systems, making them less expensive to buy and operate. VLJs are expected to
greatly decrease the cost of charter, membership, fractional ownership and whole ownership, as well as to spawn
regional air-taxi services.
Ownership costs: VLJs are expected to cost between $1.5 million (the Eclipse 500) and $2.75
million (the Embraer Phenom 100).
Recurring costs: It will depend on how you take your VLJ: in charter form, as a member,
fractionally or whole (see above). Depending on how often the plane is used, owners should expect annual
operating costs between $250,000 and $500,000.
Pros: If VLJs come in at the promised price points, they'll be astoundingly less expensive
than all other jets in every respect—not just to buy outright but to own a piece of or charter as
Cons: They're not here quite yet; they're very small inside; in most cases they'll be
slower than conventional jets; they don't yet have an established safety record.
Top providers: Adam Aircraft (A700)
Cessna Citation (Mustang)
Embraer (Phenom 100)