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A Flexjet private plane flying over ocean
Credit: Paul Bowen/Courtesy of Flexjet

Demand for private jet charters surged in the last two years — a reaction to limited flight options and travelers' need for six feet of personal space, which commercial airports don't exactly provide. With mass flight cancellations across the country and downsized route offerings from major U.S. airlines, commercial air travel is far from on demand these days, creating space for luxury travelers to cross over to the dark side of private aviation.

For those toying with the idea of private jet travel, and attempting to sort through the myriad options, we called in an expert to narrow down the best private jet companies for your personal charter.

Private aviation expert Doug Gollan, who runs the website Private Jet Card Comparisons, says choosing a private jet charter is, predictably, contingent on the needs of the traveler.

"A company that's good for flying you up to the house in Maine is maybe not the best for flying you up to the ski place or the West Coast," Gollan said.

When determining the best jet company for your needs, Gollan told Travel + Leisure key factors should include "lead time for booking, peak days where surcharges range up to 100 percent, daily minimums, which vary significantly, and where you can fly without having to pay repositioning fees."

The biggest mistake you can make, as a first-time private jet flier, is to commit without doing your research, Gollan said. He recommends potential jet card holders "map out the flights you expect to make in the next 12 to 18 months, how many people will be traveling, what type of amenities you want, from Wi-Fi to the ability to bring pets, and how flexible you are on dates, so you can compare program rules before buying."

Like any major investment, it's all about doing your homework. To that end, we've outlined eight top private jet companies and what kind of travel each charter is suited for.

XO

A XO private plane in-flight
Credit: Courtesy of XO

For those looking to fly cross-country, rather than booking short-haul jaunts from Teterboro Airport to Martha's Vineyard, XO's Elite Access program gives fliers access to its Citation X fleet at a competitive price. The jets have considerable range (more than six hours), and the Elite Access program affords members a 3.5-hour rate cap. "If you are flying to the Caribbean or Mexico, the XO Elite Access Citation X and Challenger 300 are [the] best values; you only pay international fees. There are no surcharges — some programs charge up to 60 percent — and you aren't charged for repositioning flights," said Gollan. Members of the Elite Access program can also sell unused seats on their chartered jets to recoup some of the flight costs.

Sentient Jet

Sentient Jet, known as the first company to offer private jet cards, is one of the best charter options if you plan on regularly taking short-haul flights. The PJ life lends itself to quick jumps — Los Angeles to Las Vegas; New York City to the Hamptons; Denver to Telluride, Colorado — and Sentient Jet has a 60-minute daily minimum for a number of jets in its fleet. "Many programs these days bill at least two hours, even if you fly less," Gollan pointed out, which means paying for only the amount of time you're in the air on these short flights is a financial victory.

Wheels Up

A family walking off a Wheels Up plane
Credit: Caio Guatelli/Courtesy of Wheels Up

Known for an impressive array of partnerships — perhaps the most notable being that American Express Platinum card holders benefit from discounted Wheels Up membership rates — Wheels Up aligns with brands that further elevate the luxury travel experience. Their recent partnership with Porsche offers exclusive access to sought-after rentals when your flight touches down. The jet company, which became a publicly traded company in 2021, has coveted, in-the-know perks, too. "Members can snag empty leg repositioning flights for just $350 — for the entire aircraft," Gollan said.

VistaJet

PJ flights across the Atlantic, or from New York City all the way to a far-flung island, are less prevalent in private aviation — with most charterers opting to fly commercial between continents. However, VistaJet has become a top choice for long-haul journeys with its new fleet of Global 7500 jets, which can fly 7,700 nautical miles (and 16 hours nonstop), making this the "largest, fastest, and longest-range aircraft in business aviation," according to a statement released by the company to Travel + Leisure. VistaJet also recently announced its "Private World" series, partnering with elite tour companies and yacht charters, to take faithful fliers to destinations like Namibia, Mozambique, and Greenland.

Verijet

Known for smaller jets that can land in more than 5,000 airports in the U.S., cutting-edge technology, and a lower carbon footprint than most jet companies, Verijet offers competitive pricing, with its Cirrus SF50 jets starting at $3,000 per hour. There are, however, downsides to flying such a small jet. "There's no toilet, so make sure you stop before you go," Gollan said. Nonetheless, he concluded that "for flights under 90 minutes, it's a great option" — especially considering you can book on a per-flight basis without a jet card membership.

Flexjet 

Flexjet private plane interior
Credit: Stephen Beaudet/Courtesy of Flexjet

"While most fractional share providers sell by the hour, Flexjet offers its ultra-long-range Gulfstream G650ER on a by-the-day basis," Gollan said. "If you are going to Europe or Asia and making multiple stops, it means you can leave luggage on the jet during stopovers, [and] keep the same aircraft and crew for your entire trip." Flexjet offers fractional ownership as well as a jet card program, and the company recently added Gulfstream G700s to its fleet for longer-haul travel.

Tradewind

Tradewind is another smart choice for short private flights. As Gollan explained, "Tradewind's fleet of Pilatus PC-12 turboprops are a cost-effective way to access small airports larger jets can't fly into." Rates for the Pilatus PC-12 turboprops start at $4,000 an hour. Operating only in North America and the Caribbean, Tradewind does not require fliers to have a jet card or any type of membership in order to charter. You can also book just one seat on a Tradewind jet directly through the company's website or app.

NetJets

NetJets seemingly has a solution for every type of private jet traveler, including a shared ownership program, a leasing option (which has a slightly different payment structure than the shared ownership route), and a private jet card. However, a testament to the rising popularity of private jet memberships, there is currently a waitlist for the NetJets card program. Gollan is a proponent of NetJets' fractional ownership plans, because they get you access to a jet "on as little as four to six hours' notice." He said NetJets is ideal for those looking to fly private for years to come, because committing to a longer duration of fractional ownership gives you access to its 800-jet fleet.