How to Get a Deal on a Private or Semi-private Jet Flight, According to Aviation Experts

Aviation experts from JSX, Aero, and more weigh in.

Aero plane flying in the sky


Once a luxury reserved solely for corporate executives and the super-wealthy, private jet travel has become more accessible in recent years. The pandemic years, flight schedule disruptions, crowded airports, and the arrival of newcomers on the private and semi-private jet scene have made the experience both desirable and attainable for a greater number of travelers. The marketplace has evolved at a fast pace, and competition has created more affordable options for a private jet experience.

Memberships, fractional ownership, charters, shared private jets, and scheduled small jet carriers are among the options. While still pricey when compared to commercial airline fares, the cost of a private jet is now within the realm of possibility for more travelers today. And for many, the convenience and benefits make the price difference worthwhile. 

The best deals are available from semi-private carriers with published schedules and fares, and if you’re flying one of their routes, you can find prices that compare with first class on commercial airlines. 

Doug Gollan, editor in chief of Private Jet Card Comparisons, a buyer’s guide to comparing private aviation solutions — including fractional ownership, jet cards, memberships, charter, and sharing options — told Travel + Leisure, “There are currently more than a dozen providers offering shared flights using private jet terminals. A growing number, like JSX, XO, Blade, Aero, and Surf Air, sell seats on airplanes that fly on a published schedule. The price for a seat can start as low as $200, although most are $1,500 or more.” 

Exterior of a JSX plane

Courtesy of JSX

JSX CEO Alex Wilcox told T+L, “We created JSX to be the best of both the private and commercial worlds — an attainable remedy to the frustrations of commercial airline travel without the need for fractional buy-ins. By offering members-only service without prohibitive and costly membership fees, we give our customers ever-expanding access to popular destinations, packed with the most sought-after perks once reserved for private jets.” 

With JSX, booking early will get you the choice of “Hop On” fares, many around 50 percent less than the unrestricted “All In” price. For example, on May 28, the “Hop On” fare from Dallas to Miami is $349, compared with the “All In” fare of $749 for the same flight. “Hop On” fares include two bags, a cost of $50 for flight changes, a fee for seat selection, and credit for canceled flights. “All In” fares, meanwhile, are refundable and provide for three bags, seat selection, and changes at no cost.

Choosing the best departure date will also help you land the lowest fare. It pays to book early, be flexible on travel dates, and choose “Hop On” for the best deal. Or, as Wilcox told T+L, “Buy early, fly on Tuesday.” JSX displays its fares for each day, making it convenient to plan travel. 

Door open on Aero plane


Aero also offers scheduled service to popular destinations. According to Aero’s CEO, Uma Subramanian, “Aero’s business (booking by the seat) allows travelers to enjoy the benefits of flying private without having to charter an entire plane. It’s a great option for travelers flying with a partner or family who want to avoid the airport altogether and spend more time at their destination. We’re proud to offer a premium service with a dedicated concierge team so Aero guests are well taken care of, even before they board.”

“Choose off-peak days for your departure — usually early in the week or Sundays — when most people are returning from their vacation. Similar to hotels, you’ll also find better rates just before or after major holidays,” according to Leila Najafi, Aero’s head of marketing in North America. 

Aero’s website provides fare information for its scheduled routes, enabling fliers to choose the dates that offer the best deals. For example, from Dallas to Los Cabos, the fare on Friday, May 5 is shown as $1,300, compared to $1,800 on Friday, May 26, and Tuesday, May 30. Aero’s flights include artisanal snacks, an open bar, a dedicated concierge team, and all first-class seats with window and aisle access.

Wheels Up, Set Jet, Surf Air, and XO offer low-price membership programs — an attractive arrangement for travelers who expect to take advantage of the offer by flying more frequently. Comparing membership costs and flight segment fares, fliers can search for the best deals on the airlines’ websites.

An XO Cessna private jet in flight
Courtesy of XO

XO offers three membership levels starting at $595 per year, with refundable deposits allowing people to book individual sets or charter entire flights. While XO offers memberships, you don’t have to be a member to fly with the airline. However, joining its membership program is the way to get the best value. With the XO mobile app, members can instantly book a seat or an entire private aircraft. XO is one of Vista’s brands.

According to Leona Qi, president of VistaJet U.S., “With a fully refundable minimum deposit, no blackout days or expirations, and dynamically priced flights, XO’s newly launched Membership and Reserve programs are genuinely the most efficient, accessible, and transparent in private aviation, and it’s the only private aviation solution where members can book private flights and seats instantly. Added benefits of the XO Membership include access to Vista Members’ fleet of more than 360 aircraft, as well as special offers from hospitality to events to incredible exclusive experiences.” 

Other membership brands include Surf Air, Wheels Up, and Set Jet. Surf Air membership starts from $199 per month, and at that level, travelers pay per seat on scheduled flights in several California destinations. Surf Air is also currently offering 10 percent off your first flight up to a maximum discount of $1,500. 

Wheels Up Charter

Courtesy of Wheels Up

Wheels Up offers several membership options and a convenient app for finding best fares. Their dynamic pricing model provides the “best available trip pricing across all aircraft categories, based on your exact travel dates and times.” Set Jet memberships start at $99.95 per month, allowing individuals to book seats on regional domestic private jet flights for $750. For example, flights to Cabo San Lucas start at $1,330 each way. 

If you’re heading to Long Island’s Hamptons, the convenience and fun of a quick, 45-minute helicopter ride from Manhattan to East Hampton on Blade could be worth the $1,025 published fare. Compare that to driving, gas, and hours on the road, and you have a great deal.

Another option is finding a flight on an “empty leg.” Henry Kim, chief commercial officer at Jet It and formerly of Wheels Up, NetJets, and Flexjet, told T+L, “To find the lowest prices for private travel, locating and securing 'empty legs' (repositioning flights) is the most cost-effective solution, but it can also lead you down a rabbit hole. Every operator has 'empty legs' that they try to fill for the simple fact that generating some revenue is better than [none].” He continued, “But finding and aligning an 'empty leg' that fits within the operator’s parameters and your city pair and travel date can be challenging. There are 'empty leg' aggregators such as Avinode that will consolidate 'empty legs' across a number of operators to provide a comprehensive list of opportunities. In short, if you have a tremendous amount of flexibility, 'empty legs' will provide you with the most cost-effective solution to travel privately.”

Gollan also commented, “'Empty legs' can provide discounts up to 50 percent off normal charter rates. In all cases, you will have to be flexible and have a plan B. If an 'empty leg' cancels, you get a refund, but you still have to find your way to your destination. Don’t book a nonrefundable hotel.”

Shopping for an affordable private jet experience starts with deciding where and when you want to go. Flexibility is key, as is research you can do on airline websites and apps. Plan, book early, and be willing to adjust departure dates, and you can be that pampered traveler strolling to the boarding door minutes before takeoff.

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